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Fresh ethnic tensions expected in Macedonia after UN court ruling May 21, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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The already fraught relations between the main ethnic groups in Macedonia have been put under renewed strain after the latest ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The court, based in The Hague, delivered its final verdict on the case of Johan Tarculovski, a Macedonian police officer who stood trial for crimes committed during the 2001 conflict between the country’s army and ethnic Albanian rebels. The ICTY on Tuesday (18 May) upheld Mr Tarculovski’s 12-year-long prison sentence while acquitting former interior minister Ljube Boskoski.

Mr Tarculovski’s sentence is welcome news to Macedonia’s ethnic Albanians, but not for the country’s majority. “The rhetoric between Albanians and Macedonians in the country is very sharp and this judgement will negatively influence the already bad inter-ethnic climate. Reducing Tarculovski’s sentence would have relaxed the tensions,” said Vlado Buckovski, a former Macedonian prime minister.

Mr Tarculovski was first sentenced in 2008 for crimes committed by the police in Ljuboten, an ethnic Albanian village. Mr Boskoski was indicted for failing to investigate the crimes committed by his subordinates during the 2001 insurgency. The prosecutor filed an appeal in his case.

Mr Boskoski and Mr Tarculovski are the only Macedonians to have been indicted by the ICTY for the 2001 armed conflict. The ethnic clashes, which left several dozens dead, were settled by the Ohrid Agreement, which gave new rights to the 25-percent-strong Albanian minority. Eventually, some of the former Albanian rebels entered politics, pushing their agenda onto the political arena.

The ICTY ruling will complicate the already difficult political situation. Mr Buckovski said: “Putting Tarculovski in jail for 12 years and at the same time granting amnesty for Albanian crimes makes it impossible to find a solution.”

Mr Buckovski was referring to four cases of alleged atrocities committed by the Albanians during the 2001 violence. They were examined by ICTY, which handed them back to Macedonia. There, authorities promised to prosecute, but this has been met with vehement opposition by the country’s Albanian political parties who argue the cases fall under an amnesty law passed after the conflict.

Macedonians, on the other hand, want to see the accused brought to justice. Meanwhile, the Albanian minority has criticised several recent government decisions as provocative, most notably the ambitious project Skopje 2014.

Many Macedonians are convinced the sentence for Mr Tarculovski is unjust, but “Albanians will react positively to the news, because they see Tarculovski as an executor of Albanians,” explains Ismet Ramadani, counsellor on Euro-Atlantic integration for “New Democracy,” an ethnic-Albanian opposition party in Macedonia.

Ethnic relations have been further soured by the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece which is blocking the former from membership of Nato and the EU. Both ethnic groups strongly support entry into the two organisations, but while Albanians show little interest in the name issue, the topic is highly sensitive for Macedonians.

“We have to close the 2001 chapter. For that we need a reconciliation package. A win-win strategy for all means that one can not accuse just one side and wash the other of all responsibility,” said Laze Elenovski, former minister of defence.



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