Council members of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro today, for unknown reasons, voted against the proposal of Judge Rapporteur Miodrag Iličkovic for adoption of the constitutional complaint of journalist Tufik Softić filed due to the state’s failure to provide effective investigation of his attempted murder. Therefore, the session of all judges of the Constitutional Court will soon be deciding on this case.
HRA hopes that most judges of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro will exercise their jurisdiction to protect human rights of journalist Tufik Softić. They should bear in mind that due to the lack of serious investigation in two cases of attack on Softić, his colleagues journalists, as well as the entire Montenegrin public, have been exposed to a devastating impact on freedom of expression and confidence in the state’s ability to exercise the rule of law.
HRA recalls that the Constitutional Court recently found that the state prosecution failed to execute effective investigations of police ill-treatment in three cases, upon constitutional complaints filed by HRA for Milorad Martinović, Branimir Vukčević and Momčilo Baranin. Today’s Vijesti announced that the Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković allegedly sent a protest letter to the President of the Constitutional Court, Dragoljub Drašković, in which he disputed the jurisdiction of that court to give orders to the State Prosecutor Office. HRA requested from Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković to publish that letter we believe is of the highest public interest.
In the Softić case, judge of the Basic Court in Podgorica, Milena Brajović, recently found that the State Prosecutor’s Office failed to provide effective investigation, which led to the violation of the human right to life protection and protection against abuse, and awarded compensation to Softić in the amount of 7,000€ in the name of a incurred mental suffering. Against this first-instance decision, the Protector of Property and Legal Interest of the State filed complaint (whose most important part was shown earlier on our FB page), and the fate of this judgment is now expected, which depends on the decision of the second instance court – the Higher Court in Podgorica.
HRA believes that there is no legitimate reason for numerous failures of the competent State Prosecutor’s Office and Police in the investigation of the attempted murder of Tufik Softić.
At first, HRA promptly pointed out these failures to the Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković, to no avail, and then to the Constitutional Court in the constitutional complaint, as well as to the regular court in the claim for compensation:
- The investigation into the attempted murder of journalist Tufik Softić was open only seven years after the attack on him (1 November 2007 – 18 July 2014);
- The Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Berane failed to order the police to block the city exit roads immediately after the attack, in order to prevent the perpetrators and aiders from escaping (Article 243 in connection with Article 230 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Official Gazette of the Republic of Montenegro 47/06);
- The state prosecutor in Berane and the investigating judge failed to come to the crime scene after being informed of the attack by the police, although it had been their duty especially bearing in mind the seriousness of the attack (Article 246 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Official Gazette of the Republic of Montenegro 47/06);
- The state prosecutor in Berane failed to promptly interrogate the persons whom Softić named to the police as suspects, i.e. as persons who might have been connected with the attack – two of them were interrogated only seven years later and the third person had never been interrogated;
- The state prosecutor in Berane failed to order the investigating judge to search apartments, facilities, vehicles and persons that Softić marked as suspicious (this is obligatory in case of an NN perpetrator according to Articles 247 and 248 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Official Gazette of the Republic of Montenegro 47/06);
- The state prosecutor in Berane interrogated the injured party, Tufik Softić, for the first time only seven years after the attack, in 2014, although the prosecutor had the right and professional obligation to do so immediately (Article 243 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Official Gazette of the Republic of Montenegro 47/06);
- The owner of facilities in which the bats which were allegedly used for beating Tufik Softić have been discovered had never been interrogated as a witness with regard to how the bats came into his possession and who had left them in his facilities;
- The DNA analysis of the baseball bats which were allegedly used in beating Softić, as well as matching the DNA with Softić’s profile, has been carried out only in 2013, although the bats were found six years earlier, back in 2007;
- The attacker’s DNA material was not immediately collected from Softić, bearing in mind that the attacker hit Softić with his hand in the area of his arm (Articles 230 and 243 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Official Gazette of the Republic of Montenegro 47/06);
- The DNA profile of the suspected was not made or matched to the DNA profile of the discovered baseball bats, although Softić named him as suspicious;
- The state prosecutor in Berane and the police failed to take photographs of Tufik Softić’s injuries immediately after the attack (for appearance of injuries, accurate localisation, spacing, shape), in order to provide for precise determination of means by which the injuries were caused;
- After initiating the investigation and qualifying the offence as attempted murder, the prosecutor in Bijelo Polje failed to request from the investigating judge to order surveillance of the defendants, in order to enable the possibility for collecting any new evidence (Article 159 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Official Gazette of Montenegro 49/10);
- It remains unclear why the police and the prosecution in Berane failed to undertake any actions during the investigation phase for 5 years and 6 months (from 3 March 2008 to 15 August 2013);
- It remains unclear why no relevant activities have been undertaken during the following periods from initiating the investigation: from 20 October 2014 to 1 April 2015, and from 1 April 2015 to 28 October 2015, when the investigation was suspended.
If necessary, HRA will repeat and document all these reasons to the European Court of Human Rights. Judging by the previous practice of that Court, it would not dwell over whether Softić human rights had been violated or not.