Trajanov: Someone must be held responsible for the Kezarovski case
MPs from the majority lack political courage to discuss the case of journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, whose charge is based on the evidence collected with violation of the law, said in an interview for Inbox7 the leader of the Democratic Union and MP Pavle Trajanov. Last week he filed an initiative to the Assembly to establish an Inquiry Committee to discuss the case “Liquidation” or as Trajanov says, violations of basic human rights and freedoms of Kezarovski in this case. In the interview he also talks about the irregularities in the work of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the Judicial Council and the Council of Public Prosecutors and about possible early elections, but also about the opposition, for which he says that it cannot expect students, professors or journalists to overthrow the government and it (the opposition) just to sit in government.
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Democratic Union has filed an initiative to the Assembly to establish an Inquiry Committee to investigate the case of journalist Kezarovski or the case “Liquidation”, as it is known to the public. What exactly is it about?
Trajanov: After extensive analysis of the case “Liquidation” or more specifically the case against journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, we as a party and I as an MP filed an initiative to amend the Law on Witness Protection. Earlier there was a preliminary agreement that law to be passed. Basically the law proposed grading of responsibility. I do not find the same responsibility if a journalist finds out and publishes information and discloses the identity of a protected witness than those who have information ex officio. Their responsibility must be greater. Especially if the journalist finds that it is in the public interest and he does not suspect that essentially it is about a false witness. But the law did not pass. The Kezarovski case these days has become current again and this is a classic example of which the Parliament can debate. I initiated the establishment of Inquiry Committee to collect all relevant data, evidence of the case and based on full understanding it will determine whether basic human rights and freedoms have been violated. So I think that this initiative should be supported by all MPs. By this we neither accidentally replace the role of the court nor interfere in its work. We want the court to be independent but also we do not accept court decisions not to be commented. We disagree on protected witness to be used in all cases. It is a tool when the government wants to send someone to jail. We believe that this special investigative measure should be used in exceptional cases as protection against terrorism, protection of the public interest or for severe cases of organized crime. By now in more than 110 court cases the instrument protected witness has been used and I think this largely violates fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.
That is exactly what you claim about the case Kezarovski. What exactly do you mean? What rights have been violated?
Trajanov: Tomislav Kezarovski, according to what we have analyzed and according to what has been written, and according to the statements of witnesses, especially protected witness “Breza”, we believe that this witness could not be a protected witness because he had neither seen, nor had heard what exactly happened. At that time he was serving prison sentence and the police approached and slowly prepared, motivated or forced him with various promises to be a witness in clarifying the murder (in the village Oreshe). It is not terrible to be used but it must be a relevant witness. Later he announced that he had been forced to cooperate. Ministry of Interior already knew that against two policemen action was being taken because of preparing a witness who was not eligible for the job. This means that Kezarovski cannot be accused of publishing information on the identity of a protected witness. It is the evidence that has been acquired by breaking laws. This evidence is not relevant, not suitable. He is actually a mounted witness. If so, the court decision cannot be passed on the basis of only that evidence. I think there is violation of law. Therefore we must clarify this case to the end so that such cases are not repeated in the future.
Does this mean that you consider the evidence collected against journalist Kezarovski to have been collected illegally?
Trajanov: Perhaps in the first moment of submission of the complaint, maybe then it was another situation. But later the protected witness publicly announced that he had been prepared to engage in the process with perjury. Lacking on trial against two suspects in the case “Liquidation” (former prosecutor Ivica Efremov and judge Ile Tanev), they considered that through the testimony of a protected witness they would clarify the ordered murder. But in the process the defendants were acquitted (in the case “Oreshe”) and his testimony is not valid. And now, only based on the fact that Kezarovski published or at least published, and it is not certain, information concerning the identity of the protected witness, a trail cannot be built.
What do you expect from the Committee? What do you want to achieve with clarification of the case “Liquidation”?
Trajanov: First we open the question of the use of a protected witness in many trials. Secondly, it is about a publicly stated statement of a journalist and he cannot be prosecuted and held accountable for that. And if over the whole activity of the Parliament it is confirmed that basic human rights and freedoms have been violated, I think it is enough the whole system to be reconsidered. For me it is also crucial whether the Judicial Council is following this case because it is obliged to assess, evaluate and review the work of judges. This is a classic example in which the Judicial Council must consider the case ex officio and review the work of all the judges who participated in this trial. Also, the Council of Public Prosecutors needs to assess and review the work of the Public Prosecutor. Who has taken part and who is behind such an unsustainable accusation against Tomislav Kezarovski. The court system cannot say they are independent. There has to be dependence. They cannot be independent or isolated even from journalists. Their work must always be subject to analysis, discussions, comments by the public that can exert strong pressure for them to judge according to the Constitution and laws and to resist possible political interference or influence of the business centers and other strong centers that affect the adoption of judicial decisions.
If so, Mr. Trajanov, then how would you rate the performance of judges and public prosecutors?
