We, the undersigned civil society organizations, strongly condemn omissions, gross negligence and disrespect of provisions contained in the Law on Execution of Sanctions and the Rulebook on Performance of Police Work, on the part of the Basic Court Skopje 1 and the Ministry of Interior, which have resulted in convicted offender Nikola Gruevski’s fleeing the county and inability to execute the court’s final and enforceable ruling in the docket known as “Armoured Car”, whereby Gruevski was sentenced with imprisonment in duration of two years.
Omissions in execution of the court’s enforceable ruling
– On 26.10.2018, convicted offender Nikola Gruevski was presented with referral order to serve imprisonment sentence, according to which he was given a deadline for voluntary report to serve his sentence at the penitentiary institution by 8.11.2018 the latest.
– On 29.10.2018, Gruevski lodged stay of execution motion before the sentence enforcement judge who had to decide within a deadline of 3 days from receipt of this motion.
– On 2.11.2018, the sentence enforcement judge adopted the decision on rejecting the stay of execution motion lodged by Gruevski.
– On 6.11.2018, after having received this decision, Gruevski and his defence attorneys lodged motions of appeal against the decision on rejecting the stay of execution motion.
– On 9.11.2018, acting upon the aforementioned motions of appeal, the criminal council from the Department on Organized Crime and Corruption at the Basic Court Skopje 1 in Skopje took the decision on rejecting the motions of appeal and confirmed the decision taken by the sentence enforcement judge. This meant that the convicted offender had to report in person at the penitentiary institution immediately after receiving the final and enforceable referral order to serve imprisonment sentence.
– On 9.11.2018, the courier officer from the Basic Court Skopje 1 in Skopje made three attempts to deliver the final referral order in person to the convicted offender’s home address, all of which were unsuccessful because convicted offender Nikola Gruevski was not found at his home and could not be presented with the referral order.
According to Article 87 of the Law on Execution of Sanctions, when convicted offenders fail to report in person to serve their sentences within the deadlines set in relevant referral orders, the institution in question (i.e. penitentiary institution) is obliged to notify the sentence enforcement judge thereof, after which the latter must immediately issue an order to MoI for apprehension of the person in question. If the person is not available to law enforcement authorities, the Ministry of Interior must immediately issue an arrest warrant.
According to information placed by the media, on 10.11.2018 and one day after the three failed attempts to deliver the imprisonment referral order, Skopje prison warden Gjoko Kotevski notified the Basic Court Skopje 1 in Skopje that the convicted offender has not voluntarily reported to serve his sentence.
This moment marks the biggest omission on the part of the Court and amounts to breach of provisions contained in the Law on Execution of Sanctions.
It is absolutely unclear why the Court had failed to act in compliance with the law and had grossly ignored the principle of urgency, as stipulated under Article 87, paragraph 3 of the Law on Execution of Sanctions, by remaining idle for two days after having received the notification from the prison warden, and issued the apprehension order for convicted offender to the Sector on Internal Affairs in Skopje as late as 12.11.2018 at 16:30 hours, together with the request for issuance of nation-wide arrest warrant.
According to the law article cited above, in this specific case the Court should not have waited for any notification from the penitentiary institution, knowing that the deadline for voluntary report to serve imprisonment sentence by convicted offender Gruevski had already expired. Immediately after the failed attempt to deliver the referral order, the Court should have issued an apprehension and handover order for the convicted offender to serve his imprisonment sentence, pursuant to already established practices in all previous cases.
Omissions made by security officers guarding convicted offender Nikola Gruevski
Having in mind that this case concerns the former Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, pursuant to Article 6 of the Ordinance on Security and Guarding of Persons and Buildings, Types of Security and Guarding Measures and Activities, and Level of Security and Guarding for the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the person in question is guarded by means of regular security measures and activities.
According to Article 200 of the Rulebook on Performance of Police Work (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia” no. 149 from 10.12.2007), “Police officers deployed as regular security detail to persons shall not be allowed to remove themselves from the person or the building being guarded”, except in extraordinary circumstances, but in such cases the person being guarded must not be left without any security detail. According to Article 201 from the Rulebook, the officer responsible to organize regular security detail to persons develops the personal security plan, which is followed at all times.
This refers to the fact that, according to the Rulebook, persons assigned as personal security detail to Nikola Gruevski should not have left the person unguarded, i.e. should not have lost any contact with the person guarded in the period from 8.11.2018 to 12.11.2018.
Immediate and thorough investigations needed
We demand the authorities to conduct immediate and thorough investigations that would result in established responsibility for omissions in actions taken by the Basic Court Skopje 1 in Skopje and the Ministry of Interior, in terms of whether actions taken had been in compliance with the personal security plan and risk assessment. Relevant to results of these investigations, we demand sanctions to be imposed on management staff and officers that have failed to enforce applicable laws and bylaws, i.e. the Law on Execution of Sanctions, Rulebook on Performance of Police Work, and Personal Security Plan, thereby aiding and abating the convicted offender Nikola Gruevski to flee the country and evade serving of his imprisonment sentence.
This is now the fourth person convicted in high-profile criminal proceedings who, due to gross negligence and lack of coordination among judicial and law enforcement authorities, has successfully fled the country and evaded to serve his imprisonment sentence imposed by means of final and enforceable court ruling, which gives weight to the urgent need to re-examine performance of law enforcement authorities, border control services and judicial authorities.
We firmly believe that only by engaging in serious effort to establish the truth it would be possible to ensure full and final delivery of justice, long time due and expected by the citizens, and heavily insisted upon by the undersigned civil society organizations.
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
Foundation Open Society – Macedonia
Civil – Centre for Freedom
Centre for Economic Analyses
Coalition “All for Fair Trial”
Macedonian Young Lawyers’ Association
European Policy Institute
Youth Educational Forum
Institute of Democracy “Societas Civilis” – Skopje
FORUM – Centre for Strategic Research and Documentation
Citizens’ Association “MOST”