Human Rights in Montenegro

Updated in June 2015

Introduction
Since its independence in 2006, Montenegro has adopted all relevant international human rights conventions, and has been a member-state of the Council of Europe since 2007. National legislation concerning human rights is considered to be within European standards, but better implementation is still required, especially when it comes to freedom of expression, anti-discrimination and the judiciary. Amendments to the Laws regarding the role of the Ombudsman were adopted in August 2014, which foresees a greater level of independence so as to strengthen the institutions role in combating discrimination. This will represent a significant step forward in combating discrimination and monitoring of institutions.

The situation for Human Rights Defenders in Montenegro
Generally, the situation in Montenegro is similar to other countries in the region. The Government formally supports human rights defenders and does not issue bans. However defamation campaigns are still carried out through media closely aligned to the Government and threats from extreme-right wing and religious groups also pose a threat to activists and vulnerable groups.

Ten rights in focus

The right to life and physical integrity

The Constitution of Montenegro, adopted in 2007 states “There shall be no limitations imposed on the rights: life….”. With Amendments to the Law on the Ombudsman, its role as a National Preventive Mechanism concerning the monitoring of human rights was strengthened in order to make it more independent. Several cases of mistreatment of persons while in detention by the police have been reported but the processing of these cases is slow, while the number of convictions is low, proving that, although the legal framework is in place, implementation must be improved drastically. According to one of the latest judgements of European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR), Montenegro failed to conduct a comprehensive independent investigation after one of our partner organisations published a video that is showing a person being tortured while in the custody of Institute for the Execution of Criminal Sanctions

The right to liberty and security of person

Cases of mistreatment in police facilities continue to remain a cause for concern. Moreover such cases are prosecuted slowly, often without explanatory verdicts given. Montenegro’s prisons are overpopulated, and prisoners experience poor health standards and living conditions.

The right to a fair trial and to effective remedy

The Judiciary remains one of the biggest weak spots since Montenegro regained independence. Efficiency of the courts is one of the major features in need of improvements. Over 4000 cases are still pending before the courts and many of them are older then three years. Roadblocks in the system are often caused by cases being moved to lower judicial instances for retrial.

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is respected and no cases of violations have been reported although tensions are high between the Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox Church. This conflict also questions separation of the church and state, since the Montenegrin church receives special treatment from the state.

The right to the freedom of expression

Montenegro has 16 commercial television stations, 38 commercial radio stations, along with the national public service broadcaster and 17 local public services (three television and 14 radio stations). Despite a variety of media outlets, standards when it comes to freedom of expression have been undermined by a number of threats and attacks on media outlets, journalists and media property. Serious concerns have been raised over older cases brought to the courts regarding these attacks and many have been unresolved and are in danger of being stature barred. A Commission dedicated to investigating these attacks was created in 2013 and but no significant results have come out as a result of the Commissions establishment. There are serious concerns regarding biased media reporting, which tend to support Government policies, while the media is also strictly divided across political lines.

The right to freedom of assembly and association

Podgorica held its second pride parade in November 2014, without any major incidents reported which represented significant progress compared to 2013, when a number of incidents of violence were reported. In general freedom of assembly and association is upheld and no bans were reported during 2014.

The rights to protection against hate speech and war propaganda

Hate speech remains one of the most serious issues, especially against the LGBT community in Montenegro, usually vented through traditional and social media channels. Cases were reported, especially in the aftermath of a football match between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade, when the Albanian community in Montenegro was also subjected to hate speech as a result of high tensions and riots that caused the match to be suspended. In fact, a court in Montenegro sentenced the editor-in-chief of the tabloid newspaper Informer, finding him guilty of “allowing the publication of offensive articles about the Albanians”. Hate speech against the LGBT community was also used by a high-ranking Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The right to political rights

Montenegro is a parliamentary republic, whose president is elected by popular vote for a period of five years and the Government is then chosen by the Parliament by a majority of votes. In 2014, Montenegro held local elections in several cities, including the capital, Podgorica where the ruling parties kept office. More then 850 irregularities and 100 criminal complaints were reported by organisations dealing with the electoral process. Complaints varied from violations when it came to the secrecy of the vote to alleged violations in postal voting procedures. All of the reports were dismissed by the institutions in charge without any explanation given, questioning the democratic process in Montenegro. Several incidents also took place on election night, including an attack on human rights activists in Podgorica, and an attack on a journalist who was allegedly reporting on electoral irregularities.

The right to protection against discrimination

Although a member of the Council of Europe, Montenegro does not fulfill its obligations when it comes to protection from discrimination, especially concerning the Roma and LGBT communities. The LGBT community is most often subject to hate speech, threats, acts of violence and discrimination. In December 2014 the LGBT Social Centre in Podgorica was attacked twice in one day, despite the presence of police officers. The centre has been subjected to a total 19 attacks. On the other hand, the Roma community remains underrepresented and faces prejudice and discrimination, especially concerning healthcare, housing and education.

Categories: Country Reports.
Tags: Human rights.
Regions: Montenegro and Western Balkans.