Trajanov: Our observations match the estimates of many experts that make analyses and comments on the situation in the judiciary, that it is not resistant to political influences and that they actually work under the pressure of other centers of power and influence. They are not independent. So now there is pending amendment of the Constitution under which the Judicial Council will be dominated by judges. Of 15 council members, ten will be selected from among the judges. If they still cannot provide independence then probably the whole strategy for judicial reform is failed. In prosecutors the problem is that they accept everything that comes from the Ministry of Interior. They immediately require investigation or now they themselves implement it and most importantly they always require detention to be determined, which is now a tool for punishment. If the prosecutor runs a procedure or investigation he has to provide all the evidence. Detention lasts long and the court is strongly influenced by the prosecution. Public prosecutors bear great responsibility because they accept charges from the Ministry of Interior without having to be supported by evidence and require immediate determination of custody. This must be addressed in another way because it greatly endangers fundamental human rights and freedoms. And what happens? Court determines custody that lasts a month or two, six months or a year. So in future proceedings the court must cover detention punishment for later the accused not to be able to seek damages. And it spins around and around.
At the moment there are protests, probably as a way of expressing anger or inability people to secure justice otherwise. What is your estimate of this kind of providing basic human rights and freedoms?
Trajanov: I fear that we are slightly becoming a conflict society. In conditions when democratic institutions are not functioning, one of the democratic opportunities or benefits is to express dissatisfaction through protest. But not always protests are peaceful. There are riots, completely different rhetoric is used, sometimes extreme. But it is part of the pluralist life and we have to get used to it. In Macedonia it is specific that citizens are surely facing problems but there is no one to articulate their demands, to say publicly. It is so because the opposition is long out of Parliament and does not perform publicly. So a process of grouping of citizens began, who act independently through protests, debates and various other democratic forms through which they present their fear.
This is not the first case the Parliament to establish an Inquiry Committee discussing a court case. Such was the case “Sopot”. Then the accused, after the conclusion of the Assembly were exonerated. How much are these committees not under judiciary’s pressure?
Trajanov: Once there is doubt about a case that procedures have not been obeyed, that solid evidence is not provided, it is a signal that something happens in the judicial system, that it does not make decisions in accordance with the Constitution and laws. If any doubt or need for the Judicial Council, as part of that legal system, to revise the work of judges, the other instance is the Ombudsman, who should discuss when he estimates that there is violation of human rights. Then the Parliament can talk, collect evidence, and have polemics. It should not be pressure on the court to change the decision but may be reconsidered how the procedure has been made, if there is any evidence, if the decision was made under pressure. Time will come when the government will change and things will open. If you close all cases and do not discuss about them, it will become a practice. Decisions will be made without solid evidence. “Sopot” is a completely different case. After the discussion in the Assembly the process was restarted. And there was a protected witness who confirmed that he had been forced into cooperation. But you cannot make parallel. In Kezarovski case it is about publicly posted information. There should always be a possibility even at the cost to risk of being wrong. Of course there should be a threat of liability from three months to three years in prison but not 4.5 years and more. It is absurd to think that Parliament thus interferes with the judiciary. It can function but must be public scrutinized. Because if this case is opened they will determine the work of the Ministry of Interior, the court, the prosecution, all involved. It can be the basis competent institutions to officially implement the procedure for determining liability. So I think that Parliament should discuss the case. The initiative to establish an Inquiry Committee has reached all 123 MPs but the problem now is that President Trajko Veljanoski requires 20 MPs who will support the initiative to go as a formal decision. But I doubt that the parliamentary majority will gather political courage or show democratic capacity. Therefore I appeal to MPs in Parliament to support this initiative to be able to discuss the case of journalist Tomislav Kezarovski at the session.
If I understood you well, you do not expect support from your fellow MPs just as they did not give any support for the amendments to the Law on Witness Protection?
Trajanov: The case is now quite politicized. There were strong protests from journalists, there are strong reviews from the international community, the European Union, the Council of Europe, international associations of journalists. There are a number of comments in the country. And I do not know whether the Parliament, MPs will have courage to make such a decision. I call them to do that because it is in the interest of the Republic of Macedonia.
Will there be new elections, Mr. Trajanov?
Trajanov: No, there won’t. I think we are far from new elections. However, this parliamentary majority received a mandate from the citizens. I do not expect elections at least until the next local elections when it is possible, if there is a political agreement, to have new parliamentary elections. Democratic Union is not a key party to carry out the decisions of whether there will be early elections or not.
How do you evaluate the overall socio-political and security situation in the country?
Trajanov: I want to emphasize that all these protests result from the fact that we do not have a strong opposition which will criticize the government in Parliament. If the state Constitution can be changed, to make system laws for which there are debates in public and the opposition expects students, professors, journalists to overthrow the government for the opposition to come to power, I think it will be difficult for this to happen. If the opposition was in Parliament, if they critically observed the work of the government, if they read well all legal projects, I think processes would take place quite differently. There is no democracy in a country that does not have a strong opposition. The opposition has a strong capacity, 34 MPs plus DPA MPs. They can do much to change processes in Macedonia and that is why they, just like all of us, will bear responsibility.