THE CASE OF SPASKA MITROVA – THE SAGA OF A YOUNG WOMAN AND HER BABY DAUGHTER: VICTIMS OF GENDER BIAS OR POLIТICAL REPRESSIONS?
Spaska Mitrova is a 25-year-old mother of an ill baby girl, a native of the town of Gevgelija located in South-Eastern Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). This is her story and how she found herself in jail, her ill and still suckling baby daughter snatched to an unknown location without her medications and proper medical care, the two falling victim to gender bias, political repressions on an ethnic basis, and personal connections between judges at the Court in Gevgelija and Spaska’s former spouse.
In 2006, Spaska married her former husband. Less than two months later she filed an application for divorce at the Court in Gevgelija due to her husband’s abusive character, his drug addiction, and his dealing drugs from their home. Due to the husband’s personal connections with staff at the Court and the local branch of the Social Services Agency (SSA), the two institutions sided with him. The divorce proceedings were delayed by the Court for 5 months. In the meantime, Spaska gave birth the couple’s daughter, Susana. To make matters worse, Spaska was openly Bulgarian by ethnicity and her ethnic background was yet another detriment to her – she was called a “Bulgarian bitch” and was told that her daughter would be taken away to be raised as a Macedonian by staff at the Court and the SSA. After the formal dissolution of the marriage, the Court ordered Spaska to provide access to her home for her former spouse, including making a bed available for him, so that he could visit their daughter, despite Spaska’s request that the visits take place at another location – she lived with her parents in her parents’ house and they did not want a drug dealer and addict staying in their home. In addition, he did not appear for the regularly scheduled visits, but frequently came to the home drunk at night. No representative of the SSA ever came to the home to determine whether the father came during visitation hours – his word that he did and that he was not allowed in to see his daughter was taken as fact by the SSA and the Courts.
In July and December of 2007, the Court in Gevgelija sentenced Spaska to 6 months in prison (1 year conditionally) and 8 months in prison (2 years conditionally), respectively, for not providing access to and a bed in her parents’ home for her former spouse. Spaska’s formal requests to set an alternative location for the visits were ignored up to that point, but after the second trial, the Court changed the location for the visits at the local SSA centre. The visits took place as scheduled for 5 months until Spaska was told by SSA staff to start bringing her daughter on different days of the week, which changed from week to week, supposedly in accordance with a new decision by the Court, of which Spaska was unaware. Spaska’s formal requests to receive a copy of the decision from the Court and the SSA were ignored – it was a full year later, in March 2009, that the Administrative Court in Skopje ordered the SSA to provide Spaska with a copy of the decision.
In the meantime, in December 2008, the Court in Gevgelija for the third time sentenced Spaska to 3 months in prison (unconditionally) for failing to comply with the decision she had not yet seen. Her appeals were rejected by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Macedonia, none of the three courts even bothering to determine whether she had been given the decision for whose violation she was being sentenced. She was to report on June 16, 2009 to the Idrizovo prison to serve her 3-month sentence, although this meant that the medical treatment of her daughter, which included a recommendation of continued breastfeeding and was to be completed in September, would be discontinued. Her formal request to delay serving the sentence until September was ignored by the Court and her application for reprieve to the President of FYROM was “forgotten” by an unspecified clerk at the Court and forwarded to the President’s office only at the end of July.
On July 31, 2009, police barged into Spaska’s residence, throwing her mother to the floor, arrested Spaska and took her and her daughter to the police station in Gevgelija where they were kept for hours and ten male police officers watched Spaska breastfeed her baby as she was not allowed any privacy to do so. She was then transferred to the Idrizovo prison, her daughter was taken to a location of which Spaska was not informed, without her medications. At this point, the location of the baby is unclear but according to media reports she has been handed over to her father, although by law she should be cared for by the SSA while Spaska is in prison.
The rest of the article can be found on The Case of Spaska Mitrova Blog
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