At the round table discussion entitled “Freedom of the media and the media environment in Montenegro” held on 10 September 2019, Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Pažin acknowledged the Human Rights Action (HRA) allegation that no progress has been made in key cases of uninvestigated attacks on journalists due to the failure of civil servants – specifically in the case of Duško Jovanović’s murder and the two attacks on Tufik Softić.
We remind that in the Tufik Softić case, both the regular and the Constitutional Court found that the state had illegally conducted the investigations in an inefficient manner, which failed directly in identifying the perpetrators and warrants of these crimes. Particularly devastating is the fact that two years after the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro ordering state bodies to continue to work in the pursuit of the perpetrators and warrants, no criminal proceedings were undertaken, even though the statute of limitations expires in 2022.
We further remind that on 18 January 2016 HRA sent a letter to the Supreme State Prosecutor urging him once again to determine the extent of responsibility of civil servants for all failures during the investigation of this case. On 5 August 2016 the Special State Prosecutor’s Office replied that the conduct of public prosecutors and other officials contained no elements of criminal transgression that should be prosecuted ex officio within their jurisdiction. Then, on 7 September 2016, HRA sent a letter to the Supreme State Prosecutor and Chief Special Prosecutor indicating the fallacious facts and information provided to the Special Prosecutor’s Office by the Higher State Prosecutor’s Office in Bijelo Polje and the Basic State Prosecutor in Berane. HRA further appealed for a review of the decision and offered concrete evidence to this end, but the letter was not answered.
HRA seeks from the Government of Montenegro to urgently hire foreign experts with the help of international organisations or other countries in order to conduct an analysis of the conduct of civil servants of Montenegro, especially pertaining to the investigations into the murder of Duško Jovanović and the two attacks on Tufik Softić, in which Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Pažin announced there is no prospect of any improvement.
The Commission for Monitoring Investigations of Attacks on Journalists requested on 19 October 2018 for Government to appoint such an expert or experts, but the Government has been silent on the proposal ever since.
The refusal to seek the assistance of international experts in a situation where domestic experts are unable to carry out effective investigations, or identify omissions and personal responsibility for those omissions, is nothing more than complicity in the continued violation of human rights of Duško Jovanović’s family, as well as Tufik Softić’s, which constantly threatens the freedom of expression of all in Montenegro.