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The political persecution of civil society organisations must stop and institutions must assume responsibility

On May 29 in Skopje, representatives of twenty civil society organizations held a press conference on which they informed about the pressures they have been dealing with in the past five months.

 

To whom it may concern,

On behalf of twenty civil society organizations and in the interest of the civil society, we would like to inform the public about the extreme pressures we’ve been exposed to for five months.

The first organized inspections of our organizations conducted by multiple institutions began in December. At the same time, the then ruling party VMRO-DPMNE publicly called on persecution of civil society organizations, which gives us the reason to believe that these inspections are not routine, but specific with the aim to cause detriment to our organizations. Albeit the institutions have the right to inspect, the way these inspections are conducted suggests that these aren’t regular professional checks, instead, institutions are used for political pressure. For instance: the inspection warrants don’t comprise explanation on what precisely is and why it is inspected; we’ve been forced to give information without knowing why we actually do this; in one day, institutions issue multiple warrants for inspecting various institutions. Six different institutions conduct unjustified inspections: the Public Revenue Office, the Finance Police and the Ministry of Interior upon the request of the Public Prosecution Office, and we’ve also received information that the Finance Intelligence Agency and the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption have taken actions as well.

As organizations, we responsibly declare that we do our job professionally and we don’t mind being accountable in front of the institutions, as we don’t mind being accountable on daily basis in front of them and our members, donors and citizens too. For five months, the inspectors have been at the premises of around twenty organizations nearly every day, employees have been answering numerous questions and we’ve been constantly coping piles of documents. Institutions ought to have more important job instead of engaging tens of inspectors for months to control nongovernmental organizations that do their job professionally.

The first cases of unjust and constructed punishments for organizations that have been helping the most vulnerable and poorest citizens for years are emerging. An organization that has given 550 baby and 280 food packages to poor families from three towns is now forced to additionally pay taxes and fines because the institutions have decided to deem the assistance as these families’ revenue by abusing non liquet. An organization that donates winter and spring garments to Roma children, donates books and picture-books, helps the people to find jobs and provides health check-ups – gets unjust fine instead of acknowledgement.

By being unjust, the institutions risk to lose what the organizations give the citizens – humanitarian donations, legal assistance, refurbishment of public premises, free job training sessions and other means of assistance. With these actions, Macedonia is at risk of losing the international finance support that aids institutions and citizens.

Therefore, we demand from the new government and the institutions to immediately stop this pressure that our organizations are unjustly and purposely exposed to. We demand check of the validity of the inspections and investigation for dereliction of duty that has objective to cause political pressure and discrimination. We demand nullification of fines and minutes deriving from these cases.

We would like to use this opportunity to voice our concern regarding the new information that the current government has awarded 800.000 euro to civil society organizations and we demand voidance of that decision. The interim government has neither moral right nor mandate to make such decisions. The intention is obvious, because the call was opened in the midst of political persecution of NGOs, and the same government wants to award funds bigger than it has ever awarded to NGOs. Last year’s contracts were up to 5.000 euro, but now the amount has risen to 50.000 euro. Due to these reasons, we demand revision of the decision for awarding public funds as soon as possible.

We would like to notify the public that despite the circumstances and the daily pressures we’ve been exposed to during the past months, we never stopped doing our work. We will continue to work accountably and in the interest of all citizens of Macedonia as watchdogs of the government and the institutions. We are going to be here to ensure that there are going to be accountable institutions and functional Parliament which will be open to the citizens and will oversee the government’s work. As organizations, we will continue working on restoration of democracy, freedoms of citizens and rule of law in Macedonia.

Respectfully,

Akcija Plus, Resen | Vizio, Kichevo | Eurothink – Center for European Strategies | KHAM – Delchevo | Youth Cultural Centre – Bitola | Youth Educational Forum | NGO InfoCentre | Women’s Organization, Strumica | PACTIS, Prilep| Signposts, Gevgelija | PROJECT-EU, Kavadarci | Regional Center for Sustainable Development – Kratovo | Faculty of Things That Can’t Be Learned | Metamorphosis Foundation | Foundation Open Society – Macedonia |Foundation Focus, Veles | Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia | Sustainable Community Development Center, Debar | Contemporary Arts Centre – Skopje | JEF Macedonia