The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that pardons awarded by North Macedonia’s then-President Gjorgje Ivanov in 2016 could not influence the trials of high-level North Macedonian officials.
Eight North Macedonian citizens called on the ECHR to assess whether the decision to annul the 2016 pardons was constitutional.
In response, the court ruled that the requests or complaints of convicted individuals and defendants against such trials were inadmissible. In doing so, it gave domestic prosecutors and courts the right to try a number of North Macedonian officials from the VMRO-DPMNE party.
One of those set to stand trial is the party’s longtime leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Former North Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, a close ally of Gruevski’s, pardoned him in 2016.
Ivanov also pardoned dozens of other North Macedonian officials in the same year, including Sasho Mijalkov, the former director of the Bureau for Security and Counterintelligence, Gordana Jankulovska, the former Interior Minister, and Mile Janakieski, the former Minister of Transport.
“The Court held that the applicants had failed to exhaust domestic remedies. It held that the complaints… were premature as the domestic authorities would have an opportunity to address them first in the pending criminal proceedings,” said the ECHR in a press release.
In 2015, several covert recordings of telephone conversations between senior members of the VMRO-DPMNE were published by the then-opposition party, the Social Democrats.
Files tied to these recordings were later given to prosecutors, leading to charges of various crimes, including electoral offences.
In March 2016, the Constitutional Court annulled the 2009 Pardon Act as unconstitutional. Even so, Ivanov issued 51 individual pardons, exempting 56 people, a month later.
Street protests erupted in response, resulting in the President’s office being attacked. The protests have come to be known as the Colourful Revolution.
“Following a change in the law, in May and June 2016 the President annulled the pardons he had given. As a result, trials were started or continued against the applicants for the alleged offences. The trial court confirmed that the pardons no longer had legal effect and that therefore indictments against the applicants were legal,” reads the ECHR ruling.
Gruevski left his position as Prime Minister in January 2016, resigning as VMRO DPMNE party leader the year after. The Social Democrats under Zoran Zaev’s leadership were elected the ruling party in 2016.
After fleeing to Hungary, Gruevski was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for the illicit purchase of a luxury vehicle. He was also sentenced to seven years for money laundering.
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