The IRCT welcomes the start of the long-delayed trial of five police officers, one year after they were indicted by the State Prosecutor of Montenegro for torturing Marko Boljević, who was beaten and threatened by police to falsely accuse two other men of planting bombs in 2015.
In 2020, IRCT’s Independent Forensic Expert Group conducted a forensic evaluation of Mr Boljević and concluded that the available evidence was highly consistent with his allegations of torture by Montenegrin police when he was taken into custody on 25 May 2020. On 1 March 2022, the State
Prosecutor indicted the five Podgorica police inspectors, a charge later confirmed by the Basic Court of Podgorica on 16 May. Postponed seven times due to non-attendance by the defendants, their lawyers, and even the State Prosecutor, the first hearing was completed on 28 April. The next hearing is due on 4 May.
The IRCT urges Montenegrin judicial authorities to exercise their authority to provide for efficient trials in cases of torture, and State Prosecutors to undertake seriously their duty to investigate and prosecute all individuals responsible for the practice of extorting testimony through torture by the police.
In addition to lengthy delays in the trial, Mr Boljević’s case has been marred by events that have undermined public and international faith in Montenegro’s commitment to prohibit and prosecute acts of torture. Just two weeks ago, the Minister of Interior publicly praised the indicted officers and refused to suspend them from duty. The Minister also publicly harassed and derided local non-governmental organisation Human Rights Action and its executive director Ms Tea Gorjanc Prelević for advocating such action.
Under the UN Principles on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture officials suspected of committing torture or other acts of ill-treatment must be suspended from active duty during an official investigation. The removal of alleged perpetrators is necessary to ensure public faith
in institutions and adherence to the rule of law, as well as to ensure that perpetrators do not obstruct the investigation nor continue to commit further crimes.
While the IRCT is pleased to note that all five officers have now been suspended from duty, we remain deeply concerned over delays to the trial, and that no public repudiation of the Minister’s comments or public apology to Human Rights Action has been issued. Human rights defenders play a vital role in monitoring State obligations to fulfil human rights and should neither be attacked nor disparaged for their lawful activities. The Minister’s statements violate the global consensus that torture is absolutely prohibited, as well as Montenegro’s own State obligations to fulfil both domestic law and the many international treaties it has ratified, including the UN Convention against Torture.
Representing 160 torture rehabilitation centres in 76 countries, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims is the world’s largest membership-based organisation specialising in the treatment and documentation of torture.