Treatment of ethnic Albanians by the government, security officials and other groups (2001-March 2003) [MCD40762.E]

In 1994, Albanians numbered approximately 440,000 people in Macedonia (Europa 2002 2002, 2565); however, more recent estimates put this sum at one-third of Macedonia's population of two million persons (ICG 15 Aug. 2001, 1).

In its assessment of human rights in Macedonia in 2001, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) reported that "interethnic tensions between Macedonian and ethnic Albanians culminated in open violent conflict" when Albanian extremists, claiming that their basic rights were routinely denied, launched armed attacks on government forces in February 2001 (IHF 8 May 2002, 222). During the fighting, the Albanian rebels, Macedonian army and Macedonian police were all accused of perpetrating human rights violations (ibid.). The conflict, however, did not induce communal violence in all regions of Macedonia - the Kicevo region, with a population 50 per cent Albanian and 40 per cent Macedonian, reportedly remained peaceful throughout 2001 (ESI 1 Oct. 2002, i, 1).

The 2001 crisis was negotiated to a conclusion with the General Framework Agreement of August 2001 (ibid., ii). Also called the Ohrid agreement, it is considered an important step in re-establishing state control of minority rights and the rule of law (IHF 8 May 2002, 221). Briefly, the agreement "provides for significant constitutional amendments and political reforms that would improve the status of the ethnic Albanian minority (ICG 15 Aug. 2001, 1). Although it failed to elevate the Albanian minority to an equal status with Macedonians, it includes reforms that allow the Albanian language to be used as the municipal level in communities where more than 20 per cent of the population is Albanian; it increases the proportion of Albanians on the police force; and it legislates public administration employment based on proportional representation (ibid. 4-5).

Since the introduction of the Ohrid agreement, the Research Directorate found scarce mention of localized mistreatment of Albanians, by their neighbours or other ethnic groups, among the sources consulted. A recent report suggests that the lack of violence during the September 2002 election indicates that Macedonia "may have turned a corner to stability," although some areas dominated by ethnic Albanians remain out of the control of law enforcement and mistrust between ethnic communities is palpable (ibid., i). According to a November 2002 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) news release, of the 180,000 persons estimated as displaced by the 2001 conflict, all but 11,000 had reportedly returned to their villages (1 Nov. 2002). However, an October 2002 series of tit-for-tat acts of retribution between Macedonian and Albanian youths occurring in Tetovo is considered by the International Crisis Group (ICG) an example of how easily interethnic violence can be set off (15 Nov. 2002, 4).

A number of reports allege that the Macedonian police service continually targets ethnic minorities, including Albanians, for mistreatment (AI 22 Jan. 2003, 2; ibid. 15 Aug. 2002; HRW 22 Aug. 2001; ibid. 2001; IHF 8 May 2002, 225). Amnesty International has repeatedly decried the climate of impunity within which the Macedonian police operate (15 Aug. 2002; AI 22 Jan. 2003, 1). Police officers, who are said to lack appropriate oversight and threats of sanction from their supervisors, place Albanian males at risk of arbitrary arrest (IHF 8 May 2002, 225; AI 15 Aug. 2002). Human Rights Watch noted that police abuse of ethnic Albanians, even following the signing of the Ohid Agreement, was still "persistent" and "a serious concern" (22 Aug. 2001). Amnesty International was of the opinion that, "in many of the cases" of civilian mistreatment, "an ethnic or racial component," which appears to have been "a, if not the, primary factor in the alleged ill-treatment" (AI 22 Jan. 2003, 1-2).

Among recent reported actions against the ethnic Albanian community involving police and/or security forces was an attack on the ethnic Albanian village of Ljuboten by Macedonian police where 10 Albanians were killed, over 100 arrested and some detainees were "severely beaten" (IHF 8 May 2002, 226). Human Rights Watch noted that police Ljuboten committed "widespread arson and looting, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians," following two days of shelling by Macedonian security forces (2001). Amnesty International singled out the police in the region of Tetovo as "routinely" using torture and mistreatment of ethnic Albanians as a technique of interrogation and for retribution for actions perpetrated by the National Liberation Army (NLA) (15 Aug. 2002). In addition, the Research Directorate found numerous other reported events of police misconduct against ethnic Albanians among the sources consulted (IHF 8 May 2002, 226; HRW 22 Aug. 2001; AI 15 Aug. 2002; ibid. 22 Jan. 2003, 2, 6-7; ICG 15 Nov. 2002, 4).

A 2003 Institute of War and Peace Studies (IWPR) report highlighted the increased proportion of ethnic Albanian police officers and the introduction of ethnically mixed police patrols as a reason for improved cooperation between police and local populations (20 Feb. 2003). The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative in Macedonia also considered these changes a step toward regaining lost trust in the police (ibid.). In addition, the Lions, a mono-ethnic police unit of concern to the IHF (8 May 2002, 227), which allegedly committed human rights violations (IHF 27 Aug. 2002, 5-7) was reportedly to be marked for disbandment by the Ministry of the Interior and its members to be re-tasked (RFE/RL 27 January 2003).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. 22 January 2003. "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Police Allegedly Ill-Treat Members of Ethnic Minorities." (AI Index: EUR 65/001/2003)$File/EUR6500103.pdf [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

_____. 15 August 2002. "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Impunity Threatens Lasting Peace." (AI Index: EUR 65/017/2002). [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

Europa World Year Book 2002. 2002. Vol. 2. London: Europa Publications.

European Stability Initiative (ESI). 1 October 2002. ESI Macedonia Security Project. "Ahmeti's Village: The Political Economy of Interethnic Relations in Macedonia." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 22 August 2001. "Police Abuse Against Albanians Continues in Macedonia: Peace Agreement Doesn't End Violence." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

_____. 2001. "Macedonia Crimes Against Civilians: Abuses by Macedonia Forces in Ljuboten, August 10-12 2001." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

Institute of War and Peace Reporting. 20 February 2003. Balkan Crisis Report. No. 408. Mustafa Hajrulahi. "Macedonia: Albanians Welcome New Look Police." [Accessed 13 Mar. 2003]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 15 November 2002. Balkans Report. No. 135. "Moving Macedonia Toward Self-Sufficiency: A New Security Approach for NATO and the EU." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

_____. 15 August 2001. Balkans Briefing. "Macedonia: War on Hold." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 27 August 2002. "Report: Fact Finding Mission to Macedonia, 27-28 May 2002." [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

_____. 8 May 2002. "Macedonia." In Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America. Issues/Macedonia.pdf [Accessed 12 Mar. 2003]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 27 January 2003. Newsline. Vol. 7, No. 16, Part II. "Dissolution of Controversial Police Unit Divides Macedonian Government." (NEXIS)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 1 November 2002. "Feature: Light Returns to Black Mountain Village as Returnees Rebuild Homes." [Accessed 13 Mar. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Internet sites, including:

Albanians in Macedonia Crisis Center

AMCC-News List Serve

European Country of Origin Information Network

Global IDP

Neue Zurcher Zeitung

World News Connection