Montenegro 2020
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Montenegro 2020

The government's response to COVID-19 violated rights to freedom of movement, peaceful assembly, non-discrimination and privacy. Impunity for war crimes, torture and other ill-treatment, and attacks on journalists persisted.

Background

In August, the opposition coalition narrowly won parliamentary elections, ending 29 years of rule by the Democratic Party of Socialists under Milo Dukanović as Prime Minister or President. The period was characterized by corruption, human rights violations, media repression and impunity for war crimes.

Montenegro was the only European country where, as part of the COVID-19 control measures, the names of individuals required to self-isolate were published.

Freedom of assembly

Members of the Serbian Orthodox Church protested against 2019 legislation they feared enabled the state to seize church property. In May, police in Nikšić arrested a bishop and seven priests for demonstrating under COVID-19-related prohibitions on gatherings; their supporters were dispersed with stun grenades and tear gas. Orthodox demonstrators in other towns were also dispersed with tear gas. In June, police beat protesters during an opposition party demonstration in Budva.

In June, NGOs lodged a constitutional appeal against the prohibition of open-air gatherings.

Impunity

Crimes under international law, perpetrated in the 1990s, were neither investigated nor prosecuted.

The European Court of Human Rights considered Montenegro's failure to provide justice to seven relatives of Bosniak refugees transferred in 1992 by Montenegrin police to Bosnian Serb forces and subsequently murdered.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The State Prosecutor failed to effectively investigate allegations that police used torture, including electric shocks, in May/June to extract “confessions” from two suspects and a witness in two bombing cases. In December, the Ombudsperson found that police had ill-treated the witness. One suspect was acquitted, the court suspecting that his statement was extorted.

Freedom of expression

Impunity continued for historic attacks on journalists, including investigative journalist Olivera Lakić, shot in 2018. In December, NGO Human Rights Action urged the State Prosecutor to provide protection to Olivera Lakić, after a plan to assassinate her was revealed.

In January, proceedings were initiated against three journalists, detained for between 14-28 hours for “causing panic and disorder”; two were prosecuted. Private individuals were similarly detained, four of them for posting “false news” about COVID-19 on social media; three were indicted.

The Appeals Courts quashed the convictions of two other individuals fined under public order legislation for criticizing officials online.

Discrimination

In July, Parliament adopted legislation recognizing same-sex civil partnerships, although registered partners were not allowed to adopt or foster children.

In April, an exceptional three-week quarantine monitored by the police was imposed on 1,200 Roma former refugees living in apartment blocks in Konik, after one case of COVID-19 was discovered.

Violence against women and girls

In April, women's NGOs established a coalition to support women experiencing domestic violence after court cases increased and calls to the Centre for Women’s Rights rose by 20%.

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