Human rights defenders in North Macedonia work in an unstable and unpredictable environment. After many years of working in an atmosphere of fear and persecution with defamation campaigns carried out by state and non-state actors portraying HRDs as “state enemies”, the situation drastically improved with the change of government in 2017. While the state has largely changed its attitude towards NGOs and involves them in the process of drafting laws and policies, a lingering culture of impunity, corruption and a general challenge with the implementation of court decisions in the country remains an obstacle to the work of HRDs.
HRDs with opposing political or religious views, fighting corruption, working with ethnic and religious minorities or migrants, LGBTI+ rights defenders and women human rights defenders are especially targeted with hate speech, attacks and intimidation. Reported cases of threats and assaults against defenders, particularly if carried out through social media, are not taken seriously and therefore not properly investigated. The Public Prosecution has failed to address even the most serious violent attacks on LGBTI+ rights activists and their premises.
Defenders working outside of the capital, especially those in rural areas, face heightened risks and additional obstacles to their right of freedom of association and assembly.