The Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica informed Human Rights Action (HRA) that it had reviewed a complaint HRA submitted against police officers for excessive and unlawful use of force towards the fans at the basketball match Budućnost – Partizan, and determined that there had been no grounds for initiating a criminal proceeding. The Prosecutor’s Office invited HRA to file a criminal complaint for a particular criminal offence against an identified person, and submit valid evidence. This opinion was signed by the Deputy Basic State Prosecutor, Ivan Medojević. The Head of the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office is Ljiljana Klikovac.
HRA requested from the acting Supreme Public State prosecutor Veselin Vučković to review this decision of the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office, as well as the general approach of the State Prosecutor’s Office towards processing of torture in Montenegro.
HRA considers that the actions of the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in this case directly encourage torture and violate human rights, because:
1) In a situation where the video footage recorded the police beating up unarmed citizens who did not provide resistance, the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office did not recognize any elements of criminal offences (e.g. Maltreatment or Negligent Performance of Duty), therefore publicly demonstrating tolerance towards torture, which is contrary to international human rights standards binding Montenegro;
2) The State Prosecutor’s Office switches its obligation to determine the identity of the perpetrator of the criminal offence to the citizens, asking them also to point out to the State Prosecutor the specific criminal offense being committed, therefore failing to instil the confidence that it is capable to perform its duties on its own;
3) An impression is made that the State Prosecutor’s Office does not consider itself a public body responsible for identifying the criminal offense and the offender, even though the Criminal Procedure Code from 2011 explicitly prescribes the jurisdiction of the State Prosecutor for conducting investigations, which includes identification of perpetrators of criminal offenses;
4) The State Prosecutor’s Office apparently considers it is not obliged to provide for an independent and impartial investigation of reports of police abuse, although it is obvious, and established in the practice of international bodies for protection of human rights, that in cases of police torture the police alone cannot be trusted to carry out this task successfully with regard to its officers.
It is particularly worrying that it took the Basic State Prosecutor nearly two years to review the video recording and determine that there were no grounds for criminal prosecution of any person in this specific case. Such actions directly contribute to promotion of impunity, as in this way the chances of an absolute statute of limitation increase drastically, which happened in several clear cases of police abuse and endangering the safety of the citizens, which HRA documented and of which it informed the Supreme State Prosecutor.
We would like to remind that HRA filed a complaint to the then Minister of Interior Affairs, Ivan Brajović on 30 October 2012, and later to the Supreme State Prosecutor Ranka Čarapić, and current Minister of Interior Affairs, Raško Konjević to which an internet address of a recording showing police conduct toward fans at the game in October 2012 was attached. The recording (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l2PuPnw3sk) among other things, shows:
We also recall that the Council for the Civic Control of Police Forces concluded that during the protection of the basketball match Budućnost – Partizan police officers applied excessive and unlawful coercive measures, batons and physical strength, and therefore, exceeded their official authority against the fans, who at the time did not offer any resistance.
Also, the Department for Internal Control of the Ministry of Interior stated that certain officers of the Special Unit in some cases used the baton illegally as a means of coercion during executing of the order to emptying the stands with fan groups, because they used a baton to fans that have not attacked police officers or provided resistance. The Police Ethics Committee has determined that the head of the security and deputy head of security violated the Code of Police Ethics (the objective – command responsibility), and a number of officers and employees (the subjective and specific responsibilities and exceeding police powers). However, the Ministry did not inform the public that any police officer has been sanctioned within the service.
Warnings of unacceptable behaviour of prosecutors and judges with regard to police torture have been addressed to Montenegro on several occasions by relevant international bodies, whose competence was accepted by Montenegro.
The European Committee for Prevention of Torture and Inhuman Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in 2013 noted that prosecutors and judges in Montenegro often do not respond to complaints of arrested persons that they were abused by police officers, which, as CPT stated, creates an atmosphere of impunity. In its report, the Committee warned that prosecutors and judges are required to take a proactive stand and examine whether the police used excessive force, even in cases when they did not receive complaints from the injured party, but have other clues.
UN Committee against Torture expressed concern in its Concluding observations from May 2014 for the failure of state authorities to investigate complaints of torture, ill-treatment or excessive use of force by police and punish the perpetrators. The Committee asked the state to improve the methods of criminal investigation, to provide urgent, impartial and effective investigations into all complaints of police abuse, and pointed out that such investigations should not be led by the police itself, but an independent body. The Committee also warned that all persons under investigation should be suspended from work.
HRA is particularly concerned that up to date members of the special police units that illegally and massively beat prisoners in Spuž 2005 were never identified nor prosecuted. The same members had probably beaten the late Pejanović Aleksandar, and the fans at the basketball match in 2012, as well as at some other events. The thought that these people not only go unpunished, but continue doing police work in Montenegro is terrifying for a good reason. That is the reason why reputation of true police professionals is compromised and why Montenegro does not leave an impression of a state respectful of rule of law.