The Helsinki Committee through its representatives was present at the first citizen protest in front of the building of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia on which citizens expressed their protest again over not taking responsibility for the murder of Martin Neshkovski. The protest started at 18 o’clock with a spontaneous gathering of citizens through prior organizing on social networks. By 20:30 the protest was without larger incidents and clashes between citizens and police. The first serious clashes with police began around 22:00. Then, police began dispersion of all citizens in front of the Government.
The Helsinki Committee notes that police while suppressing citizens used disproportionate and excessive force. The police officials did not limit the use of force only to the citizens who were aggressive towards them, but non-selectively were hitting and stomping over all citizens, a large part of which were peacefully sitting on the ground with their arms raised. After that the police approached to detaining participants in the protest. During detaining, officers used non-selective, excessive and disproportionate force. The detaining lasted when citizens began leaving for their homes. This is confirmed by the fact that at 23:30, police officials violently entered more objects, one of which the library “Braka Miladinovci” and used disproportionate and extreme force towards all young people who were present at the library with the explanation that some of them have allegedly been participants in the protest.
According to information available to the Committee, in the incidents on May 5th, more than 40 people were detained, most of which are still held in more police stations in Skopje. The representatives of the Committee noted that a large number of the detained have not been part of the group clashing police, and part of them have not been participating in the protest.
The Helsinki Committee strongly condemns the excessive use of force by police and the aggressive behavior by some of the protest participants. The Committee calls upon the police to fully respect the citizens’ right to public gathering and expression of opinion, and for the citizens to practice these rights on a peaceful and non-violent way. At the same time, the Committee calls all citizens who were detained and who were victims of excessive force to address the Committee office with the aim to evident these cases and provide appropriate legal advice.
Photo by Kire Galevski