November 01, 2014

A Macedonian Trainer Helps Lawyers Navigate New Criminal Procedure

November 2014

Slobodan Oklevski, head of the Department for Criminal Investigations and Forensic Expertise at Macedonia’s Ministry of Interior, became one of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) first local trial skills trainers in 2012. Slobodan has since inspired many local lawyers and says he is fascinated by the format and participatory approach of ABA ROLI’s trainings. As a cadet, he realized the power of the forensics brush to uncover the truth and present undisputable facts, and he continued training to become Macedonia’s leading expert in forensics criminology and criminalistics. 

ABA ROLI local trainer Slobodan Oklevski demonstrates methods for detecting, collecting, protecting and packaging of latent prints. 

Most recently, from September 23–24, Slobodan conducted an ABA ROLI forensics training—the 18th time he has led such a training. Held in Skopje, the training was attended by 14 Macedonian lawyers. Slobodan gave an overview of the relevant forensics terminology and investigation techniques, such as evidence collection and analysis.

With the introduction of the 2013 Criminal Procedure Code, which transitions the criminal justice system from an inquisitorial to an adversarial one, the role of criminal defense lawyers has expanded to include cross-examination of expert witnesses. ABA ROLI’s forensics trainings help advocates fulfill their broader duties under the CPC.

Uncovering the truth in a system undergoing transition is not an easy task. As a neutral scientist, he has made it his personal mission to build the capacity of the forensics department and preserve justice for both the victim and the defendant. Slobodan has instituted strict working procedures to prevent any evidence tampering, has helped to provide crucial continued professional development opportunities for the forensics experts and—through ABA ROLI’s Defense Bar Program—has trained Macedonian lawyers in forensics.

The trainings Slobodan conducts, which cover fingerprints, biological traces, ballistics, blood spatter, handwriting analysis, footprints and other types of trace evidence, teach lawyers about evidence collection and how they can utilize forensics to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and defend their clients. Slobodan believes that the most effective way of learning is by doing, thus he often provides protective gear to the participants to train them in gathering evidence so that they can fully understand and internalize the investigation process.

“The participants are often impressed [by] the significance of the physical evidence. Despite their micro sizes, [the physical evidences] hold a great merit in the case,” he says. “[Trainees] realize that the power of a proof is great, making rhetoric obsolete.”

Slobodan says that throughout the years, an increasing number of lawyers have turned to forensics to help strengthen their cases in the court room; thereby justifying his career focus and making him proud to be part of the movement.  The trainings are supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

To learn more about our work in Macedonia, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.