19/2/2014 On detention and prosecution of participants of protest held in Podgorica on 15 February 2014

Human Rights Action team

19/2/2014 On detention and prosecution of participants of protest held in Podgorica on 15 February 2014

Human Rights Action (HRA) is concerned for respect of the rule of law due to the decision of the State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica to criminally prosecute and detain for two days nine citizens who protested by sitting on the sidewalk on 15 February 2014, even though they did not endanger the police, nor destroy other people’s property. Of particular concern is the fact that after a protest, during which nine police officers were injured, one with serious bodily injury, to date only one person has been arrested and charged with a criminal offense “Attack on a person acting in official capacity”.

(Of the 20 arrested protesters, one person was released without charges, six were prosecuted in misdemeanour proceedings for insolent behaviour and refusal to obey an order of a police officer, 13 were prosecuted in criminal proceedings and deprived of liberty, and as many as 9 of them for sitting on the sidewalk, or for criminal offense “Failure to obey orders to break up”. Only one person of all the arrested protesters was suspected of committing the criminal offense “Attack on a person acting in official capacity”. Two persons were suspected of committing criminal offense “Preventing a person acting in official capacity from performing official duty” and one for “Destroying and damaging other people’s property”)[1].

Decisions of the State Prosecutor’s Office are a warning of unfair strictness toward demonstrators who protested without the use of violence. We note that the epilogue of prosecution of incidents that occurred on both pride parades was only misdemeanour prosecution of demonstrators, although many physically attacked and injured the participants of the Pride Parade in Budva by throwing rocks at them, and the attackers on police officers who were securing the parade in Podgorica.

HRA believes that the decisions of the State Prosecutor’s Office and the investigating judge of the Basic Court in Podgorica violated the human right to freedom of the group of citizens who were arrested for protesting by sitting on the sidewalk, or suspected of having committed a criminal offense, “Failure to obey orders to break up” and will elaborate this position below.

Also, we expect that all allegations of violations of rights of the group of demonstrators by the police in relation to their treatment during arrest and detention will be investigated in the proceedings before the Council for Civilian Control of Police Work, on the complaint within the Ministry of the Interior, and before the court.

In relation to respect of the human right to freedom by the state prosecutor and the court, particularly worrying is the following:

–          Deputy Basic State Prosecutor in Podgorica based his decision to deprive of liberty 48 members of the mentioned group of non-violent demonstrators on the fact that “the informal group of citizens scheduled another protest for the following day on the same location”[2], and did not consider the seriousness of charges (this particular criminal offense is punishable with a fine or imprisonment for up to three months, and there is a basically identical offense), previous convictions or personalities of those who are deprived of liberty in accordance with European standards (European Court of Human Rights, Clooth v. Belgium);

–          According to the minutes of the hearing, the Deputy Basic State Prosecutor in Podgorica heard individual participants of the protest (Boban Batrićević and Nino Zilić, whose minutes we had access to) and imposed their further detention after the expiry of the 12 hours period from their arrest, although, in accordance with Article 264 para. 3 CPC[3], they should have been released.

–          Since the information on the decision of the investigating judge of the Basic Court in Podgorica upon appeal of detained persons against the decision of state prosecutor on their detention were expected to be published on Sunday, particularly worrying is the statement of lawyer Aleksandar Đurišić that he received the decision of investigating judge of the Basic Court in Podgorica only yesterday, on Tuesday, 18 February 2014. This calls into question the meaning of the legal provision which prescribes that the court must decide urgently on appeals, within 4 hours, and encourages the suspicion that the decision was not made ​​within the statutory deadline.

–          The mentioned appeal against the decision of the prosecutor on detention is the basic legal remedy for the protection of the human right to freedom – habeas corpus – to which every person in the civilized world is entitled to, including all those who were deprived of liberty by a Montenegrin state body for any reason. The decision upon this appeal states that the investigating judge “after examining the documents, found there were no significant violations of the procedure that could revoke the decision on detention of the suspect”, without further explanation, especially in relation to the appeal on overstepping a deadline of 12 hours for detention by the police before the case is brought before the prosecutor, contrary to the European Court of Human rights standards (Ilijkov v. Bulgaria, p. 94).

We appeal to judicial state bodies to ensure a non-selective application of the law in further prosecution in relation to the protest held on Saturday, and to protect human rights in accordance with European standards. We appeal for prevention of stricter treatment of those who protested without the use of violence compared to those who physically assault police officers in performing their duties, thus injuring them and destroying property.

We also note that, unfortunately, the State Prosecutor’s Office again did not consider it necessary to inform the public by an official press release via the media and its website about its actions regarding the incident of the latest protest in Podgorica, which is an event of particular public interest, such as were the pride parades and the case when a foreign state (Canada) granted asylum to a Montenegrin citizen (Zdravko Cimbaljević) because of the failure of the State Prosecutor’s Office to conduct an effective investigation of endangering safety. The lack of transparency of the State Prosecutor’s Office in the form of not disclosing statements and not organizing regular press conferences forces the journalists to collect the decisions on important issues through personal contacts, which does not contribute to objective informing of the public, and also to the principle of equal treatment of all media outlets.


[1] Conclusion based on the press release of the Ministry of the Interior and the Police Directorate “Basic Prosecutor’s Office made a decision to detain 13 persons suspected of committing criminal offenses, while six persons were prosecuted in misdemeanour proceedings”, 17 February 2014 and “Twenty persons deprived of liberty, nine police officers injured”, 15 February 2014, available at: http://www.mup.gov.me/upravapolicije/vijesti.

[2] “Since the suspicion of committing a criminal offense “Failure to obey orders to break up” under Art. 379 para. 1 of the Criminal Code arises from the attachment of the criminal complaint, and from in the defence of the suspect it can be concluded that his actions constitute essential elements of the criminal offense “Failure to obey orders to break up” of Art. 379 para. 1 of the Criminal Code, there are special circumstances that cause worry that, if released, the suspect would commit a new offense, especially considering the fact that the same informal group of citizens announced a new protest to be held on 16 February 2014 at the same place, which is the basis for detention, in accordance with Art. 448 para. 1 item 2 of the CPC.” (Decision of the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica, Kt no. 162/14).

[3] Article 264, para. 3: In case the detained person is not brought before the public prosecutor within 12 hours from the time of detention, the police is obliged release that person.