More Evidence on Government Control over the Judiciary
SDSM President Zoran Zaev released fresh wiretapped conversations Thursday revealing evidence of Executive interference in the appointment, promotion and demotion of a dozen judges and prosecutors, as well as rigging and pre-ordering court rulings executed by top government officials including Secret Police Chief Saso Mijalkov, PM Chief of Staff Protuger and a number of Cabinet ministers. “Three people are appointing prosecutors and judges and playing them as pawns on a chess board according to their own demands and wishes,” Zaev said, adding that this is an additional proof of VMRO-DPMNE’s state capture and blatant violation of the democratic prerogative for separation of powers in Macedonia.
1. The first batch of materials released reveals high-ranking government officials were routinely involved in pre-ordering court sentences.
Former Appellate Court judge and wife of former Minster of Justice Mihajlo Manevski, Filimena Manevska, advises Gruevski’s cousin Vlatko Mijalkov to settle a pending case with Appellate Court President Ljupka Arsenievska. “Tell her, Filimena sends me, and don’t worry… She is fully ours,” Manevska says.
In a second conversation, PM Chief of Cabinet Protoger solicits Interior Minister Jankulovska to intervene in a case of criminal charges brought against a close friend. “Send me her personal details, and I’ll see the thing through with the prosecutor,” Jankulovska promises. The Minister of Interior also demanded favors of her own, asking Secret Police Chief Mijalkov to push for a sentence in the Supreme Court that would eventually have the ministry she’s heading lose a suit and pay reparations to a former conflict veteran, because “he performs tasks on the ground, splintering Dostoinstvo (rival party, n.a.).” “No problem. Send me the number and it’s done,” Mijalkov exclaims.
2. Appointment, promotion and demotion of judges were coordinated in Government cabinets with a variety of top officials engaged in the scheming and orchestration to secure complete takeover of the Judiciary. The tapes reveal that Interior Minister, probably on party orders, kept a list of eligible and ineligible judges, giving orders about whom to promote and whom to prevent from being appointed to senior positions. The pre-selected list of candidates, coordinated with Secret Police Chief Mijalkov, was then forwarded to Judicial Council President Aleksandra Zafirovska who secured the formal appointment. The scenario was implemented smoothly, except when coalition concessions to minor government partner DUI had to be made. “Let’s have their people appointed, because we’ll need their votes in the Judicial Council on Monday, we have to elect the judges,” Mijalkov tells Jankulovska.
3. Identical scenario was pursued upon the appointment of public prosecutors. The recordings released in the third batch portray an elaborate scheming and bargaining between VMRO-DPMNE and DUI officials in the appointment and promotion of prosecutors across all levels of the profession. In one of the conversations, then Public Prosecutor Ljupco Svrgovski is heard designing with Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska the appointment of Appellate Court President’s son to PPO Skopje and how DUI should be appeased since that position was apparently theirs. “I’ll tell him (Minister of Justice Blerim Bexheti, n.a.) who it’s for. I’ll kindly ask him and promise we’ll compensate next time,” Jankulovska decides. She had obviously discussed the issue with Bexheti because in another set of conversations he and Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi complain that they have yielded to far to VMRO-DPMNE when it comes to appointments and that VMRO-DPMNE already “owes them three positions… and equilibrium must be found”. Regardless of all, they still agree they can benefit from the practice and eventually consent to the partner’s demands.
4. Government officials were not involved in the appointment, promotion and the assessment of eligibility of candidates for judicial positions only. In one of the conversations released Thursday, Finance Minister asks Jankulovska to intervene in the judicial selection process and stop the appointment of a defiant employee in his Ministry who has been selected for a post in the Appellate Court. “Have someone call there (presumably in the Judicial Council, n.a.) and say this guy cannot be employed, the employment must go through party channels, and he is not a member of the party,” Stavrevski suggests. “Or you can simply sign permission for 9 appointments, instead of 10. And they will call and ask who to drop, and we’ll give them his name,” Jankulovska elaborates further. Despite high rankings and noble character, both agree that he has to be punished for his refusal to be “subjugated”.
“This is the real picture of the controlled Judiciary in Macedonia… Court verdicts are not being reached, they are being commissioned… We are all in the mouth of this monster. Let’s not allow it to eat us. Let’s stop it once and for all,” Zaev exclaimed promising to continue with the disclosure.