MACEDONIA   

Organisation of the judicial system

Judicial system has 25 Basic Courts of general jurisdiction; 3 specialised courts: Administrative court, Basic Court Skopje 1 (Criminal law court), Basic Courts Skopje 2 (Civil law court); 4 Appellate level Courts, 1 Higher Administrative Court, Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. In addition there is also a Court Council and a Council for public prosecutors, with a mandate to elect and dismiss judges/prosecutors (among the other duties).

International judicial cooperation in criminal matters

The Law on international cooperation in criminal matters and the Law on criminal procedure are the cornerstone of the national legal framework for mutual legal assistance (MLA) in criminal matters. Macedonia has ratified all the requiring international treaties and regional treaties of the CoE as to international legal assistance. Moreover, although not member of the EU, it has aligned in most parts its legislation to the EU relevant directives ruling the matter; however plenty are yet to be aligned as those are linked to the pending membership. On regional level there is a wide spectre of bilateral agreements signed which specifically target issues of international legal cooperation in criminal matters. At the end of 2008 a cooperation agreement with EUROJUST was signed. Macedonia has two contact points for EUROJUST, one coming from the MoJ and one from the Prosecution service. Also, a cooperation agreement with of EUROPOL has been signed. In addition, the country is a member of INTERPOL, ILECU, SELEC/SEEPAG and other regional networks and bodies like the Prosecutors Network of the Western Balkan, is also part of the PCC convention and the related regional body the RCC, etc.

The national MLA structure resembles the structures of all the countries whose framework is based on the internationally ratified treaties in the field. The Ministry of Justice is the Central authority for the transmission of outgoing and incoming MLA requests and the decision making body in specifically indicated cases; the Public prosecution of the Republic of Macedonia, the Courts, and the relevant law enforcement agencies are referred as national authorities.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is the Central authority for the purpose of international cooperation in criminal matters and for processing the formal mutual legal assistance in the country. In its capacity as Central authority, the MoJ formally reviews all incoming requests for international assistance in order to establish whether they qualify for execution.
Even if the possibility for direct communication and information exchange among the relevant authorities (e.g. investigative authorities) is existent, still copies of the documents have to be sent to MoJ for information purposes as MoJ is responsible for collecting information on international cases for statistical purposes. Within the MoJ, there is a Separate Sector on International legal assistance in civil and criminal matters dedicated to process all these requests.

The Law on criminal procedure (LCP) (effective as of the end of 2013) changed the criminal/penal system in Macedonia. The reform altered the modus operandi and the nature of the work of the prosecutors and changed the interaction between the law enforcement institutions involved in the criminal procedure. The main change that occurred is the shift from the investigative judge to the public prosecutor regarding the responsibility as to the investigating procedure. Now the public prosecutor is solely leading the criminal investigation.

On the level of public prosecution, the hierarchy is a three level structure: Basic public prosecution offices (among them 12 have extended jurisdiction and also responsible for MLA), High prosecution offices (4) and Public prosecution for the RM on the top of this hierarchy. The Public prosecution of the Republic Macedonia has a special department for international cooperation. Within this department, the international legal assistance should be processed as well.
However, at this moment, this department is in a phase of reorganisation and enhancement, and is expected that it will become operational soon. Until then, the flow on MLA requests are done directly among prosecutors (national and foreign) and through the MoJ as the main hub for dissemination of incoming and outgoing requests. The PPO on organised crime and corruption (one office with jurisdiction over the whole territory) has the most dynamic international legal assistance practice which naturally comes with the scope of work and types of cases they are working on.

The courts
With the introduction of the accusatorial system in the LCP, the responsibilities for investigative actions were transferred to the public prosecutor including all investigative actions which are part of MLA requests. In investigations, the authorization of the judge of preliminary procedure foreseen with the LCP is limited to coercive measures related to personal liberties and privacy. The preliminary procedure judge is the guardian of freedoms related to the legal performance of the public prosecutor. Her/his main responsibilities are enscoped with the following: deprivation of liberty issues, searches, temporary seizures and freezing, special investigative measures (linked to interception of telecommunications, monitoring/surveillance, access to computer data etc.), plea agreements and most important the processing of cases of international cooperation in criminal matters according to the Law on international cooperation in criminal matters. International legal cooperation in criminal matters involving a judge includes the so called "small" legal assistance (i.e. the transfer of documents, hearing of accused, witness or damaged parties, etc.), extradition, transfer of convicts, and enforcement of foreign judgements in the scope of the imposed sanction. The Courts accept requests for international legal assistance of foreign courts only if they are submitted through official channels. They themselves use exclusively the MoJ as communication link with foreign countries. The Courts are taking into consideration only those documents which are written in the official Macedonian language with Cyrillic alphabet. Also, legal assistance is provided only in the manner stipulated by national legislation. However, the actions a foreign court requests to perform, may also be executed in the manner requested by the foreign court, if such procedure does not conflict the national law.

