HRA noticed that the Judicial Council, in a repeated procedure following the ruling of the Administrative Court, regrettably decided to reappoint Branko Vučković as President of the Basic Court in Kotor. Vučković previously held the same position for seven terms, and on June 3, 2019, he was elected for the eighth term, despite the Law on the Judicial Council and Judges in 2015 prescribing that the same person cannot be appointed president of the court more than twice.
Recently, the Administrative Court, acting on the lawsuit of Judge Predrag Krstonijević, who was Vučković’s opponent in the competition for the election of the president of the court, annulled the decision of the Judicial Council on the election of Vučković due to a lack of reasoning, emphasizing the legal ban on electing the same person to the position of the president of the same court more than twice. The Judicial Council announced that it had re-elected Vučković” by resolving the shortcomings in the reasoning of the previous decision” pointed out by the Administrative Court.
HRA expected that the Judicial Council would seize the opportunity and abandon the previous decision to elect the same president of the court in Kotor for the eighth time in a row, bearing in mind that the European Commission in its latest report on Montenegro expressed concern over the way in which the Judicial Council interpreted legal and Constitutional restriction during the third election to the same position of the President of the Supreme Court, as well as during the election of eight presidents of basic courts, which were elected to the same positions although they were previously presidents of the same courts at least twice.
The European Commission emphasized that such actions are not in line with the GRECO recommendations on the independence of the judiciary, which it expected Montenegro to respect, in order not to “reverse previous achievements in judicial reform”.
Previously, the Council of Europe’s 50-members Group of States against 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.
“It has been clear for a long time that the Judicial Council is made up of people who are not ready to carry out necessary reforms in the judiciary. Their goal was to maintain the status quo and provide privileges for them and those close to them. The Assembly should dismiss them, and the competent investigative bodies should thoroughly examine all allegations of misuse of office of Council members”, is the attitude of HRA’s executive director, Tea Gorjanc Prelević.
HRA reminds that in February this year, the Judicial Council elected Mihailo Anđelić, president of the Basic Court in Žabljak for the fifth time to the same position, while last year it elected Branko Vučković for the eighth term, and for the third term have been elected Milica Jovović, president of the Basic Courtin Danilovgrad, Radule Piper, President of the Basic Court in Bijelo Polje, Hilmija Sujković, President of the Basic Court in Plav, Goran Šćepanović, President of the Basic Court in Bar and Vesna Medenica, President of the Supreme Court, who has held this position since 2007, contrary to the Constitution. Additionally, Zahit Camić was elected president of the Basic Court in Rožaje for the sixth time.
Last year, HRA, MANS (Network for Affirmation of the NGO Sector) and IA (Institute Alternative) filed criminal charges against all members of the Council, led by the then President Mladen Vukčević, for blatant conflict of interest and the falsification of results in the selection of candidates for junior judges. The detailed criminal charge outlining the facts and the breached legislation was rejected by the state prosecutor’s office without reasoning. For further details regarding this case please refer to: https://www.hraction.org/2019/12/11/state-prosecutors-office-dares-not-act-against-judicial-council-the-only-possible-conclusion-following-unreasoned-dismissal-by-the-special-and-supreme-state-prosecutors-of-the-criminal-complaint-fil/?lang=en
In early November, regarding the negative findings of the State Audit Institution (SAI) on the operations of the Judiciary spending unit for 2019, the NGO Center for Civic Education filed criminal charges on suspicion of misuse of office against all members of the Judicial Council and presidents of almost all the courts in Montenegro.