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Stop Intimidation of Rights Defenders
HRW Letter to Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski
January 19, 2002


Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski
Bul. Illinden bb
1000, Skopje
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Your Excellency,


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We are writing to express our deep concern about an ongoing public campaign against the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and its president, Ms. Mirjana Najcevska. Ms. Najcevska and the Helsinki Committee, one of Macedonia's most active and respected human rights groups, have recently become targets of intimidation and verbal assaults by cabinet members and certain media outlets close to the government. These threats are clearly intended to chill the efforts of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee to investigate and report on human rights violations in Macedonia.

Particularly worrying are the repeated public statements by the Minister of the Interior Ljube Boskovski, who spoke to the press and appeared on two television programs to portray Ms. Najcevska as "the state enemy number 1." Such attacks have been amplified by the public television MTV and other government-controlled media on an almost daily basis. Dissemination of rumors that Ms. Najcevska, who is currently out of Macedonia, may be arrested upon her return to the country also appear to be part of an organized attempt to silence the Macedonian Helsinki Committee.

Actions by government officials aimed at silencing a society's human rights defenders constitute a threat to the rights of all its members. As you know, the important role of human rights defenders was recently underscored by OSCE member states, including Macedonia, at a special human dimension seminar. There OSCE member states underscored their commitment to respecting the rights of defenders, providing remedies in case of violations of those rights, allowing their unhindered communication, and actively supporting non-governmental organizations working in this area. It is disappointing to see these ideals under attack in Macedonia.

We are also concerned by the fact that many of the accusations about the Macedonia Helsinki Committee's "lack of patriotism" cite the Committee's commitment to protecting the rights of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian citizens. This is particularly shocking at a time when Macedonia is trying to heal inter-ethnic wounds and build a truly multi-ethnic society.

We therefore urge you, Mr. Prime Minister, to use your authority and influence to bring to a stop this campaign against the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, and to ensure that Macedonia's human rights organizations are able to fulfill their mission free of government interference and intimidation.

Respectfully,

/s/

Elizabeth Andersen
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

cc:
Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, OSCE Chair-in-Office
Ambassador Craig Jenness, OSCE Head of Mission, Skopje
Ambassador Max van der Stoel, OSCE Special Envoy
Ambassador Alain Le Roy, E.U. Special Envoy
Ambassador James Holmes, U.S. Special Envoy
Assistant Secretary Lorne Craner, U.S. Department of State
U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Ambassador Michael Einik, U.S. Embassy, Skopje