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IN FOCUS: MACEDONIA ALERT: POLICE RAIDS, DETENTIONS, INVOLUNTARY STI-TESTS

More then 30 sex workers, clients, mediators and one social worker from HOPS, SWAN member from Macedonia, detained in a massive raid; involuntary STI tests performed; civil society says human rights seriously violated

Coalition for Protection and Promotion of Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities (HOPS, HERA, MASSO, MHRN, STAR, IZBOR) excoriates the last “coordinated action for suppression of street prostitution” of the Office of Interior (SVR), Skopje, Macedonia, and finds serious indications of severe procedural mistakes, misuse of official activity and flagrant violence of the basic human and health rights of the persons (sex workers) detained, as well as their direct discrimination on the ground of their work as sex workers on open scene. More

More then 30 sex workers, clients, mediators and one social worker from HOPS, SWAN member from Macedonia, detained in a massive raid; involuntary STI tests performed; civil society says human rights seriously violated

Coalition for Protection and Promotion of Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities (HOPS, HERA, MASSO, MHRN, STAR, IZBOR) excoriates the last “coordinated action for suppression of street prostitution” of the Office of Interior (SVR), Skopje, Macedonia, and finds serious indications of severe procedural mistakes, misuse of official activity and flagrant violence of the basic human and health rights of the persons (sex workers) detained, as well as their direct discrimination on the ground of their work as sex workers on open scene.
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Namely, on 20.11.2008 at about 7 PM in the region of MRTV in Skopje, mass raid was organized by the Office of Interior (SVR) in which more than 30 persons were detained in the police station Bit Pazar. In the raid, entitled “coordinated action for suppression of street prostitution”, detained clients and mediators of sex workers and an employee – activist of the NGO HOPS, who was at the moment of the raid carrying out her work tasks (distribution of condoms and brochures for HIV/AIDS prevention).

At the detention sex workers were not informed about the reasons of their detention in the police station and their deprivation of freedom, nor were they informed of their rights guaranteed by the Macedonian Constitution, the country’s laws and international documents. After an intervention by a lawyer, the HOPS field worker was released at around 10 PM, with an explanation that allegedly she was detained only in order to be identified, although she had identified herself with personal and working IDs at the moment of detention.

On 21.11.2008, twenty three of the detained sex workers were taken to the Clinic for Infective Diseases, Skopje, where in accordance with a court order, they were involuntarily tested for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Ministry of Interior stated that „there are certain indications that these persons may be carriers of various sexually transmitted diseases which they consciously transmit to other persons, which is in opposition to existing Laws in Republic of Macedonia“[1] . It is completely unknown and confusing on what grounds this conclusion was made.

Requesting an urgent and involuntary STI testing and claiming that detained persons might be engaged in a criminal act of “Transmitting infective diseases“ (article 205 from the Criminal Code), is not reasonably justifiable because those same persons had already been voluntary and confidentially tested on regular basis within the national HIV preventive programs of the Ministry of Health.

Carrying out involuntary medical testing is contrary to the national protocols for HIV/AIDS prevention adopted by Ministry of Health and Country Coordinative Mechanism on HIV/AIDS on which the whole National strategy for HIV/AIDS is based.

The National Strategy itself is adopted by the Government of Republic of Macedonia. It is indicative that the forced medical testing was carried out only on sex workers. Although there is an equal danger for the clients of sex workers „to be carriers of various sexually transmitted diseases which they consciously transmit to the persons with which they engage in sexual intercourse“, they were not subjected to tests.

Media were aloud to tape and photograph detention and transfer of the detained persons to the Clinic for testing. Identity of the detained was revealed to the curiosity of media cameras present at the place, which is against the Article 29 Paragraph 3 of the Law on Internal Affairs of RM. („Authorized official persons should not expose the detained person to public curiosity“).

That same day, while violating the right of presumption of innocence, the Ministry of Interior came out with a press release and public announcement [2] and disclosed personal data of the detained persons.

That was not of any direct importance for the deed, but was only aiming on sensationalist stigmatization of the persons suspected. It is not clear on what legal provisions MoI based this violation of the right of presumption of innocence of the persons suspected for misdemeanor by profiling them as gross criminals and claiming that the acts for which they are arrested have already been performed, even before a misdemeanor report was submitted.

Photographs and video tapes from the sex workers recorded at the police station were posted on the web site of MoI, aired in all national TV stations and published in all printed media. Namely, MoI published group photos of the persons suspected of misdemeanor, from which the detained persons’ identities are easy to detect (according to hair, height, clothes, and facial parts).

Having in mind that no law foresees „suppression of street prostitution” or „suppression of socio-pathological phenomena under the name of „street prostitution”, the reason for the raid that is not directed against „exploitation of prostitution“(according to the CEDAW Committee recommendations), but rather against „street prostitution“ is obscured. This incident can only point to the lack of knowledge on the side of MoI of the difference between prostitution and exploitation in prostitution. The same is further confirmed by the fact that MoI treated sex workers as criminals, and not as potential tortfeasors, putting them in the same group with criminal suspects.

It is also not clear based on which legal provisions were the suspected deprived of freedom and held in the police station for more than 12 hours, having in mind that the „detention may last 12 hours at most, as of the moment when the [suspect] was detained [by court decision]. During this time, the suspect should be examined and a decision for misdemeanor should be brought or the suspect should be released“ (article 92, paragraph 3 from the Law on Misdemeanors).

On the basis of the above mentioned the Coalition for Protection and Promotion of Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities calls international public and relevant international representatives in Macedonia to condemn the “coordinated action” of the Office of Interior, Skopje and to evoke the responsibility of the MoI and media in order to provoke immediate resolution of the situation and investigation of legality of the action. Sending a letter of support, or a letter with reaction to the media, MoI, MoH, MLSP, Ombudsman, the Public Prosecutor etc. could be of great help in the process of immediate resolution of the problem and prevention from further human/health rights violations and discrimination of sex workers and all citizens in democratic Macedonia.

Skopje, 25.11.2008
Respectfully,
Slavco Dimitrov,
Coordinator of the Coalition for protection and promotion of sexual and health rights of marginalized communities

More information about the case: http://www.hops.org.mk

Addresses to which you can send protests:
Mrs. Gordana Jankuloska, Minister of Interior: kontakt@moi.gov.mk


Mrs. Aneta Stancevska, Sector for Internal Control within MoI,
Fax: +389 2 3112 468

Mr, Idzet Memeti, Ombudsman contact@ombudsman.mk,
Fax: +389 2 3129 359

Mr, Bujar Osmani, Minister of Health: e-mail:
bujar.osmani@zdravstvo.gov.mk,
Fax: +389 2 3113 014

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1. Press release of MoI (http://www.mvr.gov.mk/ShowAnnouncements.aspx?ItemID=6223&mid=1367&tabId=1&tabindex=0)

2.Ibid.

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