Montenegro 2019
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Montenegro 2019

Progress towards EU membership was impeded by high-level corruption and concerns about media freedom. Repeated civil society demonstrations, triggered by alleged electoral corruption, highlighted chronic poverty and declining human rights, and demanded the resignation of the President and senior prosecutors.

Lack of accountability

Impunity for war crimes persisted, with only one domestic prosecution. Although four war crimes cases remained under investigation, no proceedings were initiated by the Special Prosecutor’s Office. In June, Vlado Zmajević was convicted of war crimes for killing four ethnic Albanian civilians in Žegra/Zhegër in Kosovo in 1999 and sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment.

Freedom of expression

Montenegro dropped to 104 in the world press freedom index. Investigative journalist Jovo Martinović was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in January for involvement in drug trafficking, drawing international condemnation. He denied the allegations and argued that he was legitimately investigating the criminal group. His appeal was upheld in October; a retrial opened in December. In February, nine men were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the May 2018 shooting of journalist Olivera Lakić who had been investigating state links with organized crime.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)       

Reports of hate crimes increased, but the number of prosecutions remained low. In March, the NGO LGBT Forum Progress recorded 66 discriminatory online statements, including threats and hate speech, which were forwarded to the police. In July, the parliament rejected a bill legalizing same-sex life partnerships.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In February, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture highlighted the continued impunity of 54 members of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit suspected of ill-treating 21 people during a 2015 demonstration. Despite the Committees’ past recommendations, the Unit had not worn personal nametags or numbers, making it impossible for those responsible to be identified. 

Right to housing and forced evictions

The last 51 of 219 Kosovo Roma refugee families who had lived at Konik camp since 1999 were resettled into adequate housing in December 2018. However, housing remains precarious for an estimated 40% of Roma households, living in informal settlements, who will be unable to afford to legalize their property. In December, 28 families in Bijelo Polje at risk of forced eviction were still waiting for adequate housing.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Refugee and migrant arrivals increased; most were in transit. By 31 December, 7,975 refugees and migrants had registered their intention to claim asylum, but only 1,921 did so; five were granted asylum and one temporary protection.  Montenegrin police tried to stop people crossing into Bosnia-Herzegovina; others were regularly pushed back from there.