The 1991 Constitution of North Macedonia (which, until February 2019, was known internationally as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) states that: "The human right to life is irrevocable."Art. 10, 1991 Constitution of North Macedonia.The human right to physical and moral dignity is irrevocable. Any form of torture, or inhuman or humiliating conduct or punishment, is prohibited.Art. 11, 1991 Constitution of North Macedonia.
It is further stipulated that:
Citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and to express public protest without prior announcement or a special license. The exercise of this right may be restricted only during a state of emergency or war.Art. 21, 1991 Constitution of North Macedonia.
Article 97 determines that: "The bodies of state administration in the fields of defence and the police are to be headed by civilians who have been civilians for at least three years before their election to these offices." There are no Constitutional rules governing police use of force.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
Police use of force is directly regulated by the 2006 Law on Police. This law allows the use of physical force "to reject an assault, prevent the escape of a person or to overcome a person’s resistance".Art. 83, 2006 Law on Police.Chemical irritants (riot-control agents) are lawful to disperse an assembly "in cases of restoring public order and peace in a wider scope, as well as for forcing persons out of a closed area or for resolving hostage situations", but "the life and health of the citizens must not be jeopardised."Arts. 88 and 91, 2006 Law on Police.Use of chemical irritants in confined spaces is dangerous and may be unlawful under international law.
Article 89 of the Law has detailed provisions on the use of firearms but they do not accord with international law, which only allows use of firearms where necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life. In North Macedonia, a police officer is authorised to use a firearm "when this is absolutely necessary and when by using other means of coercion the police tasks cannot be performed".
The police officer is authorised to use firearms when by using other means of coercion there is no other way to:
1. protect his/her own life or the lives of other people;
2. prevent the committing of a criminal act for which a prison sentence of at least four years, can be pronounced;
3. prevent the escape of a person caught while committing a criminal act for which a prison sentence of ten years or a more severe sentence can be pronounced, or of a person for whom a search warrant on the grounds of having committed such a criminal act has been announced;
4. prevent the escape of a person, deprived of liberty for committing a criminal act referred to in item 3 of this paragraph, or of a person for whom a search warrant is announced on the grounds of having escaped from serving a prison sentence for such criminal acts, and
5. prevent an assault against a facility or a person that is protected.
Prior to the use of firearms, the police officer shall verbally order and warn the person by uttering, “Stop, police”, followed by the second order “Stop or I will shoot!”
These orders and warnings "shall not be given if this jeopardises the performing of the police tasks".
The police officer shall not use firearms against the person who is detained according to this law, except, when it is necessary in order to protect his/her personal life or the life of other people, as well as in case when it is necessary to prevent the escape of the detained person.
Shooting in the air with the purpose of signalisation, asking for help and intimidation, as well as shooting at animals when they jeopardise the human lives, shall not be considered as use of firearms within the meaning of this Law.
Article 90 stipulates that:
The use of firearms is not allowed if it would jeopardise other persons’ lives, unless the use of firearms is the only means of defence from a direct assault, danger from assault against the life of other persons.
The 1996 Criminal Code of North Macedonia prohibits torture in the following terms:
A person who while performing his duty, applies force, threat or some other unallowed means or unallowed manner, with the intention of extorting a confession or some other statement from an accused, a witness, an expert or from some other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of three months to five years.Art. 142(1), 1996 Criminal Code of North Macedonia.
An Ombudsman is empowered to hear complaints about alleged human rights violations, including as a result of excessive or discriminatory police use of force. In its 2015 Concluding Observations on North Macedonia, however, the Committee against Torture regretted that hundreds of complaints had been made but no prosecutions appear to have been conducted.
In late 2018, progress was reported by the Council of Europe towards the establishment of a Police Oversight Mechanism to better safeguard against police violence.
In its 2015 Concluding Observations on North Macedonia, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern
about reports of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, particularly against Roma and members of other minorities. It is also concerned about reports of ill-treatment and torture by prison staff in detention facilities.
The Committee was also concerned about the lack of investigation of and prosecution for crimes committed by law enforcement personnel.
In its 2015 Concluding Observations on North Macedonia, the Committee against Torture stated that:
While appreciating the establishment of the national action plans and other efforts undertaken to combat intolerance and hatred of ethnic minorities, especially Roma, the Committee remains concerned at information regarding the excessive use of force by police officials against Roma, including those committed by members of the Alfa special police unit.
X and Y v. North Macedonia (2021)
The case concerned allegations of racially motivated police brutality in respect of the applicants, who state that they are ethnic Roma, and were minors at the material time, and the alleged failure of the authorities to carry out an effective investigation into those allegations.
X was arrested for a robbery and admitted to the crime under interview. The following dat (20 May 2014) at 2 p.m. X was admitted to Skopje hospital. According to medical records of that date and a medical certificate of 4 June 2014 issued by the same hospital, X was diagnosed with bruising to his head, neck, and chest (and scratches on his chest). X‑ray examination of 20 May 2014 noted the absence of “traumatic changes to the skeleton of the head, chest and neck spine”. The medical certificate concluded “bodily injury”. The records noted that, as explained by X, he had been physically attacked by police and hit on the head, neck, chest and abdomen.
