"Montenegro is still going through a transition period and needs to step up its efforts to provide full redress to all the victims of serious human rights violations that occurred during the wars in the 1990s, to eliminate discrimination, and to enhance media freedom" said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of his four-day visit to the country.
The Commissioner stressed that "there is a need to effectively prosecute war-time crimes, sanction the perpetrators, irrespective of their position in the command hierarchy, and ensure that all victims receive adequate and effective reparation". He is deeply concerned by the protracted displacement of more than 16 000 persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo*. About 2 000 of them are displaced Roma from Kosovo who live in substandard conditions in the Konik camp near Podgorica, which the Commissioner visited. "A place like this should not exist in today's Europe" reiterated the Commissioner in his discussions with the authorities and urged them to close the camp. Commissioner Muižnieks encouraged the authorities to enhance their efforts aimed at facilitating access to personal identity documents for stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness, facilitating their registration and defining the procedure of subsequent registration in birth registries of children born outside health facilities in Montenegro.
The Commissioner is concerned that media freedom has been under threat in Montenegro as illustrated by a number of violent attacks on journalists, including a murder. He welcomed the establishment in 2013 of a commission tasked with monitoring the work of the competent authorities in charge of investigating the cases of violence against journalists. "This is a step forward. It is of utmost importance that these crimes be effectively investigated and the perpetrators be brought to justice. While the government should protect freedom of the media and avoid measures that would undermine freedom of expression, all media actors need to engage in a deeper discussion on how to promote ethical journalism and overcome existing divisions in the media sector".
Commissioner Muižnieks welcomed the ongoing legislative initiatives aimed at improving the framework for action against discrimination, strengthening the role of the Ombudsman in this field, and fighting hate speech. "I hope that these measures will ameliorate the protection of the human rights of vulnerable groups, most notably Roma and persons with disabilities. I welcome the measures taken in recent years to improve access for Roma children to education, but there is obviously more that needs to be done in this area as well as in the field of employment. Also, I noted with regret that persons with disabilities in Montenegro still face a number of very serious barriers in their daily lives. Obstacles to physical access to public institutions, institutionalisation of persons with mental disabilities and the lack of support services for community living are among the issues that the authorities need to effectively address".
Lastly, the Commissioner encouraged the government to continue its praiseworthy anti-discrimination policies and awareness raising activities in order to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTI persons. During his visit in Podgorica, Commissioner Muižnieks visited the shelter for LGBTI youth and the LGBTI social centre, funded through the Council of Europe LGBTI project. "This is an example showing that, with the support of the international community, Montenegro has the potential to act as a role model in human rights protection in this region".
* All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.