Collective amnesty is not an option – Will there be MPs to open the doors to constitutional changes?

The MPs, who opened the doors of the Assembly to the protesters on April 27, 2017, are now “suspected” as possible voters of the government’s proposal to start the constitutional changes. Such an impression was created yesterday rafter equests for the release from house arrest of three of the five deputies covered by the process of “Bloody Thursday” were found on the table in the court. On the other hand, the release of MPs to defend themselves is interpreted as a signal that the passing of a law on amnesty for the events on April 27 is not an option for securing the required two-thirds majority in parliament for passing the constitutional changes.

According to the interlocutors from the parliamentary groups of the majority and the government, so far no discussion has been negotiated, negotiated, nor an option for passing a law on amnesty was considered, although the speech of the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the beginning of the parliamentary session on accession was interpreted in that direction to constitutional changes. Zaev’s address, as stated by our interlocutors, was above all a political message of reconciliation to MPs from VMRO-DPMNE, especially those accused of 27 April – encouraging them to vote for accession to constitutional changes in the name of a larger goal – Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the EU.

There is no information whether the five MPs accused of the violence on the so-called “bloody Thursday” in parliament were covered by individual consultations that the ruling officials had in the past few days with opposition MPs, and after the top of VMRO-DPMNE overturned the position “against” the constitutional changes. However, MP Saso Vasilevski, one of the defendants for “a terrorist threat to the constitutional order”, who was released from house arrest yesterday after Zaev’s address, could be present in parliament today. In the following days, the other two lawmakers who are still in house arrest – Ljuben Arnaudov and Krsto Mukoski –suspected of opening the doors of the Parliament to the protesters on April 27, 2017. Should they be released to defend themselves, they could be immediately returned to the workplace in the legislature, where the other two accused lawmakers – Johan Tarculovski and Ljupco Dimovski – from the SPM, have been coming for a long time.
The fact that the completion of the parliamentary group of VMRO-DPMNE coincided with the session on constitutional changes and Zaev’s call for “forgiveness and reconciliation” does not guarantee that the five MPs or at least some of them will push the “green button” for constitutional changes. As the release of all five lawmakers from detention does not mean the termination of the political persecution against them for the time being, because the process for April 27 continues for now against all accused. It’s just not clear if the outcome will be similar to anyone who is accused of a terrorist threat to the constitutional order – a crime for which a sentence of over 10 years in prison is envisaged.

On the other hand, the (possible) release of the last three lawmakers from house arrest is a sign that it is unlikely that a law on amnesty will be adopted on April 27. Amnesty as a legal institute entails collective exemption from criminal prosecution or execution of a sentence to a particular category of persons. In this case, this would mean adopting a law that would include the other about 25 defendants in the big process of “bloody Thursday”, as well as the defendants and already convicted in the separate cases of the attacks that happened that night against SDSM’s Vice President Radmila Sekerinska and president of the Alliance of Albanians Zijadin Sela.

After Zaev’s address to parliament, Sela sent a message that the prime minister was not above institutions and justice.

“He was elected prime minister of the state, not a king,” wrote Sela.

Unlike Sela, Sekerinska said yesterday that justice and pardoning are not exclusive, but complementary.

“The message sent by the Prime Minister was precisely in this direction – that this country needs justice. I think the Prime Minister was very clear. We have entered this operation – not to succeed as individuals and as parties, but for the country to succeed, Sekerinska said.

After the initial messages that they were seeking justice, not amnesty, although they announced at the same time that they would also prepare a law on amnesty for the defendants on April 27, VMRO-DPMNE yesterday refrained from commenting on Zaev’s call for “reconciliation and forgiveness”, as well as in connection with the decision to release Vasilevski from detention. Only party leader Hristijan Mickoski, although not a lawmaker, came to the idea of ​​addressing parliament, but Speaker Talat Xhaferi instantly rejected his written request.

Who can grant amnesty?

According to the Constitution, amnesty is given by the Assembly. In the Macedonian Parliament, in the past decades, amnesty laws have been adopted on several occasions, such as those with a military obligation that avoided service in the ARM before the professionalization of the army or the release of political prisoners – when former mayors were released from criminal responsibility Tetovo and Gostivar – Alajdin Demiri and Rufi Osmani.
One of the greatest, however, was the pardoning for the military conflict in 2001, which was mainly concerning the members of the paramilitary NLA. The so-called amnesty for the Hague cases, in turn, was made through a short cut, that is, through an authentic interpretation of the law on this issue in the parliament.

Aleksandra M. Mitevska