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Macedonia: Police Raid and Forced Testing of 23 Sex Workers in Skopje - UPDATE

After the police raid that took place on 20-21st November, 2008 in Skopje, Macedonia during which 23 sex workers were detained and tested for HIV, HEP B and HEP C, both national and international human rights groups, sex workers groups, supporters and allies took a wide range of actions to raise awareness on the issue, protect the sex workers involved and prevent similar future violations.

A coalition of NGOs and activists took the following steps to respond to the unjust and inhumane treatment of sex workers duing the police raid: they hired lawyers, made official complaints to every human rights protective mechanism in the country (Ombudsman, Sector for internal control within Mol, Commission for human rights within the Parliament etc.), alerted and collaborated with international allies, sent letters to the Government, maintained regular contacts with media, provided legal and psychosocial support to sex workers, among other actions. None of these yielded the desired effect and it is now apparent that the only way to seek justice remained to be through court.

Out of the 23 detained, 12 persons submitted motions for assessment of the legality of police proceedings before an investigation judge at the Criminal Court in Skopje. Five of these motions were withdrawn because of individual reasons of sex workers. In the other 7 motions, the Investigation judge found no violations of police proceedings. The decisions were appealed before the Criminal Court Council, as a body of second instance, but the outcome was again negative.

Since March 2009 the lawyers have been working with the human rights and ECHR experts on a civil suit against the Republic of Macedonia on account of alleged existence of objective liability of the state in this case. They claim that the responsible bodies did not take adequate actions nor did they carry out full investigation both in this case and in instances when sex workers reported violations on human rights.

Additionally, 13 sex workers submitted complaints to the Directorate for Personal Data Protection, in regards to having their identities released to the public without their consent. In three instances, television companies have already been found to be in violation of the right to privacy, meaning a precedence for a favorable judgment has already been established.

In the meantime, proceedings against 7 persons who tested HEP C positive, according to article 205 from the Crime Code (“... intentionally spreading infectious diseases...”), have been initiated. Several hearings took place, the decision being expected in September 2009.

A team of 2 lawyers works on each of the listed proceedings, and any which may follow.

For additional information, please contact: Marija Tosheva
Email: marijat@hops.org.mk
About HOPS, Macedonia