Human Rights Action (HRA) considers that Chief Special Prosecutor (CSP) Milivoje Katnić has exceeded his authority by publishing data obtained on the basis of secret surveillance measures (SSM) in the preliminary investigation lasting for four years to date against officials of the political party Democratic Montenegro (Democrats). The CSP has wide authorities to restrict human rights and it is necessary to act strictly in accordance with the law. Confidentiality of data that have been obtained through SSM under the Code of Criminal Procedure, should not be abolished on the basis of the Law on Data Confidentiality. In that way, CSP acted contrary to Article 42 of the Constitution of Montenegro, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Criminal Procedure Code, which in Article 159, para. 9 explicitly prescribes the obligation that all data obtained on the basis of SSM are kept secret and Article 160, para. 7, which prescribes the procedure for destroying this data precisely so that it would not be misused.
HRA considers that the justification made by CSP, that the data obtained by SSM he published in order to objectively inform the public about the inappropriate political influence on the Special Prosecutor’s Office, is unconvincing and insufficient to justify gross misconduct and violation of privacy in order to achieve CSP’s private interest to take revenge on his opponents – the prosecutor, who filed a criminal complaint against him, and the deputies, who advocated for adoption of the law on the basis of which he and the Special State Prosecutor’s Office would be disempowered.
Today, in a letter sent to the Acting Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković and Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights Vladimir Leposavić, HRA appealed to them to submit a proposal to the Prosecutorial Council to determine the disciplinary responsibility of the CSP for a serious disciplinary offense because he “presented information he learned while acting in cases or performing a prosecutorial function” and because in that way he “used the prosecutor’s function to pursue his private interests”, which are offences prescribed by the Law on the State Prosecutor in Article 108, para.3, point 6 and 7.
The CSP publicly presented part of a transcript obtained through the secret surveillance in which two officials of the Democrats, Boris Bogdanović and Dragan Krapović, of which Krapović was President of the Municipality at that time, discussed how to help the son of the Special Prosecutor Živko Savović, an economist, to finance his travel to a competition abroad. In that context, one of them says that it would be good to help him “because they have a lot of information from him”. The CSP pointed out that he published the transcript in the interest of informing the public about the political influence on the special prosecutor Živko Savović, who recently filed a criminal complaint against the CSP.
However, the interview was recorded in 2017, and since then no investigation had been launched against any person who had been under secret surveillance, while the Special Prosecutor Savović is still employed in the State Prosecutor’s Office, and no disciplinary or other proceedings were ever initiated against him for disclosing information or for something else, and in 2019 he had even been promoted. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the CSP has now published the transcript in his personal interest that presents the prosecutor who filed a criminal complaint against him in a negative light, as well as MPs who are proposing laws threatening to disempower the CSP and the Special State Prosecutor’s Office.
“CSP believes that it is legal and normal to keep private telephone conversations in a drawer for four years, collected through secret surveillance measures, although there are no reasons for initiation of criminal proceedings, and then to publish that information to influence politics. This is not the rule of law, but a serious threat to human rights, which creates legal uncertainty that everyone should be afraid of. Especially if one remembers that this is not the first time that the CSP and State Prosecutor’s Office behaved like that, because in 2015, to the detriment of a lawyer Vladan Bojić, and in 2017, to the detriment of a lawyer Goran Rodić, they similarly exceeded their authority“ said the Executive Director of the HRA Tea Gorjanc Prelevic.
In a television show, CSP presented data about lawyer Vladan Bojić, also collected on the basis of secret surveillance, which the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica (BSP) unjustifiably disclosed on its website in 2015. The HRA reacted by sending a letter to all leaders in the judiciary and the Ombudsman about this abuse of power, demanding to sanction such conduct of the BSP and prevent in the future, but nothing was done. Only the judge of the Basic Court in Nikšić, Sanja Nikić, in two first-instance verdicts determined that it was an illegal act that violated the right to privacy of lawyer Bojić lawyer and awarded him damages. In another case known to us, in 2017, the CSP also published the correspondence of lawyer Goran Rodić with MP Milan Knezević, which was not related to the case due to which criminal proceedings were initiated against him, and in that case HRA also reacted.
Now the question is which materials have been collected by the CSP and other state prosecutors so far on the basis of secret surveillance measures, and which they have kept in a drawer for years, abolishing secrecy mark and using them arbitrarily. The CSP procedure undermines the trust in the state prosecutor’s office to restrict human rights in the public interest, so we expect from the acting Supreme State Prosecutor and the Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights to respond appropriately.
Here you can find the letter (in Montenegrin) that HRA sent to the acting Supreme State Prosecutor and the Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights.