Trauma of detention by mistake treated with only 500 denars per day

Skopje - Senat Sh. from Kumanovo, at the age of 22, in 2007, by mistake of the Macedonian judicial system, served one year and ten months in prison. Along with several members of his family he was arrested and charged with committing fourfold murder. But during the trial it was proved that Senat Sh. was not guilty and was acquitted

by Valentina Stojancevska

For lost almost two years the boy has been suing the state, and last year he received a decision for compensation and 17,000 Euros shall be transferred to his account. At the same time, according to his lawyer Toni Cvetkovski, the final calculation shows that the state decided to compensate Senat Sh. one day spent behind bars with only 500 denars. 

- My client was unreasonably detained for one year and ten months as a murder suspect. From the state he received compensation of about 500 denars per day - says lawyer Cvetkoski. The amount of 1.500 to 3.000 denars is the most common daily rate with which Macedonia reimburses unfounded detention, but nothing can compensate the time lost behind bars.

Last year 66,880 Euros were paid to 12 innocent detainees

Unfortunately, such cases are not rare. Each year in the Ministry of Justice they make payment of dozen damaged citizens, as the only way to get at least some satisfaction for their lost time. 

From the Ministry of Justice they informed us that last year 12 payments were made to compensation claims for damages on the basis of a court judgment. Twelve detainees, whose place had not been behind bars, were awarded total compensation of 66,880 Euros. 

Four defendants in the case "Rashtanski lozja" served one year in custody and although demanding compensation of about 80,000 Euros per person, they got triple less. The four defendants, three of whom were members of the special unit "Lions" were accused that in 2002, in an apartment in Skopje, kept Pakistani immigrants, and then intentionally killed them in the area Rashtanski lozja. However, their guilt was not proven, and in 2006 they received a final acquittal after previously serving a year in the prison "Skopje". 

According to the Ministry of Justice, the defendant in this case, Boban Utkovski, last year was paid 26,435 Euros, or 72 Euros per day. According to the lawyer Fidanco Trajkovski, the other defendants in the case should receive approximate amount but they have not been paid yet. 

- Defendants demanded five million denars, but received less, an equal amount. They have not received the money yet because I think it is to be paid in installments. Here these damages are usually smaller and it seems that their amount depends on the current financial condition of the state - says lawyer Trajkovski. 

Alexander Cvetkov, who was also charged in the "Rashtanski lozja", but was acquitted, said that he had not received any money from the state.

- I cannot comment as I have not received compensation yet. I know just one thing. The time we spent in custody cannot be compensated with anything - Cvetkov briefly commented. 

All lawyers we contacted agree that damages are too small. They remind that prison conditions are very bad, especially in detention units, for this measure is set to last a few days, rather than months and years. Detainees consistently complain that the prison "Skopje" is overcrowded, four-five sleep in a cell of 13 square meters, and they can spend two hours a day in daylight and air. 

The experienced lawyer Savo Kocarev says that such cases cannot be measured. According to him, a day spent in jail cannot be put on a scale, adding that many things depend on the situation the aggrieved is in.

- His age, health, family situation etc. is important. All aggrieved have a possibility to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Justice, and if they do not find common ground, they seek damages suing the state in a civil suit – points out Kocarev. 

According to the Law on Criminal Procedure, the aggrieved must first address the Ministry of Justice in order to reach an agreement on the type and amount of damages. If the request for compensation is not approved or the Ministry does not pass a decision within three months, the aggrieved has the right to initiate civil proceedings before a competent court. Attorneys explain that with the complaint the citizens are entitled to material compensation, which usually refers to the lost wages and salary, and compensation for non-pecuniary damage, damaged reputation or suffered misery. 

Lawyers explain that compensation payable under this ground is minimal in comparison with the European countries. 

- I have had several cases when clients were unfoundedly in detention and after that they sued the state. Most often courts award compensation of 50 Euros for each day spent in custody. But this practice is not always respected as sums are sometimes even smaller. It is unacceptable to put someone behind bars, and then with thousands denars to make up for the trauma. Only those who have been in custody know what they have experienced and if something can compensate what they lost - lawyer Nikola Tancev says.

Dushko "the milkman" seeks damages from the state, too

Former public prosecutor and now attorney, Stevan Pavleski, comments that, although no one can pay the freedom to an innocent man sentenced or detained, the aggrieved should be awarded decent compensation. He explains that the compensation in Macedonia is miserable, unlike other countries where millions are paid. 

