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NGOs Urge Macedonian Authorities to Investigate Death of Trajan Bekirov

16 June 2006

Romani Youth Last Seen Alive While Being Chased by Police

Budapest, Skopje. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the National Roma Centrum (NRC) sent a letter to Dr. Vlado Buckovski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia expressing grave concern about the recent death of a Romani youth named Trajan Bekirov, and urging that Macedonian authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation. Copies of the letter were also sent to Ms. Meri Mladenovska Gjorgjievska, Minister of Justice, Mr. Ljubomir Mihajlovski, Minister of Interior, and Mr. Aleksandar Prcevski, Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Macedonia.

Seventeen-year-old Trajan Bekirov was last seen alive after Macedonian police "Alfi" units chased him and his friend, Orhan Isemi, on 11 May 2006. His body was discovered on 28 May 2006 in the river Vardar near the village of Tubarevo. The Institute for Judicial Medicine carried out an autopsy, the result of which is still unknown. A criminal investigation is reportedly open, but as of the date of this letter, no results have been made public. Media articles in Macedonia have featured sensational allegations, such as the contention that Trajan Bekirov's organs may have been stolen. Trajan Bekirov's parents believe the initial police chase was influenced by racial considerations. They also allege an anti-Romani bias among Macedonian authorities.

The ERRC/NRC letter urges the respective authorities to undertake any and all measures available to ensure a swift, full, thorough and effective investigation into the death of Trajan Bekirov, and that any and all perpetrators involved in illegal actions in connection with his death be swiftly brought to justice. The organisations urge further that authorities investigate the possibility of racial motive or animus in the circumstances leading to and/or surrounding Trajan Bekirov's death, in addition to seeking to determine whether other forms of wrongdoing have taken place. The results of the investigation, including that of the autopsy, should be transparent, and set to rest any and all open questions surrounding these events.

The full text of the ERRC/NRC letter is available here:

Honourable Prime Minister Buckovski,

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a Budapest-based international public interest law organization aimed at combating anti-Romani racisms and human rights abuse of Roma. The National Roma Centrum (NRC) is a professional non-governmental organization located in Kumanovo, Macedonia, with the aim of representing and stimulating the active participation and integration of Romani people on the principles of the modern multiethnic European society. The ERRC and NRC are writing to express grave concern about the recent death of a Romani youth named Trajan Bekirov, and to urge that Macedonian authorities carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation.

Seventeen-year-old Trajan Bekirov was last seen alive after Macedonian police "Alfi" units chased him and his friend, Orhan Isemi, on 11 May 2006. His body was discovered on 28 May 2006 in the Vardar river near the village of Tubarevo. The Institute for Judicial Medicine carried out an autopsy, the result of which is still unknown. A criminal investigation is reportedly open, but as of the date of this letter, no results have been made public. Media articles in Macedonia have featured sensational allegations, such as the contention that Trajan Bekirov's organs may have been stolen.

Honourable Prime Minister Buckovski,

The European Court of Human Right's case law and other international legal standards require a prompt and effective official investigation where there are potential violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. Further positive obligations arise where there is a possibility that racial animus may have influenced events, implicating the Convention's ban on discrimination.

States Parties to the Convention – including Macedonia -- have a positive obligation to immediately investigate alleged violations of the European Convention. Such an obligation also arises by implication under Article 1, where the State must secure the "rights and freedoms of the Convention". In Nachova v. Bulgaria, a case decided recently, the Court held that the Bulgarian authorities had violated the obligation under Article 2 by failing to investigate the deaths of two Roma men. Furthermore, in Assenov v. Bulgaria, the Court reiterated the principles of effectiveness of an investigation, that is there must be an official "investigation leading to identification and punishment of those responsible". In the present case, a youth of Romani origin died in suspicious circumstances after a police chase. Since his life has ended and his family alleged possible police abuse before his death, it is imperative that the responsible authorities commence and carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation.

Several international standards emphasize the necessity of conducting an investigation to give meaning to the articles of the Convention. For example, the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) sets out that States are required to provide any individual who alleges that he has been subjected to torture the right to complain to the authorities. Such a person also has the right to have his case promptly and impartially examined. Furthermore, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has stated that where a country refuses to investigate allegations of torture, that country undermines "the very foundation of a democratic society". Thus, such an investigation is needed to protect the rights guaranteed under the Convention.

The obligation to investigate is even more pressing where potential Convention violations may have a racial motivation. Under Article 14 of the Convention, everyone's rights must be protected from discrimination on the basis of race and other grounds. Trajan Bekirov's parents believe the initial police chase was influenced by racial considerations. They also allege an anti-Romani bias among Macedonian authorities. Thus, a thorough investigation should begin at once, to allay any suspicion of racial bias, and to avoid the manifestation of an Article 14 violation.

In addition, the matter of police abuse and impunity has long been a particular concern for the Romani community in Macedonia. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have documented the growing and unresolved problem of police violence. In a 2003 report, Human Rights Watch noted that police in Macedonia "continue to perpetuate racially motivated abuses against the Roma with impunity". In a report released in September 2004 on Macedonia, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) stated that "the inaction of judges, public prosecutors and investigating police officers has fostered a climate in which law enforcement officials minded to ill-treat persons have come to believe – with very good reasons – that they can do so with impunity". The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe has further observed that, in Macedonia, "Issues of discrimination and intolerance are not adequately recognised and confronted".

Honourable Prime Minister Buckovski,

We urge you to undertake any and all measures within the powers available to your office to ensure a swift, full, thorough and effective investigation into the death of Trajan Bekirov, and that any and all perpetrators involved in illegal actions in connection with his death be swiftly brought to justice. We urge further that authorities investigate the possibility of racial motive or animus in the circumstances leading to and/or surrounding Trajan Bekirov's death, in addition to seeking to determine whether other forms of wrongdoing have taken place. The results of the investigation, including that of the autopsy, should be transparent, and set to rest any and all open questions surrounding these events.

Yours sincerely,
Dimitrina Petrova (ERRC) and Asmet Elezovski (NRC)

For further information on the case, please contact:

Asmet Elezovski (NRC) +389-31-427-558
Anita Danka (ERRC) +36-1-413-2200

Persons wishing to express similar concerns on the Trajan Bekirov case are urged to direct communication to:

Dr. Vlado Buckovski
Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia
Fax: +389-2-311-80-22

Ms. Meri Mladenovska Gjorgjievska
Minister of Justice of Republic of Macedonia
Dimitrie Cupovski Street, 9, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia
Fax: +389 23 226 975

Mr. Ljubomir Mihajlovski
Minister of Interior
Dimce Mircev Street, bb, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia
Fax: +389 23 112 468

Mr. Aleksandar Prcevski
Public Prosecutor
Krste Misirkov Street, bb, 1000 Skopje, Macedonia
Fax: +389 23 219 866

____________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public interest law organization engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of Romani activists. For more information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC website at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
Tel.: ++ (36 1) 413 2200
Fax: ++ (36 1) 413 2201
E-mail: office@errc.org

____________________________

The National Roma Centrum (NRC) is a professional non-governmental organization, which represents and stimulates the active participation and integration of Romani people on the principles of the modern multiethnic European society. Its activities focus on human rights, lobbying, education and employment.

National Roma Centrum
Done Bozinov 11/5, 1 300
Kumoanovo
Tel/fax: +389-31-427-558
E-mail: info@nationalromacentrum.org,
contact@nationalromacentrum.org

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