By Aleksandar Krzhallovski
In the week when the fate of the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) was sealed, with the dismissal of its leader Katica Janeva and the Public Prosecutors’ Council finding that it would end the mandate of the remaining prosecutors from that prosecution, the hope was lost that the law can function in Macedonia and justice can be done.
As far as I understand, the SPO will continue to work (another year if I am not mistaken), but without prosecutors there is practically no work there…it will be just another unnecessary institution, with some form and no substance. Like many others in the country anyway. The first information that leaked from the long nightly “negotiations” of the SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE (presidents) the other day turned out to be true, that the only thing they have agreed on is that the SPO is dead!
Unfortunately, that episode only goes on to reaffirm the prevailing stereotype in the public that the only thing that parties care about is avoiding any responsibility for their actions (especially not criminal, and in no way reaching prison sentences) and seize as much as they can from the little that the Macedonian economy produces.
And in conditions of justice that we have and as Priebe described in his famous report since the beginning of our last crisis, it could hardly be expected that this system would lead to some just outcome. The creation of the SPO should have restored some hope of restoring a system that will have no impunity for crimes and that they will be adequately sanctioned (appropriate punishments according to the seriousness of the offenses). Now that the SPO is dead, with about 20 cases of which few have ended with convictions, and they are not very convincing – like that of the former Prime Minister Gruevski, to influence the choice of the infamous Mercedes-Benz (which, by the way, as I follow, is healthy and alive and in the service of the state for the purpose for which it was purchased – safe transport of senior foreign statesmen and officials). All this, now in the end, is far from the public’s expectations, both in the number of cases and in the number of verdicts, and at least in terms of the greatest expectation – to recover the (stolen) money. Applying the principle that condemned Al Capone (ended up in jail for unpaid taxes, and not all the major crimes and murders he committed), to find something rather than concentrate on the “money flow”, I think the SPO failed to achieve the purpose for which it was founded.
It is still talked/believed that the SPO cases will continue to work in the PPO, but everything is already so diluted and delayed (and we see parties trying to continue it that way), that I do not expect any resolution from all of that, that is, either the cases will not continue at all, or they will drag on until they become obsolete (and/or everything will be forgotten, and the actors will be far or away safe), or they will never end. And of course the attempts will continue (most of them will succeed) to pay for all that is needed to save those who need it…not to think that with the Racket case such practice will cease. On the contrary!
I may sound pessimistic, but it is undermined by a thick, over 20 years of experience with the Macedonian justice system. Negative, of course. I will back it up with just two examples of my experience. One is from MCIC (the organization I have been working for a long time), which approved 12 credits as part of an experimental program to support small and medium-sized enterprises at the beginning of its operations (and before I came, I mean, 1994-1995) for as many firms that seemed promising. However, only 2 of them started repaying their loans on time, and all the rest – ended up in court. The processes took several years and some of the companies, seeing that they would still lose the case, began paying the projected installments for loan repayments and managed to settle down over the years. But most did not, so the proceedings continued, they dragged on, lawyers were hired, judges were replaced, jurisdictions, and “a few million” other things to reach a just solution.
And what was the epilogue of all this to MCIC? Somewhere on the 20th anniversary of the litigation, we did the math, and except for those two cases that paid off on time, we found that all the other payments made by the 10 firms in those two decades ended up with the lawyer(s) (some directly – as a reward for collection, and some indirectly – as compensation for attending court hearings, according to the tariff and other “legal actions”), and three of the cases are still pending after more than 20 years!!! As you can conclude yourselves, the story of the lawyer, his son a lawyer and the case of the two neighbors and the nut between their properties (which the lawyer has run for 20 years, he bought a house and a car and educated his son with it) – happened to us in real life, with all its vigor.
The second example is from my personal driving experience. Namely, I like driving fast and I drive fast, but I do not consider myself to be a dangerous or irresponsible driver (I have never caused any damage to a vehicle other than my own, nor put another person in danger). Because of my speeding, I have been stopped by the traffic police several times, punished with fines and/or penalties several times (in rare cases I was “released” on the spot, interestingly, never for bribery), and three cases also ended in court. Now, the courts, for such, I would say banal things, are stories about themselves. First, the summons to court came about two years after the event itself. Then there were problems with the delivery of the invitation (whether the address was correct, then whether I was home, etc… without my trying to avoid anything in the process). When it came to the hearing, despite the rather abnormal conditions, with 20-30 people scheduled at the same time or 2-3 minutes apart, there were delays in the hearing for various reasons. From the absence of a judge (or anyone else in the proceedings), through the lack of a specific document, to the expectation of receiving information from another institution “ex officio” and it takes months, to the expectation of changing the law in question (and by that of punishments) as some form of possible mitigation of punishment. And it all last(ed) for years.
Two of those three cases finally ended with a verdict that sentenced me to pay court costs and a driving ban of 3 and 6 months. I paid the fines shortly thereafter (by the way, it was a journey, as there was no indication of where to pay, which account to), and after a year or two of the verdicts I waited for my license to be revoked (there was also a special procedure, in which police officers come home and revoke my license or invite me to take it to the station).
And so, such a “dangerous driver” like me, after more than five years of committing traffic offenses (speeding), freely drives on Macedonian streets and roads. And what can we expect from processing more difficult cases?!?
A former president once told me, the Faculty of Law is the source of all the problems in the country. I don’t know if it is so (sounds a little apocalyptic), but also from my own experience (not just from the above two examples) and from Priebe’s findings, and from what we all see in our justice system every day, even if it doesn’t make any problems (and it does), it is clear that it does not produce many solutions to problems!
Obviously, to reform such a system, it needs to be “deepened”, to be cleaned with a much larger broom than the one used by the Prime Minister this year in his party and the government. I would like to be optimistic that this is going to happen in the next few years, but simply the experience (including now with the SPO case) keeps popping up my arguments…and hopes!
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