While September 8 is national holiday in Republic of North Macedonia, traditionally used for celebration of Independence Day, it’s also an anniversary 2021 Tetovo hospital fire. At the second anniversary of the tragic event, the relatives of the victims staged a protest against impunity and corruption that they blame for the loss of 14 lives of their loved ones.
“Today, while the whole country is celebrating, we gathered on the site of the former modular hospital in memory of the members of our families that burned to death two years ago here,” stated the protesters who were joined by hundreds of other citizens that marched through the streets of Tetovo.
“Corruption kills! All politicians speak about integration into the European Union, but fail to respect the human lives. 14 fatalities, zero days prison time [for the responsible individuals] . Judiciary and prosecutors office are part of and defenders of the organized crime, evil an oligarchy,” stated the relatives of the victims of the modular hospital fire.
At the protest, victims’ family members demanded reopening of court proceedings for the reasons for the fire, a renewed process to reexamine the outcome of the preliminary hearing held in Tetovo court, as well as dismissal of the Chief State Public Prosecutor Ljubomir Jovevski, together with Public Prosecutor in charge of Tetovo Besir Aliu and the prosecutors Zorica Pavlovikj, Dejan Petreski, Hanifi Ameti and others involved in investigation of the crime.
“Today, just like two years ago, we still have fresh memories of the screams and cries of the victims who burned in front of our eyes, while we were helpless to save them. Today, they are not among us because the construction standards were disrespected. [The authorities] tried to intimidate and silence us by valuing the lives of our loved ones with several thousand euros [given by the state to the families], while attempting to hide the true culprits for this tragedy. The black smoke that covered the city that night, today covers the justice of this whole country,” stressed the members of the families of the victims.
The protesters emphasized that the trust in the judiciary in North Macedonia is at zero level, while the lives of citizens become hostage to political deals and granting of state tenders without any criteria, with sole purpose of material gain.
The joint statement of the fire victims was read on the location of the former Tetovo modular hospital. The protest march continued through the streets of Tetovo, and hundreds other citizens joined. The final destination of the procession was the Basic Court in Tetovo.
Citizens who joined the protest held banners reading “Prosecution + Judiciary = Criminal Conspiracy,” “Send corrupt prosecutors to ONCOLOGY,” “Justice is Fake News Here,” and “32 Years of [Independent] State = 32 Years of Corruption,” expressing support for the demands of the families of people who perished in the modular hospital fire.
The second anniversary of the fire in the modular hospital in Tetovo, a temporary construction used for housing and treatment of patients infected with COVID-19, was used to remind that 14 people lost their lives, and about ten more people suffered injuries. Most of the deceased victims were hospital patients, while two of them were family members who were present in the hospital rooms at the time the fire broke out.
After two years, the court proceedings conducted by Tetovo Basic Court in the first instance concluded with two suspended sentences, one fine and two exculpatory sentences. The sentences, which don’t have a status of enforceable judgements [due to appeal], refer to two directors of the Tetovo Clinical Hospital, Florin Besimi and Artan Etemi for the criminal act of “grave crimes against general safety” and the medical doctor Boban Vuchevski for the criminal act of “not acting according to health regulations during an epidemic,” while the legal person Public Health Institution Clinical Hospital Tetovo was convicted for the criminal acts “causing a general danger,” and “not acting according to health regulations during an epidemic.”
Meanwhile, two years after the event the Public Prosecutors Office is still working on pre-investigation procedure regarding the tender for public procurement of the infrastructure for the modular hospitals built to accommodate the needs for treatment of infected patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, there’s not even basic schedule for the possible trial that would examine the issue of the possible flaws related to their unsafe construction as a court case.