On Monday, 1st March, Human Rights Action (HRA) communicated 17 proposals to the Government of Montenegro for their 2021 Work Program, in response to the public invitation of the General Secretariat of the Government announced on February 22. The proposals concern dealing with the past, judicial reform and promotion of human rights guarantees in Montenegro.

Regarding transitional justice, HRA proposed: a) preparation of the Draft Law on Rehabilitation and Compensation of Victims of Political Persecution – Prisoners of Goli Otok, Saint Grgur and other prisons; b) amendment of the Law on Veterans and Disability Protection to provide for social protection allowances to the families of the civil victims of war; c) initiative for compensation of war crimes victims in Bukovica, Kaludjerski Laz, Murino and several of them in the case of the so-called Deportation of refugees, whose requests were unjustifiably rejected due to statute of limitation; d) consideration of an initiative for raising a memorial to the victims of the 1992 war crime deportation of refugees in front of the Police Department in Herceg Novi and other initiatives to memorialize war crimes sites and pay tribute to victims (e.g. the initiative of the NGO Anima to mark the Morinj camp).

In relation to the judiciary, we asked for the change of law to finally introduce safeguards against conflict of interest for all members of the Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, as well as criteria for selection of “prominent” lawyers who are elected to these councils, which should ensure their independence from political influence, in accordance with the GRECO recommendation; we proposed amendments of provisions on the evaluation of judges and state prosecutors, and provisions on determining the disciplinary responsibility of judges and prosecutors, etc. We have also proposed amendments to the Law on Free Legal Aid so that free legal aid is provided also in administrative proceedings (important for beneficiaries of social benefits), as well as for victims of ill-treatment and torture by state officers.

We also asked for the reform of the Criminal Code in order to, among other things, prevent the journalists and citizens from being arrested and prosecuted contrary to international standards of freedom of expression. We proposed to increase the criminal protection of safety of journalists and reminded the Government to urgently engage foreign experts to review the investigations of the murder of Duško Jovanovic and the attacks on Tufik Softić, as requested by the Commission for Monitoring Investigations of Attacks on Journalists in 2018, acting on the initiative of the HRA.

We also proposed an increase of penalties for the offences of ill-treatment and torture in proportion to the gravity of these offences and a ban on the time-bar for their prosecution in accordance with the long-standing recommendation of the UN Committee against Torture to Montenegro. In this regard, we recommended to form a special formation unit within the state prosecutor’s office in order to investigate cases when members of the police are suspected or accused of a criminal offense.

HRA recommended an analysis of the implementation of the Criminal Procedure Code, especially with regard to the exercise of the right to defense, in relation to guarantees of the right to a fair trial and the right to protection of personal liberty, and to consider possible amendments on the basis of such analysis.

We pointed out the need to amend Article 7 of the Law on Public Order and Peace, on the basis of which insult (which was abolished as a criminal offense in 2011) continues to exist as an instrument of endangering freedom of expression contrary to international human rights standards. The application of this article provides an opportunity to punish insults with severe sanctions, high fines and imprisonment, contrary to international standards of freedom of speech. We believe that this provision has been abused contrary to international standards as a reinvention of criminalization of insult.

In relation to the rights of persons with mental disabilities (psycho-social disability), we pointed out the problem of the so-called social patients in the Special Hospital for Psychiatry in Kotor, i.e. patients whose hospital treatment is no longer needed, and who continue to live in the Hospital because the state has no solution for their care, and the need for deinstitutionalization. We reminded the Government that the Ministry of Health must adopt an action plan for the implementation of the National Strategy for the Protection and Improvement of Mental Health in Montenegro for 2021-2022, because it has not been done to date. We also requested amendments to the Law on Out-of-Court Procedure regarding the forced placement in a psychiatric hospital and deprivation and return of legal capacity, in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We asked the Government to continue working on the Law on Media and the Law on the National Public Broadcaster Radio and Television of Montenegro.

All HRA proposals in Montenegrin language are available here.