UNHCR hails former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's new amnesty law

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR welcomes the adoption yesterday by the Parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) of a new amnesty law which also covers draft evaders and deserters. UNHCR thinks the new law will help reconcile FYROM's rival ethnic communities and encourage the return of those uprooted by the conflict.

Some 170,000 people were driven from their homes last year during fighting between FYROM security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels. Some 140,000 have gone back since the fighting stopped last summer but some of them remain reluctant to return to their homes, fearing reprisals for desertion or refusal to fight.

UNHCR has long advocated and lobbied for the adoption of the law, which has also been backed by the European Union, NATO, OSCE and the FYROM government.

Some 9,000 refugees from FYROM remain in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, mainly in Kosovo, while 17,000 persons are still displaced within the country.