The Commissioner for Human Rights has completed a five-day high-level official visit to Montenegro, the organisation's most recent member State.
"Since its independence, Montenegro has invested considerable efforts to upgrade its legislative and institutional framework", the Commissioner said, while emphasizing the crucial need for the effective translation of these standards into practice.
With a mandate to assess the general human rights situation in Council of Europe member States, the Commissioner prioritised freedom of the media, the functioning of the judiciary and the unresolved situation of refugees in the country. Other areas highlighted in the Commissioner's talks with the country's top-officials included the situation of national minorities, in particular the Roma population, detention and imprisonment, police abuse and effective complaints mechanisms, rights of persons with disabilities and national human rights mechanisms including the Ombudsman.
"Montenegro became a refuge for people fleeing from Kosovo", the Commissioner said. "However, a number of them have no regularised status. I encourage the government to tackle this urgent problem with priority."
Besides the capital city, the Commissioner's delegation visited a series of institutions covering the whole country. The assessment included visits to mental health institutions, a shelter for women victims of domestic violence, police stations, pre-trial detention centres and the country's main prison as well as the refugee community in Berane. A special visit to Konik provided the Commissioner with first hand information on the concerns of both the resident and refugee Roma population residing there.
The Commissioner held detailed discussions with the President, the Prime Minister and the Ministers of justice, interior, human and minority rights as well as foreign affairs. Further talks were held with the Speaker of the Parliament, the parliamentary committee on human rights and other parliamentarians. Further talks included the Ombudsman, the Supreme Court President, the Prosecutor General and the National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. The Commissioners delegation held a roundtable meeting with civil society representatives.
Before concluding the visit, the Commissioner shared his impressions with the Prime Minister, and also discussed ways to increase civil society engagement in strategy and policy development.