September 01, 2013

ABA ROLI Helps Prepare Macedonian Legal Professionals for New Criminal Procedure Code

September 2013

To support the implementation of the country’s new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in cooperation with the Macedonian Bar Association (MBA) and the Macedonian Academy of Prosecutors and Judges, hosted a July 8–9 workshop and mock trial exercise for judges, prosecutors and defense advocates. Held in Skopje, the event was organized to help participants prepare for the CPC, which will go into effect in December and fully transition Macedonia’s criminal justice system from an inquisitorial to an adversarial one.

The transition, which expands the roles of the prosecution and of defense advocates during trial, is a radical shift from the judge-led inquisitorial trials of the past. More than 30 people, including judges, prosecutors, defense advocates, representatives of the Youth Educational Forum (a local non-governmental organization) and students in ABA ROLI’s legal English program, took part in the event.

The first day, which opened with remarks by Nikola Dodevski, MBA president, and Marisa MacIssac, political officer at the U.S. Embassy, was devoted to a roundtable discussion on evidentiary issues in an adversarial criminal justice system. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe attorneys with expertise on criminal procedure also presented at the roundtable. Participating prosecutors and defense advocates prepared for the mock trial exercise during an afternoon session.

On the second day, the prosecutors and advocates—coached by Jimmye Warren, a resident legal advisor with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training, and Elizabeth Givens, ABA ROLI program manager—played the roles of prosecution and defense, while law students served as witnesses on a hypothetical arson-murder case. Judge Richard Grawey, ABA ROLI’s country director for Moldova and a 20-year veteran of the Illinois state courts, Warren and Givens presided over the morning session of the mock trial when the prosecution presented its case. Judge Lidja Trajkovski and Judge Daniela Stojanovska of the Macedonian court of first instance joined Grawey in the afternoon. The Macedonian judges questioned the defense witnesses extensively—a common practice in an inquisitorial criminal justice system—leading to a brief break out session, where participants discussed the role of judges in an adversarial system. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Paul Wohlers observed the closing arguments of the mock trial and the discussions that followed, and gave closing remarks.

The event was well received by participants. Several of them said that the interactive nature of the training and the practical exercise will help them enhance the skills they’ll need in the new criminal justice system. They also suggested that similar trainings be held in the future and that the discussions and ensuing recommendations be used to improve criminal procedure laws. ABA ROLI will host additional trainings over the coming months.

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