Macedonia MPs Approve Amnesty for Parliament Attackers

The majority in the Macedonian parliament passed a much-disputed Amnesty Law that will legally absolve some of the participants in last year’s mob attack on the legislature.
The storming of parliament last year left some 100 people injured, including the then opposition leader who is now prime minister, Zoran Zaev. Archive photo: EPA/STR.

All 95 MPs who were present at Tuesday’s session in Macedonia’s 120-seat parliament voted in favour of the controversial amnesty legislation.

The opposition VMRO DPMNE MPs joined the majority led by the Social Democrats in supporting the law, despite the fact that there amendment aimed at expanding the scope of the amnesty to all participants was rejected earlier in the day. 

The law will offer an amnesty to people who were not personally involved in violence during last April’s rampage in parliament and who did not organise the storming of the legislature.

The law says that those not eligible include “the organisers and those who prepared the events of April 27 [2017], persons who committed physical violence, persons who were wearing masks to cover their faces and who committed violence, persons who were carrying weapons and official persons who overstepped their professional authorization”, said deputy parliamentary speaker Frosina Remenski on Tuesday.

The law stipulates those who are eligible for amnesty will have to apply for it and that the prosecution and the court will be in charge of granting it.

Currently 33 people, including former senior police officials and opposition VMRO DPMNE MPs and supporters, are on trial charged with “terrorist endangerment of national security” for their involvement in the violence in parliament last April, when some 100 people were injured.

The prosecution is investigating the case further and has not excluded bringing further charges against more people who might be implicated in organising the violence.

The amnesty was the initiative of eight opposition MPs who in October provided Zoran Zaev’s government with crucial support at the start of the parliamentary procedure to approve Macedonia’s historic ‘name’ deal with Greece.

They then conditioned their further support on progress on reconciliation, which they said should include an amnesty.

Three of the opposition MPs who participated in drafting the amnesty legislation and who initially supported the Greek deal are currently on trial for their involvement in the parliament rampage.

This prompted critics to accuse Zaev and his government of trading the rule of law for opposition votes in order to reach the political goal of implementing the agreement with Greece.

The implementation of the name deal would unlock Macedonia’s stalled Euro-Atlantic integration process, allowing it to join NATO and open talks on membership with the EU. Zaev has repeated that he is willing to “pay a political price” for the amnesty to achieve these goals.

The final vote on the constitutional changes that form part of the deal with Greece is expected on January 15.

Last April’s attack on parliament happened at a time of high political tension, as the former ruling VMRO DPMNE desperately tried to stop the opposition Social Democrats from forming a government.

VMRO DPMNE supporters stormed the building only minutes after the new majority had elected Talat Xaferi as the new speaker, paving the way for the election of Zaev’s new government. The new administration eventually took office in May 2017.

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