MACEDONIA: Children's Rights in the UN Special Procedures' Reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.

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UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir


Date of visit: 26 to 29 April 2009
Press release issued 30 April 2009

The Special Rapporteur welcomes a decision by the constitutional court against mandatory religious education in primary schools (1). She says the judgement did not restrict the freedom to receive religious instruction and pointed out that the Human Rights Committee permits neutral and objective instruction of the general history of religions and religious education as long as non-discriminatory exemptions and alternatives are made possible according to the wishes of parents and guardians following other beliefs. The Special Rapporteur is concerned about the public outrage by certain religious leaders against the judgement which she said might damage society's respect for an independent judiciary.

Report published: 28 December 2009

Religious instruction in primary schools:

The Special Rapporteur notes that:

Pressure was exerted on teachers to have their pupils choose religious instruction rather than the subject on history of religions. Proceedings for the introduction and development of the curriculum on religious instruction as well as the hiring of teaching staff were criticized as non-transparent. In addition, some religious instruction classes reportedly started with prayers and tuition was readily offered for Orthodox Christians and Muslims, but not necessarily for other believers. Furthermore, there were complaints that religious instruction at the primary education level breached the principle of secularity of the State, according to which religious instruction can be organized on a voluntary basis outside the public schools but not in the framework of compulsory primary education. (para 24)

The Special Rapporteur recommends that:

The Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools provide practical guidance for preparing curricula for teaching about religions and beliefs, as well as preferred procedures for assuring fairness in the development of such curricula. However, public education, which includes instruction in a particular religion or belief, is only consistent with article 18, paragraph 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights if provision is made for non-discriminatory exemptions or alternatives accommodating the wishes of parents and legal guardians.

Religious symbols:

The Special Rapporteur found that:

The issue of wearing religious symbols, especially headscarves, at schools is another contentious issue in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The recent public debate was triggered by the decision of the mayor of Tetovo to dismiss the director of a secondary school of economy, because the director had not allowed a first-year female student to wear a headscarf at school. Subsequently, the State Education Inspectorate assessed that the mayor had no right to dismiss the school director and that the latter should be reinstated as soon as possible. The Inspectorate emphasized that it was not disputing the girl’s right to wear a headscarf, however, it referred to the school’s rules adopted by the parents’ council, according to which students are forbidden to wear religious symbols at the school. Reacting to this decision, the Islamic Religious Community argued that the pupils’ rights to religious freedom should be observed and that the school rules should be amended accordingly. The use of religious symbols is reportedly becoming more obvious at schools and it is estimated that up to 3 per cent of female students wear Islamic apparel at high schools and universities. (para 30)

The Special Rapporteur recommends that:

With regard to the issue of wearing religious symbols, especially in public schools, the Special Rapporteur would like to emphasize that each case has to be decided according to its own circumstances. In general, however, restrictions on the wearing of religious symbols should not be applied in a discriminatory manner. Limitations must be directly related and proportionate to the specific need on which they are predicated. The burden of justifying a limitation upon the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief lies with the State. The chosen measures should promote religious tolerance and avoid stigmatizing any particular religious community. Furthermore, the principles of appropriateness and proportionality need to be thoroughly respected both by the administration and during possible legal review. (para 57)

UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani


Date of visit: 27 to 30 January 2003
Report published: 15 January 2004

  • Child trafficking/ poverty: The Special Rapporteur highlights concerns about child trafficking and the situation of children and families in poverty relating to access to health care, adequate housing, social security and adequate housing.
  • Education: Access to education, especially education in the mother tongue of minorities such as Roma, Turkish and Vlach communities is an important issue.
  • Gaps in the work of human rights defenders include the fact that these organisations are often organised along ethnic lines, so that for example the right of Vlach children to education in their mother tongue is not held up by many of them.
  • Office of the Ombudsman: There are concerns about the lack of cooperation from institutions (especially prisons) and courts. The capacity of the Ombudsman to work on issues of children's rights is questionable.
  • Roma children: Some human rights organisations have a role in providing education to Roma children. The increase in the number of Roma NGOs is encouraging. Defenders are generally active in the promotion of children's rights such as access to education and the prohibition of child trafficking.
  • Law reform: The Special Rapporteur notes the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ongoing process of the ratification of the two optional protocols. Additionally, efforts are underway to reform the juvenile justice system and institute provisions to combat child trafficking.
  • Rule of law: Intimidation of judges is a severe problem identified by the Special Rapporteur. In one case, a judge was told that his child would not be admitted to the best public school if a case was not decided in a certain way.

No conclusions specifically aimed at children's organisations or children's rights issues.


UN Special Rapporteur on Disappearances, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, Ms. Asma Jahangir


Country visit:23 to 25 May 1999
Report published: 5 July 1999

The grounds for the report were the crisis in Kosovo. The Special Rapporteur made visits to the refugee camps in Macedonia to enquire about summary killings in the Kosovo region. Therefore, no mention of issues concerning Macedonia itself are included.


(1) The Court rejected a law introducing mandatory religious education in the Macedonian Orthodox or Islamic religion, because it would be discriminatory towards Serbian Orthodox, Bektashi Muslim and other religious communities in Macedonia – see

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Frank La Rue


Country visit: 18 to 21 June 2013

Report published: 1 April 2014

No mention of children's rights.

Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.