President Gjorge Ivanov’s Cabinet yesterday did not want to comment on how the head of state will act regarding the requests for pardon received from the convicted of the violent incidents on April 27th, 2017. One month before the end of his second term, the “nation’s father” faces his last serious decision, which is likely to be reflected in the political climate that will be welcomed by his successor.
Lawyers are united in their view that Ivanov must not pardon the convicts, but they are still not sure of his next steps regarding Article 11 from the Law on Pardoning.
The pardon procedure can only go through the Ministry of Justice.
Article 11 of the Law on Pardoning, which stipulated such a procedure on the part of the President, has been deleted, that article was not “revived”, ie it does not exist in the legal system of the country, says Justice Minister Renata Trenevska-Deskoska.
She adds that the second obstacle comes from the fact that presidential elections have been scheduled, meaning that no pardons can be given during the election period.
However, the top legal names we have consulted open up space for a different understanding of the president’s opportunities.
“The pardoning procedure is quite complicated, and in this case inapplicable. Persons seeking pardon must be convicted and the case for April 27 has just passed the first-instance procedure. Secondly, the procedure goes through the Ministry of Justice, so the convicts should first turn there for an opinion. If the Ministry does not give its opinion – the procedure stops, and if there is an opinion – then it goes to the president, who has a special pardon commission and in the end he can personally sign it. We do not have a verified verdict, nor did the convicts address the Ministry of Justice,” said professors of constitutional law.
They explain that things differ when it comes to abolition.
“In exceptional situations and cases when the social interest so requires, the president may grant an individual pardon to a specific person as an act of mercy at any stage of the proceedings: before trial, during trial, after trial, etc. However, the president absolutely cannot do this for more people at once, or for more crimes. In that case, we are talking about amnesty, and only the Parliament has authority for that. Finally, the question arises as to the extent to which the demands of the convicts are supported. So, there are a lot of obstacles and legal hurdles that Ivanov will have to jump to sign pardons. And in the end, even if he decided to do so, we need to be aware that in several cases he directly violated the law by not signing the twice passed laws in Parliament, and the decision will have to be published in the Official Gazette. In the current setting, it seems impossible. But, even if this happens, the decision will certainly be challenged before the Constitutional Court, and the President will risk personal responsibility,” our interlocutors noted.
Several requests for pardoning convicted persons for the April 27 case were submitted to the President’s Office, and the last one arrived on Friday. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he did not expect Ivanov to sign these pardons, because such a legal possibility does not exist anymore.
“The last grant of the abolition confirmed that the necessary articles no longer exist in the law and the president cannot use this right,” Zaev noted.
Lawyer Zvonko Davidovic, who is the legal representative of some of the convicted for the violent events in Parliament, replied that we cannot talk about rules when no one respected them, nor about laws when everyone interprets them as they wanted.
“The President can give pardons like he did before. In this case, the Amnesty law was applied unevenly, and that was done because of partisan interests. President Ivanov says that he supports equal application of the laws and the Constitution and now he has the chance to prove it, says lawyer Zvonko Davidovik.
On march 15, 16 people were sentenced to total prison sentences of 211 years for the violent incidents on April 27,2017. The highest sentence of 18 years was given to former Interior Minister and BJB Director, Mitko Chavkov.
The 1993 Act, amended in 2009
The law on pardoning was adopted in 1993, and Article 11 of it stipulates that the President can make exceptions and pardon citizens without waiting for court procedures. But with the amendments to the Law in 2009, Article 11 has been deleted, and with it the President’s right to pardon. In March 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled to abolish the 2009 law and restore the old law adopted in 1993, where the Article 11 is included, and with that the President’s right to pardon.
Just a month later, President Ivanov granted pardons to 56 people involved in investigations by the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which was the reason for the protests.
A few months ago, the government amnestied approximately fifty people suspected of the violent incidents in Parliament on April 27, 2017.
What does Article 11 say
“The President of the Republic may grant pardons without conducting a pardon procedure prescribed by this Law when it is of interest to the Republic, or when special circumstances concerning the person and the crime indicate that this is justified”.