Human Rights Action submitted to the Constitutional Court of Montenegro initiative for the constitutional review of the Law on Census of Population and Housing in 2011.
In the initiative we seek the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality and annul articles 21 and 28 of the Law, which prescribe the obligation for all persons included in the census to answer each question fully and accurately, including questions on religion and national or ethnic origin. Article 28 provides for a fine of up to twenty minimum wages for those who do not provide an answer.
We emphasize that everyone has a right not to declare their nationality, or ethnicity and religion. This right was denied by the Law on census.
Although the Census form (“questionnaire”), published on the MONSTAT website, despite the controversial articles of the Law, is aligned directly with the Constitution, so the section under item 14 – “religion”, contains a warning that the person is not obliged to declare his/her religion under article 64 of the Constitution, the warning is missing in the section “National or ethnic origin”. We assume that this is because the Constitution of Montenegro, contrary to the previous Constitutions of the Republic of Montenegro and the Charter on Human and Minority Rights of Serbia and Montenegro, does not provide an explicit right not to declare a national or ethnic origin. However, the freedom to declare such a background, guaranteed by the Constitution in article 79, paragraph 1 (protection of identity, within minority rights) should also include the freedom not to declare it. This right is specifically guaranteed by article 3, paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which obliges Montenegro to ensure that everyone who decides to declare or not to declare his or her nationality or ethnicity does not bear any adverse consequences for such decision.
Given that the census is planned for 31 March, we expect the Constitutional Court to act upon the initiative and annul controversial articles as soon as possible, and thus enable those who do not want to declare their national or ethnic origin to enjoy this human right without restrictions.