Human Rights Action (HRA) welcomes the decision of the Administrative Court of Montenegro adopting a complaint submitted by judge Branko Krstonijević and annulling the decision of the Judicial Council on the appointment of Branko Vucković as President of the Basic Court in Kotor for the eighth time.
The Administrative Court pointed out that the decision of the Judicial Council lacked proper reasoning, as Art. 42 para. 1 of the Law on the Judicial Council and Judges, prescribing restriction that the same person cannot be appointed president of the court more than twice, was not taken into account. It was noted that the elected candidate, Mr. Vuckovic, had previously performed the function of the president of the same court for as many as seven terms, starting from 1989, and that by the decision of the Judicial Council of June 3, 2019, he had been appointed to the same position for the eighth time.
The Judicial Council was ordered to remove flaws in the reasoning of its decision and render a lawful one.
“The decision of the Administrative Court encourages the necessary reforms in the work of the Judicial Council, which are expected by both the Council of Europe (GRECO) and the European Commission. The Judicial Council should now correct the mistake and elect judge Krstonijevic as the president of the Court in Kotor, who meets legal conditions for appointment”, said Tea Gorjanc Prelevic, the executive director of the HRA.
HRA reminds that in February 2020, the Judicial Council appointed Mihailo Andjelic, president of the Basic Court in Zabljak, for the fifth time to the same position, while last year as many as seven court presidents were appointed contrary to the Law on Judicial Council and Judges, prescribing that the same person cannot be elected president of the court more than twice. Besides Branko Vuckovic, last year were elected for a third term: Milica Jovovic, president of the Basic Court in Danilovgrad, Radule Piper, president of the Basic Court in Bijelo Polje, Hilmija Sujkovic, president of the Basic Court in Plav, Goran Scepanovic, president of the Basic Court in Bar and Vesna Medenica, president of the Supreme Court, who has held this position continuously since 2007, contrary to the Constitution. Additionally, Zahit Camić was elected president of the Basic Court in Rožaje for the sixth time.
The Council of Europe’s 50-members Group of States against Corruption (Groupe d’Etats contre la corruption – GRECO) recommended Montenegro to limit the excessive concentration of powers in the judiciary and recently criticized the third election of Vesna Medenica, as president of the Supreme Court, as well as the election of presidents of courts who have been presidents of the same courts at least three terms.
In its latest report on Montenegro, the European Commission noted that “the decision of the Judicial Council to re-appoint seven court presidents, including the President of the Supreme Court, for at least a third term raises serious concerns over the Judicial Council’s interpretation of the letter and the spirit of the Constitutional and legal framework, which limits those appointments to maximum two terms in order to prevent over-concentration of power within the judiciary. It is not in line with GRECO recommendations on the independence of the judiciary, which Montenegro is expected to comply with, in order not to reverse earlier achievements in the judicial reform.”