• Amnesty for North Macedonia’s “Family”

    Massive anti-government protests in North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, in 2015. Photo: Sinisa-Jakov Marusic/BIRN

    It was in 2015 when I realised that the days of the authoritarian regime of North Macedonia, nicknamed “the family”, led by former PM Nikola Gruevski, were numbered.

    Their wrongdoings were ironically uncovered by leaked wiretaps recorded illegally by the secret police.

    It was strange to hear top officials rigging elections, controlling the media and judiciary, discussing bribes and rejoicing in taking revenge against a former political ally after demolishing his building.

    Massive protests followed under the slogan “No Justice – No Peace”, and by mid-2017 Gruevski’s family crumbled.

    Could this be it? I wondered. Could this be the turning point for my country?

    But soon, sweet justice turned sour when the new Social Democratic government first broke its promise to root out corrupt judges, insisting it would do more harm than good. In 2018, they endorsed an amnesty law for Gruevski’s supporters who stormed the parliament the previous year, saying it was for the sake of reconciliation.

    In 2021, Saso Mijalkov, the former head of the secret police, was jailed for 12 years for masterminding the illegal wiretapping. A little glimmer of hope, one would say. But a higher court scrapped this verdict and ordered a retrial, which now has an unrealistic deadline of next year.

    As I write these lines, Law students from Skopje are again protesting in front of the government. The slogan “No Justice – No Peace” is the same.

    The reason? A recent government decision made a change in the criminal law that reduces sentences for misuse in office and criminal enterprise. This would also make many of the ongoing cases expire.

    Is the current “family” making a deal with the old “family” for when it loses power by offering a quiet amnesty for wrongdoers? Quite possible, but this is irrelevant.

    Our fight against the real “family”, deeply embedded in institutions that have no political color and are driven exclusively by self-interest, has failed miserably.

    This article is part of the "Family first, scandals next" edition
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