- I have had experience when compensation of 50 Euros was awarded for day custody and the Appellate halved the amount. The greater tragedy is, however, when the state attorney appeals these decisions, thus delaying the payment, so after one injustice the client experiences, he experiences another one. They have to consider that by mistake of judicial authorities one man's life is destroyed because someone loses family, someone health, but it seems that no one cares about that, Pavleski is decisive. 

The situation in the region is similar. Serbian media recently reported that a farmer from Koshtunikja that innocent spent 222 days in custody, was offered compensation of 1,000 denars per day. The farmer, who was charged with drug trafficking, but the guilt was not proven, responded angrily to officials at the Ministry of Justice that he would pay them 2,000 per day if they entered the prison.

From the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights they say they provide free legal assistance to citizens who have in any way suffered damages by judicial authorities. They say that for arbitrary detention they mediate the case, generally known as Dusko the Dairyman. Dusko Ilievski and his brother spent 12 days in detention.

- The Committee has prepared a request for damages claim, which, according to legal procedures, is first sent to the Ministry of Justice. Within 3 months the Ministry has to respond to Dusko, and if it does not, or the Ministry does not offer adequate compensation, a lawsuit against the state will start. The deadline for response by the Ministry of Justice expires this month, says Voislav Stojanovski from the Helsinki Committee.

From the Committee they explain that they represent dozens of clients before the European Court of Human Rights recalling the successful appeal for the case "Snake Eye", where violations of Article 5 of the European Convention were established, related to detention.

A person from Shtip sued a bull in Strasbourg

When citizens can in no way either get or prove their justice before domestic courts, last hope is the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Last year, according to the reports of government agents from Macedonia, the country had an obligation to pay approximately 340,000 Euros in respect of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. In 2011, however, Macedonia was to pay 198,000 Euros and the highest amount was set in 2010, of 638,000 Euros. From 2002 up to 2012, following the Strasbourg decisions, the state paid total compensation of 1,250,000 Euros to its citizens.

The state will have to pay damages of 6,400 Euros to Gjorgji Gjorgjiev, who sued in Strasbourg after his case had lapsed in Macedonia after ten years of dragging in the courts. This case is individual and unique as the aggrieved before the Strasbourg court sued a bull owned by the state which had caused bodily injuries.

In 1999 Gjorgjiev was sentenced to six months in prison, and was sent to serve the sentence in the Stip prison. In the prison his duty was to take care of the livestock. Two months before his sentence expired, he was attacked by a bull that had not been castrated and suffered numerous injuries. The state covered the medical expenses and the bull was killed. 

But the former prisoner brought a civil action against the state and the prison demanding compensation for non-pecuniary damage. In 2002, a first instance verdict was passed, that the victim should be paid 5,000 Euros. But later the verdict was overturned by the appellate court, and after several years the case lapsed. Therefore Gjorgjiev used his last chance in the court in Strasbourg, where last year it was decided to be awarded compensation of 5,000 Euros for non-pecuniary damage and extra 1,400 Euros to cover expenses incurred before the domestic courts. 

The former owner of A1 TV, Velija Ramkovski and his daughter Emel Ramkovska are also waiting for the court decision and they are suing for infringement of the right to presumption of innocence because even before being convicted, several officials had issued public statements that they were guilty of crimes they were charged. For the punishment they received, Velija 13 and Emel 7 years imprisonment and whether they were guilty or not, they will be able to initiate a case after they use all legal remedies in the state because the Supreme Court is to pass its statement about the case "Cobweb". The former interior minister Ljube Boshkoski, who was sentenced to five years in prison for the case "Campaign", announced he would seek help in this court in Strasbourg. 

From the Helsinki Committee they add that in everyday work their legal advisors face convictions, which, according to the Committee, are controversial, both for the way the proceedings are kept and the valid passing decisions of the courts. 

- Last two cases in which the Committee worked are "Martin Neshkoski" and "Campaign", in which Ljube Boshkoski was charged. The first has already been appealed to the European Court, while for the second the complaint is still being worked on - says Stojanovski. 

For many years dragging through court mazes and cases lapsing, people constantly complain to the Ombudsman Idzet Memeti

- Although with the reforms in the judiciary, through amendments in procedural laws, continuous education of judges and other measures taken, it was expected the condition of the realization of the citizens’ rights to faster and easier access to justice to significantly improve, however, in this report were noticed complaints about trials in unreasonable period, it is said in the 2012report by the Ombudsman.

Истражувањето е поддржано од ЦИН СКУП Македонија во рамките на проектот Подигнување на јавната свест за корупцијата преку истражувачко известувањеˮ

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