More than six years after the events of 19 May 2014, the investigation into the applicants’ allegations of police brutality was still pending. The Court had already found in respect of the respondent State that the passage of unreasonable time for the investigation of allegations of police brutality, unlike the processing of cases against the applicant, suggests that the authorities did not submit the applicants’ case to the careful scrutiny required by Article 3 of the European Convention. The Court accordingly found a violation of the provision under its procedural limb. But the evidence before it did not enable the Court to find beyond reasonable doubt that the applicants were ill-treated on the scene, and that X was ill-treated while in police custody.
Selami v. North Macedonia (2018)
This case concerned the beating of Mr Selami by police officers and and his subsequent death. The Court considered
that the actual treatment to which Mr S. Selami was subjected during his interrogation by the police must be regarded as having caused him considerable physical pain, fear, anguish and mental suffering.... It further notes that the above-mentioned measures were intentionally meted out to him with the aim of extracting a confession or inflicting punishment for his alleged involvement in the killing of policemen.... Accordingly, such treatment must be regarded as torture within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention.
Asllani v. North Macedonia (2015)
This case also concerned ill-treatment during police custody. The Court reiterated that ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3.... The Court emphasised that,
in respect of a person who is placed under the control of the authorities, any recourse to physical force which has not been made strictly necessary by his or her own conduct diminishes human dignity and is, in principle, an infringement of the right set forth in Article 3 of the Convention. Indeed, the burden of proof may be regarded as resting on the authorities to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation....
... Treatment has been held by the Court to be “inhuman” because, inter alia, it was premeditated, was applied for hours at a stretch and caused either actual bodily injury or intense physical and mental suffering (see Labita, cited above, § 120). Treatment has been considered “degrading” when it was such as to arouse in its victims feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing them and possibly breaking their physical or moral resistance....
The Court noted
that the applicant suffered a broken nose and facial bruising due to the use of “brute” force on his face. These injuries were described in the medical records admitted at the trial and amounted to bodily injury. In the absence of any justification for these injuries, the Court considers that the treatment to which he was subjected did cause him physical pain, fear, anguish and mental suffering. ... There has therefore been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of the treatment to which the applicant was subjected during his interrogation at Resen police station, which the Court considers to be inhuman and degrading within the meaning of this provision
Kitanovski v. North Macedonia (2015)
This case concerned the use of firearms against a drunk driver in his car. The European Court of Human Rights reiterated that:
According to the Court’s case-law, it is only in exceptional circumstances that actions by State agents which do not result in death may disclose a violation of Article 2 of the Convention. It is correct that the criminal liability of those concerned in the use of force is not in issue in proceedings brought under the Convention. Nonetheless, the degree and type of force used and the intention or aim behind the use of force may, among other factors, be relevant in assessing whether in a particular case State agents’ actions in inflicting injury but not death are such as to bring the facts within the scope of the safeguard afforded by Article 2 of the Convention, having regard to the object and purpose of that Article. In almost all cases where a person is allegedly assaulted or ill-treated by the police or soldiers their complaints will rather fall to be examined under Article 3 of the Convention....
The Court observed that in this case, the use of firearms against the first applicant did not turn out to be lethal.
This, however, does not exclude in principle an examination of his complaints under Article 2, the text of which, read as a whole, demonstrates that it covers not only intentional killing, but also situations where it is permitted to use force which may result, as an unintended outcome, in the deprivation of life....
The Court noted that on the facts of the case,
it is not disputed that the first applicant was pursued by a large number of police officers.... The evidence adduced before the Court suggest that the police used their weapons in order to stop the first applicant from absconding and effect his arrest, as well as to stop him putting the life of police officers at risk.... According to the Government, the police also resorted to the use of firearms in self-defence.... The Court notes that all of the foregoing are the instances contemplated by the second paragraph of Article 2 in which resorting to lethal, or potentially lethal, force may be legitimate.
The Court further observed
that no evidence has been adduced in the proceedings before it that the police, when using firearms, had the intention of killing the first applicant. Neither was any such suggestion made by the first applicant. It notes, however, that the fact that the latter was not killed was fortuitous. On the available material, it is clear that four bullets were fired at the first applicant’s car, two of which were fired from an automatic rifle and the remaining two from a pistol. All of them were aimed at the car’s tyres. It cannot be established whether the automatic rifle was set, at that time, to burst mode, as claimed by the first applicant.....
As regards the use of the automatic fire mode, the Court has already stated that it is absolutely impossible to aim with a reasonable degree of accuracy using automatic fire.... In any event, the Court notes that the bullets fired from the automatic rifle have never been found, nor was their trajectory established. That demonstrates poor targeting and an increased risk of fatal consequences. Both bullets fired from the pistol hit the rear part of the car, one of them hitting the car between the rear door and the roof. As a result, the rear window shattered. The second bullet penetrated the rear door of the car, passed through the rear seat and ended up hitting the front passenger seat. In this connection it is not without relevance that Z.G., when firing at the car, was not in a steady shooting position.... That undoubtedly influenced the accuracy of his aim, given the fact that the impact sites of the shots he fired followed a horizontal or upward trajectory to the car driver’s level and not a downward one, as one would expect if the tyres, and only the tyres, of the vehicle were being shot at by the pursuing police.
In the light of the above circumstances, and in particular the degree and type of force used, the Court concludes that the first applicant was the victim of conduct which, by its very nature, was capable of putting his life at risk, even though he in fact survived. Article 2 is thus applicable in the instant case.