Nobody looks for the bones from "Neproshteno"
Despite precise regulations about who is responsible and how to store evidence, our reporter recorded an improvised depot at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Skopje, where evidence for committing serious crimes is stored inappropriately
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co-author: Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova
Stacks of evidence, from underwear, shirts, jackets, mattresses, various items soaked with blood following murders for years have been piled in an improvised depot at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Skopje. Heavy smell spreads from the small room where the Institute services have put and marked all evidence into separate bags, although neither institutions, nor concerned in these cases ask for them back. Institutions blame each other who is in charge of the evidence, which under the law can be re-actualized in a possible new trial for the same item.
“We are not entitled to store it. And even if we were, it entails certain costs for electricity, water, people. We have passed an internal act that after six months the evidence can be destroyed without any responsibility, but it is not fair. Over time the evidence, with the development of certain techniques, can be used to repeat the trial”, says the director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Aleksej Duma for Inbox7. According to him, they, as an institution, are not obliged to store the evidence as it should be in the hands of the courts or now, with the new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), in the hands of the Public Prosecution Office (PPO).
Evidence even 10 years old
Among the oldest evidence that for more than ten years have been placed at the Institute are the bones of the kidnapped residents of Tetovo village Neproshteno during the 2001 conflict. As Duma says, nobody looks for them, especially after the closure of the case by the Amnesty Law in 2011.
“We have a problem with taking evidence from the Institute. We have created a separate room for storage of these materials, but it is not enough. Very often we send letters to the courts. Besides the Basic Court Skopje 1, which has responded to almost all our requirements, other courts do not reply at all. The bones from “Neproshteno” are still here, maybe there are some older materials. We address the Basic Court Tetovo, and they say that the prosecution is responsible”, says Duma.
And in the case of six-year-old Angela Gjorgievska, who disappeared in August 2009, the same situation – her skull found in 2010 is still in the Institute.
Zarko Veleski, acting president of the Basic Court Prilep says that this court has no problems storing the evidence because there is a special unit whose job is to take care of it.
“It is true that we received a letter from the Institute of Forensic Medicine and we responded to that letter. It is not a problem for us to take the skull, but we are waiting for a response from the girl’s parents”, says Veleski.
How is evidence kept?
According to the CPC, the items that are to be seized or which may serve as evidence in criminal proceedings shall be given to the public prosecutor or other institution as defined by law, such as courts, banks, police or the Seized Property Management Agency. What is crucial for the proper storage of evidence is that in the order issued by the court seized items must be determined accurately, with detailed description of how they look, and the place they need to be stored and the deadline for their seizure .
In courts, however, there must be a provided space, called bunker, where evidence is kept.
What does the Evidence Storage Law stipulate?
Part of the Criminal Procedure Code which stipulates how to handle the evidence:
Order for temporary seizure of items
(1) The items that according to the Criminal Code should be seized or which may serve as evidence in criminal proceedings shall be temporarily seized and handed for storage to the Public prosecutor or authority designated by a special law or otherwise to ensure their storage.
(2) The order for temporary seizure of items is issued by the court upon proposal by judicial police or the public prosecutor.
(3) The order for seizure of items contains the name of the court, the legal basis for the seizure of items, determination and accurate description of the items which are to be temporarily seized, name and surname of the person they should be temporarily seized from, place where to be temporarily seized, deadline in which they should be seized and advice on legal remedy.
Part of the Court Rules which stipulates how evidence is to be handled
Seizure and storage of items
Items used or intended to commit a crime, or incurred with committing a crime or received as a reward for the crime, which will serve as evidence in criminal proceedings, or found at the accused and it is not known whom they belong to (suspicious items), as well as guarantees, are recorded in the book of seized items.
Money, securities and valuables, as well as guarantees of those kinds of values are recorded in the books of seized items and held in a treasury, if needed to serve as evidence. Otherwise are submitted for storage in a competent bank performing deposit to the court.
Other items are recorded in the book of seized items and given for storage to the authorized court officer in the court archives.
Receipt, storage, handling and cancellation (liquidation) of items recorded in the books of seized items is made according to the provisions of material and financial operations of these rules. Cash books and other documents that will serve as evidence are arranged by pages, that is ordinal numbers, are placed in a file and stored in the manner provided in paragraph 4 of this Article.
“In civil proceedings it is easier. Various contracts, acts or any other document submitted in court as evidence, are kept in the case file as originals. After the procedure the parties, with a written request to the court, are entitled to take them if they need them”, said the acting president of the Basic Court in Prilep, Veleski.
Kostadin Kizov, president of the Council of Public Prosecutors, assures that the evidence cannot be destroyed just like that.
“In general the evidence is stored in the depot or the Ministry of Interior (MoI) or in museums depending on what evidence is in question. It is safe there because it can be taken out only by order of a judge or prosecutor. If the procedure is under investigation then under the new CPC the evidence is stored at the public prosecutor. If he later files charges, then the evidence goes to court. When the case is fully completed, the court is the one which by order decides where it will be stored”, explains Kizov.
Court decides on how much time a piece of evidence will be kept. From Ministry of Interior they say that after completion of the analysis, expert and other measures taken, provided evidence together with criminal charges is submitted to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO).
“The evidence that the prosecution and the court submit to the police is kept in an appropriate way depending on the type and nature of the evidence. And in terms of deadlines, police acts on the orders of the public prosecutor or the court, that determine how necessary it is to keep some proof”, they say from the Ministry of Interior.
In the Institute of Forensic Medicine, however, despite the human bones and items, human organs and tissues can be found, too. As explained there, either an extract for toxicological analysis or molds for histological examination are made from the tissues. Samples of human DNA are stored in special cards that do not occupy space.
Skopje 1 with most evidence, but well kept
Basic Court Skopje 1 is the only court in Macedonia which regularly and smoothly takes evidence from the Institute of Forensic Medicine. When the court moves to the new building, in which “bunker” is provided, evidence management will operate according to world standards.
“So far we have answered all the requirements of the Institute of Forensic Medicine. We are pleased with the cooperation because it is on a high professional level which provides and guarantees accurate justice during court proceedings. After the analysis, the evidence, depending on the type of case and storage deadlines, is stored in depots in court in the Department of corpora delicti”, says the president of the court, Vladimir Panchevski.
What will the evidence bunker look like?
In the new building of the Basic Court Skopje 1 equipping a special room for the Department of corpora delicti is projected. It will have a thermal door which in case of fire will not allow any damage to evidence that will be stored in the room. Then, a special regime of micro – climate is provided or fulfillment of specific parameters for treating the air in the room so there is no impact when it comes to evidence such as narcotics, firearms and related materials that are susceptible to drying and corrosion.
Editor: Stojanka Mitreska