New amendments mean high fines for disrupting law and order in Macedonia

118.jpgIn a controversial move last week, the Macedonian Parliament approved a group of amendments to the legislation on public law and order that slap violators with stiffer penalties. In some cases, the fines are twice the average salary.

In the wake of these amendments, passed on Friday (May 18th), the fine for breaching public peace and order with a noise violation is between 100 and 400 euros, insulting a police officer is between 600 and 900 euros and involvement in violence or public unrest will cost between 700 and 1,500 euros.

Fines for those who want to spice up celebrations by shooting guns into the air are between 200 and 500 euros. Prostitution is fined 600 to 900 euros, and the fine for performing sexual acts in a public place is 400 euros. Drug, psychotropic substance and narcotic users caught in the act will have to pay 200 to 500 euros. The fine for begging is 15 to 50 euros, and keeping dangerous animals that have injured or scared someone costs 100 to 400 euros.

“We will be working … for the implementation of this law. We believe that these fines will act preventively for the society,” Deputy Interior Minister Rafet Elmazi said.

The law defines what a public place is, and what provisions apply for the following places: streets, schools, squares, roads, picnic sites, ports, waiting rooms, restaurants, as well as commercial and craftsmen’s shops. Public places also include sports stadiums and other venues, public transportation, cinema, theatre and concert halls, showrooms and classrooms.

The opposition says the government fast-tracked the amendments, and says the public suffers because of it. “The government had enough time to place this law on a public debate so that the citizens can get better acquainted with it. They [the citizens] will be now put under a police regime and punishment treatment, with which there will be pressure on them depending to which political party they belong,” opposition party SDSM member Jani Makraduli said.

Another point of contention stems from the fact that the fines will be levied by the Interior Ministry, rather than the courts. According to the new amendments, when a misdemeanor notification is made, a three-member commission of the Interior Ministry considers the case.

Ministry sources defend the law and say such sanctioning by police will unburden courts from banal cases that can last years. Currently, there are about 100,000 pending cases in Macedonian courts. Often, they become outdated before a ruling is issued. Additionally, proponents say the amendments are justified, given reforms in the judiciary and efforts to harmonise the country’s legislation with that of the EU.

The new law is expected to take effect by the end of the month.

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