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News 16 Nov 12

Macedonian Police Law Creating 'Police State', Watchdog Says

Macedonia’s new police law limits human rights while greatly extending the powers of the police and the room for their misuse, the local Helsinki Committee has complained.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian police officers | Photo by: mvr.gov.mk

The new law represents a “silent crossover to a police state,” the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said after parliament adopted the law on Thursday.

One of the most contested parts of the law gives the head of the public security bureau the authority to order the surveillance and wiretapping of people without a court order.

The Helsinki Committee sees this as “problematic”, along with the “lack of clearly determined circumstances and the length of such surveillance”.

Police Minister Gordana Jankulovska has responded to criticism, saying that the provision  “does not mean breaking human rights and freedoms”, and noting that Croatia, which is about to enter the EU, has a similar law.

“We will hold continuous training for police personnel to minimize all possible breaches of human rights and freedoms,” Jankulovska assured the media.

The Helsinki Committee also says the new law allows police to gather incriminating information from so-called “hidden sources”, but does not provide a “mechanism for checking those sources”. Nor does it allow detainees to be confronted with the information and the source of it that led to his or her arrest.

Another problematic part of the law determines police procedures during arrests, searches and keeping detainees in police custody, the Committee said.

“We need a clear distinction between the police’s authorities during ‘inspections’ and ‘searches’ as well as an obligation for police officers to inform concerned persons that they have the right to refuse being searched if there is no court order,” the Committee said.

Macedonia passed its first law on the police in 2006. There have been no significant changes to the law until now.

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