Nine years ago from today two persons who remain unidentified to date attacked Montenegrin journalist Tufik Softić in front of his family home in Berane, causing him serious injuries to the head and arm. Softić had previously published several articles about organized crime groups from the north of the country that were active at the national level and beyond. Investigation conducted in this case represents an example of ineffective investigation which violated the right to life. As a result, Tufik Softić filed a lawsuit against the state with the support of Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) from London and Human Rights Action from Podgorica, seeking damages.
The claim cites the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, according to which – in order to meet the minimum guarantees of the procedural aspect of the right to life – an investigation must be efficient, impartial and appropriate measures ought to be taken to lead to the discovery of all perpetrators of the attack, including the person behind the attack.
In the case of attack on Softić, an investigation was launched only seven years after the attack, in 2014, and closed a year and a half later, when the High State Prosecutor’s Office in Bijelo Polje adopted an act suspending the investigation for lack of evidence. The Basic State Prosecutor in Berane first heard Softić only seven years after the attack, in 2014. Also, it took seven years for the state prosecutor to question individuals that Softić had identified to the police on the night of the attack as suspicious, i.e. as persons who could have been involved in the attack; one of the said persons has not been questioned to date.
The investigation had several shortcomings: the police had not been ordered to block city exits to prevent the perpetrators from escaping; the state prosecutor and investigating judge did not appear at the scene, although they had been informed about the attack; DNA sample analysis from baseball bats suspected to have been used to beat Softić was carried only six years later. It had taken as long as five years and six months (3 March 2008 – 15 August 2013) for the police and the state prosecutor’s office to take any action in the pre-trial investigation.
To the letter HRA submitted on 18 January 2016 together with Tufik Softić’s attorney Dalibor Tomović to the Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković, demanding that an investigation be launched and responsibility established of the competent prosecutors and police officers for ineffective investigation, the Special State Prosecutor’s Office has so far responded that the work of state prosecutors and other officials contain no elements of criminal offense Abuse of Office or other criminal offenses under the jurisdiction of that particular Office. Attorney Tomović then submitted another letter to Mr Stanković on 6 September 2016, urging him to ensure that the State Prosecutor’s Office, as such, finds strength to objectively examine shortcomings in the investigation of the attack on the journalist.
Journalist Softić was again attacked in 2013, when an explosive device was activated in the yard of his family home, which caused minor material damage. Again, the investigation did not lead to identification of the perpetrators of this attack.