The Human Rights Action (HRA) strongly protests against the decision of the basic state prosecutor in Podgorica, Maja Knežević, to dismiss for the fourth time the criminal charges against all 10 police officers who were reported for torturing Jovan Grujičić in the Podgorica Security Centre in May 2020. This decision is particularly problematic because it was preceded by a request for prosecutor Knežević’s recusal, but has not been decided upon. The prosecutor should not have been allowed to proceed in the case until said decision.
HRA expects the Acting Supreme State Prosecutor Tatjana Begović to finally assign the case to another prosecutor and thus ensure an effective investigation. It is a case of obvious police torture carried out with the aim of extorting a false statement. It is also a case of obstruction of justice by several police officers’ synchronised abuse of official position.
Written evidence confirms that, on 26 May 2020, Grujičić was under the jurisdiction of the Podgorica Security Centre officials against whom the criminal report has been filed. Medical findings confirm that Grujičić was abused at that time. On that day, he was forced to falsely accuse himself of planting explosive devices at the house of state security officer Duško Golubović and the bar “Grand”. In the meantime, the court acquitted him of these charges in a final decision, finding that they were not supported by any evidence and were based on a coerced false statement. The real perpetrators who planted explosives have not been discovered to date, nor are there any indications that anyone is trying to find out who they are.
The last, fourth, decision of the same state prosecutor, in which she once again dismissed the criminal report against police inspectors and their direct superiors, is the result of an ineffective investigation, the state prosecutor’s uncritical approach towards the accused police officers and a gross violation of procedural law. On 9 June 2023, Jovan Grujičić’s attorney Damir Lekić filed a request for the recusal of state prosecutor Maja Knežević from this case due to her biased and unprofessional approach to the preliminary investigation of Grujičić’s torture by the police (photo attached). The moment when prosecutor Knežević found out that a request for her recusal had been submitted based on Article 42 of the Criminal Procedure Code, she was obliged to immediately suspend work on the case, with the exception of urgent actions, until the time the head of the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica, Duško Milanović, takes a decision on the submitted request. Since neither Grujičić nor his attorney have been informed of Milanović’s decision to this day, it is questionable why is it that Knežević continued to act in the case by taking a decision to dismiss the report contrary to the legal provisions that prohibit it.
This time, the prosecutor interpreted the poor health of the injured party, due to which he requested that his participation in the hearing be postponed, as his lack of interest in contributing to the resolution of the matter. Making such conclusions is extremely arbitrary, since the first such hearing was cancelled by the prosecutor herself, while Grujičić has been trying to reach justice for more than three years despite the ineffective actions of the Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica.
Additionally, his right to participate in the proceedings by presenting evidence has been unjustifiably violated. The prosecutor did not act regarding any of the evidentiary proposals of the injured party’s attorney, even though they would have led to additional and better determination of the facts. The High State Prosecutor’s Office requested the above from the prosecutor on three occasions.
The Human Rights Action has already appealed to the Acting Supreme State Prosecutor to assign the case to another prosecutor, due to the fact that there had been no progress in the case for more than three years, even though the torture of Grujičić in the police has been proven by both domestic and foreign experts, and despite the fact that in this case international organisations for the protection of human rights and foreign embassies specifically called for an emergency, independent and thorough investigation. In two other related cases, in the same police action, five police officers were accused of torturing Marko Boljević and Benjamin Mugoša: Inspector Dalibor Ljekočević was accused of torturing both Boljević and Mugoša, and he is also being prosecuted for drug trafficking. However, prosecutor Knežević dismissed the criminal report against him for extorting testimony from Grujičić as well, without any specific explanation.
In the same police action, led by Miloš Vučinić and Srđan Korać, members of the same two units of the Criminal Police Station (in charge of for violent crimes and sexual offenses, terrorism and explosives of the Security Centre in Podgorica acted against all three victims – Marko Boljević, Jovan Grujičić and Benjamin Mugoša. Of the five criminal inspectors that were accused of torturing Boljević, four are on the list of suspects for torturing Grujičić; still, the prosecutor dismissed the report against all four, for the fourth time, without providing any specific reasons.
The report against persons who led the police action, and who had to know what their subordinates were doing in the official premises located on the same floor where they themselves were on that day, was rejected as well.
Ineffective investigations of police torture such as this one encourage a culture of abuse among criminal inspectors, which the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has long warned Montenegro about. They promote impunity and de-motivate police officers who do their job honourably and in a legal fashion. With such a superficial approach to the suppression of police torture, Montenegro will neither achieve the rule of law nor meet the criteria for membership in the European Union. We expect the Acting Supreme State Prosecutor Tatjana Begović to urgently ensure an effective investigation of police torture of Jovan Grujičić by assigning the case to another state prosecutor, who must act in accordance with European standards.
Miloš Vučinić, former head of the Security Department of the Criminal Police in the Podgorica Security Centre and the current head of the regional centre “South”, Srđan Korać, head of the Criminal Police Station for the Suppression of Violent Crimes and Domestic Violence, as well as inspectors Vukašin Leković, Dalibor Ljekočević, Bojan Vujačić, Nemanja Vujošević, Radoman Vujičić, Miodrag Jovović, Ivan Peruničić and Ljubisav Striković were all on the list of suspects in the criminal report that was submitted concerning the torture of Grujičić. According to the written documentation, on that day – 26 May 2020 – when Grujičić was tortured in the Security Centre of Podgorica, it was they who were in charge of handling him and his case.