07/11/2013 09:55 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Macedonia Responds to Human Rights Watch Saying No to Discrimination "on Any Grounds"

The Macedonian government has promptly reacted to a letter sent by Human Rights Watch (HRW) telling me in an interview for LGBTQ Nation that it is investigating and intends to prosecute perpetrators of a series of anti-LGBTI attacks in June and July 2013.

It also said that the Prime Minister already condemned the violent attacks.

In the letter addressed to Macedonia's Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, HRW pointed out that Macedonia's candidacy for membership in the European Union (EU) is in part dependent on its implementation of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

HRW stressed that Macedonia's anti-discrimination law has no such provision.

The government's silence regarding the anti-gay attacks leaves LGBT people "more vulnerable to violence and discrimination," and in a sense makes it complicit with the anti-gay hate attacks, said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in the letter.

Yesterday I spoke on behalf of LGBTQ Nation with a high ranking member of the Prime Minister's cabinet who wished to remain anonymous, who said: "The Prime Minister has already condemned the violence against the LGBT community a few days ago, we would like to be clear that we take this matter very seriously and a police investigation is already in effect."

In a previous interview, Gruevski was asked if he is against the anti-gay violence in his country, to which he replied: "Neither against them or anyone else. Violence is not a solution."

This seems to me to fall short on explicitly condemning anti-gay violence, including a recent arson attack, setting the country's LGBTI Support Center on fire.

The member of cabinet also added in his conversation with me: "We are doing all we can to find to discover the perpetrators of this act and will bring them to justice.

"Macedonia's anti-discrimination law does not mention specifically sexual orientation but does state that 'discrimination on all other grounds' is prohibited.

"We fully intend to carry out justice to the full extent according to the letter of the law."

I pressed the government cabinet member, and asked if Macedonian lawmakers are planning to legislate specifically to prohibit discrimination of LGBT people, to which he replied: "I am not aware that this is on the cards, but discrimination on any basis will not be tolerated."

Macedonian officials were also quizzed by human rights groups about LGBT rights, as the country is a candidate for a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The officials gave a similar non-committed response saying the country's anti-discrimination law includes "sexual orientation through the broad term 'other grounds.'"

I spoke with Petar Stojkovikj, a famous Macedonian openly gay TV star who was a target of one of these attacks and an Executive Board member of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee of Human Rights (MHCHR) who said the government's response is "evasive" and deliberately giving "false information", as there was no public condemnation of the anti-gay violence.

Kocho Andonovski, Program Director of Skopje LGBTI Support Center, called upon the government minister to reveal his name and be clearer where exactly the Prime Minister is condemning the violence.

He told me: "The mainstream media close to the government have not even reported about the attacks, as if they never happened.

"Because of all this we've had to animate the international community to put pressure on the institutions, at least to start investigations."

British Human rights advocate, Peter Tatchell, said that he agreed with Macedonian activists' response and called the government statement "feeble and vague."

"It does not explicitly condemn anti-gay violence, nor are there any plans to introduce a law specifically banning discrimination against LGBT people," he said.

"The EU must now block Macedonia's application and the country must not be allowed a seat at the UN Human Rights Council."