Processing MLA requests/working methods
The main aim of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters is obtaining of evidence which exist in other countries for the purposes of national investigations and prosecutions.

Exchange of information and obtaining evidence
The initial phase starts with the police, where the initial checks and information exchange are performed via the International police cooperation sector within the Ministry of Interior, where the channels of EUROPOL, INTERPOL and the ILECU Unit are residing. Within this phase the Border police can be involved, if particular information is needed, and if their involvement in information exchange is a prerequisite, having in mind their set up at the borders. Moreover, an inevitable link are the police liaison officers whose role cannot be underestimated as the usually facilitators in police work with foreign countries. In addition, the FIUs and the Custom Administration inspectors can also be involved as they have a mandate for information exchange in their field of work with their respective networks, namely the money laundering and financing of terrorism and the customs related offences applicable to this area. At this level the information exchange goes between the law enforcement authorities and the judicial involvement is not necessary. However, as the investigation is led by public prosecutor, the practice is that the prosecutor is usually involved or promptly informed even in this phase. If a situation occurs that some information might be useful as evidence, then a MLA request is used as a tool for obtaining it.

Judicial cooperation in criminal matters
The base for such cooperation are the international instruments, the regional and the bilateral agreements and memorandums for cooperation which Macedonia had ratified or signed. If there is no agreement of any sort with a particular country to legally base the international cooperation, the foreign country should provide written guarantee for reciprocity.

Channels of communication:
  • Direct communication channel among the relevant authorities
  • Urgent communication through INTERPOL
  • Central authority (Ministry of Justice)
  • Diplomatic channel (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
It is important to note that even when direct communication or INTERPOL is used as a channel, the Central authority - the Ministry of Justice is promptly or subsequently informed and all the documents further are transmitted through the MoJ.

Identification of relevant authority
Ministry of Justice is the central authority for identification of appropriate authorities on national level and international as well. As a Central authority in majority of cases, the MoJ refers the cases to the appropriate national institutions. Also, proper information has to be send to the requesting foreign authority. Relevant national authorities are the State public prosecution of the republic of Macedonia, the basic prosecution offices and the Courts.

Language in use
Macedonia sends MLA request abroad in Macedonian language with a translation to the appropriate language of the country at stake or translation into one of the official languages of Council of Europe. The analogy applies when foreign countries send requests to Macedonia, meaning the whole documentation should be send in original language with translation into Macedonian language. If this requirement is not met, the Ministry of Justice might ask the requesting state for a translation.

Processing MLA

  • When receiving a request or a letter rogatory, the MoJ immediately refers it to the relevant authority except if the request or the letter rogatory should be rejected. If the request lacks documents, the MoJ would request the additional required documents to be submitted.
  • The relevant authority acts in accordance with the national law. If the foreign requesting authority has specific requirement as to the procedure that should be followed in Macedonia these can be net as long as they are not in conflict with the national law.
  • If the MLA request is sent directly to the relevant authority, the relevant national authority acts without delay on the manner indicated in the request, or if not possible it shell send an information to the foreign authority explaining the reasons of the same.
  • If there are obstacles due to the national investigation or other national proceeding and is lined to the foreign country request, the relevant authority shell inform the requesting authority regarding the postponement of the international cooperation.
  • Where the foreign authority has requested to participate, everything should be organised for this to occur. If for some reason they cannot participate, they have the possibility to send questions in written form which would be used while undertaking the particular action.

Link to national legislation:

Law on criminal procedure of RM
http://jorm.gov.mk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Zakon_za_Krivicna_postapka_150_18112010-2.pdf

Useful national links

Ministry of Justice: http://www.pravda.gov.mk/default.asp?lang=eng
Supreme Court: http://www.ustavensud.mk/domino/WEBSUD.nsf
Public Prosecution (in Macedonian): http://jorm.gov.mk/
National legislation databases of the Ministry of Justice (in Macedonian language)
Academy for Judges and Prosecutors: http://www.jpacademy.gov.mk/Default.aspx?page=29
State Judicial Council: http://www.ssrm.mk/
Ministry of Internal Affairs: http://www.mvr.gov.mk/

Links to the relevant sections of the Council of Europe and United Nations Treaties Offices websites
containing information on the conventions to which the respective country is party.

http://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/search-on-states/-/conventions/chartStats/TFY

Reports

Country report 2016: (SWD(2016) 362 final)
MLA report: MLA report Macedonia


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