Upon analyzing the final verdict following the trial in which Moldovan citizen Svetlana Čabotenko (S.Č.) was accused and sentenced for perjury, our organizations conclude that the state of Montenegro did not provide her with a fair trial. Instead, her trial in absentia had all the elements of state persecution of a woman who in her capacity of victim of human trafficking, forced prostitution and ill-treatment testified in a 2002 criminal investigation case that unfortunately never led to a trial, in which she mentioned some of the highest state servants of Montenegro. The decision of the state prosecutor back in 2003 to abolish the criminal proceedings in which S.C. testified was highly controversial, criticized by the judge leading the investigation, as well as by the CoE/OSCE experts who reviewed it.
We invite international organizations assessing Montenegrin institutional capacity to provide for rule of law and human rights¬ – such as European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Council of Europe – to analyze the final judgments of the primary and appeal court in Podgorica in this case of perjury and consider our analysis and conclusions.
In addition to the importance that the case carries for the establishment of the rule of law in Montenegro, the criminal prosecution of S.Č., and her consequent sentencing with one year in prison for providing false testimony, needs to be further analyzed as it represents potentially significant damage to combating international human trafficking. Namely, if not addressed, such events will serve to further discourage the victims of human trafficking from attempting to break the criminal chain and request help from the state institutions in Montenegro and other states from the region. In this context, we emphasize efforts of the OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in prevention of the punishment of victims of trafficking.
Please note that Amnesty International also provided a statement on this case on 21 November 2014, available at: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5475931c4.pdf.
Mr. Goran Đuković, judge of the Basic Court in Podgorica, was not acting impartially as he failed to consider any evidence that could have supported the accused and failed to react to complete passivity of the attorney assigned to the defendant. Moreover, the judge did not use his critical judgment when assessing the material evidence presented by the private prosecutors , for example the contract according to which the accused was employed as a night-club performer or information from the Ministry of Interior Affairs about absence of evidence of her passing the border, which are notorious in cases of human trafficking. The judge also included in the judgment offending and degrading statements of private prosecutors against the judge of the High Court in Podgorica who led the 2002-2003 investigation in which S.Č. had been testifying, the defense attorney who represented S.Č. during that investigation and the Director of the NGO Woman’s Safe House, which had provided a shelter for S.Č. The judge was also noted for his scandalous remarks documented in the final verdict, where he found “illogical” that a Montenegrin top official could possibly lead an immoral lifestyle (by being present at parties with prostitutes) or that Deputy State Prosecutor could perpetrate such criminal offense as enabling prostitution.
Unfortunately, the judges of the High Court in Podgorica, namely Liljana Pavlićević, Hasnija Simonović and Evica Durutović, fully supported the views of judge Đuković and did not react to the evident lack of equal treatment of the accused. Nor did these judges react to the complete absence of defense of the accused, which was also manifested in no appeal against the guilty verdict. Instead, they overturned the initial decision of suspended sentence and rendered imprisonment as the only measure meeting the purpose of the punishment. Although S.Č. stated that she had children, who are likely still minors, neither the first nor the second instance verdict took this fact into consideration. The accused S.Č. was therefore put in a much worse position then some of the persons sentenced for war crimes in Morinj, whose sentence was reduced due to mitigating circumstances such as no previous convictions or having minor children.
The analysis of the judgments is available here.
The first judgment is available here.
The second instance judgment is available here.
(both judgments were acquired at www.sudovi.me but we assigned them page numbers for the purpose of the verdict analysis)
We have presented complaints both to the Judicial Council and the Bar Association and expect them to critically analyze the performance of judge Đuković and judges Pavlićević, Simonović and Durutović, as well as the attorney at law B.L. (whose identity judge Đuković did not want to reveal, although the court hearing was public). However, In the meantime a journalist informed us that the full name of the attorney is Boško Laličić.
Tea Gorjanc-Prelević, Executive director of Human Rights Action
Ljiljana Raičević, Executive director Safe Women’s House
Maja Raičević, Executive Director Women’s rights Center