In support of all the victims of torture in Montenegro, the Human Rights Action has informed the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) about the shortcomings of the Government’s response to its delegation’s Report on the ad hoc visit to Montenegro in 2022.
In its response, the Government did not provide complete and accurate information on how reports of torture were investigated during the investigation of the so-called bombing attacks; it concealed the Interior Minister’s nine months long refusal to suspend police officers accused of torture, by falsely stating that the Minister was continuously sending messages of “zero tolerance” for ill-treatment; also providing incorrect information about the training of police officers conducted in cooperation with the Ombudsman, the video surveillance in the Security Centre in Podgorica and the absence of legal grounds for excluding police officers whose responsibility is undergoing investigation from working with citizens.
In its report, the Committee justifiably devoted special attention to the torture of Jovan Grujičić, Marko Boljević and Benjamin Mugoša. Since in relation to this case the Government of Montenegro had informed the Committee “that criminal proceedings have been initiated and that the accused police officers have been suspended”, the HRA felt the need to emphasise the shortcomings of the investigations: there has been no progress in the case of Jovan Grujičić for more than three years now; despite the same pattern of ill-treatment by the police in all three cases, the acting prosecutor Maja Knežević unjustifiably and prematurely dismissed the criminal charges against all suspects three times in the case of victim Grujičić, remaining in charge of the case regardless of her actions; the responsibility of the chiefs – which the CPT insists on as a matter of principle – has not been seriously investigated and one of them has even been promoted; it is unknown whether State Prosecutor Snežana Šišević had in any way reacted in the case of Benjamin Mugoša in relation to the fact that the police, upon her timely request, failed to provide her with recordings from the premises where the alleged ill-treatment had taken place, even though such actions by police officers contain elements of at least four criminal acts, etc.
The HRA also informed the Committee that the police have continued with the practice of taping over the recordings of possible torture, even when such recordings are requested from them in a timely manner (e.g. in the case of Braslav Borozan from 2015, and in the case of Benjamin Mugoša from 2020), and that the cameras in the Security Centre in Podgorica were out of order for no less than five years, from 2010 to 2015, and again in 2020, which made it impossible to prove torture which was often reported regarding that institution.
We also informed the Committee about the photographs proving torture that police officers from the Police Directorate were allegedly exchanging with the leaders of a criminal clan, and which were later published by the Libertas portal. These photographs have been available to the competent authorities of Montenegro since July 2021; however, the perpetrators have not been prosecuted to date in any case related to the published photographs.
We appealed to the Committee to continue its communication with the Government, especially since it had provided incomplete information that does not paint an accurate picture of the real position of the Government and its ministers regarding the application of international standards of the absolute prohibition of torture in the legal order of Montenegro.
The HRA informed the Committee that the Ministry of Justice did not accept HRA’s proposals to have the Criminal Procedure Code prescribe mandatory recording of conversations with citizens, suspects and witnesses that take place in the police and the state prosecutor’s office, despite the recommendations of the Committee against Torture and the CPT.
In relation to the absence of minimum conditions for keeping detained persons in the UIKS’ [Administration for the Execution of Criminal Sanctions] remand prison in Podgorica, the CPT was informed that HRA and Juventas had appealed to the then Government in 2015 to plan the construction of a completely new building of the remand prison because in the existing building it is not possible to provide detainees with adequate time spent in fresh air and several hours of meaningful activity outside the cells, as required for persons who have yet to be convicted.
HRA believes that too much time has been wasted on empty promises of the previous ministers of the interior and justice, the Director of the police and the top of the judiciary. It is high time to decisively suppress police torture and other institutional ill-treatment, and the fact that new people are coming to positions of responsibility gives reason for hope. These persons must be expected to achieve concrete results so that all those responsible for torture are adequately punished. We also expect the introduction of additional legal guarantees – such as, for example, mandatory recording of interrogations conducted in the police and the state prosecutor’s office, reduction of the time (all of 24 hours) allowed before a person deprived of liberty is brought before the state prosecutor, mandatory psychiatric evaluation of alleged victims of torture, tightening of the scope of punishment for acts of torture, and so on.