Montenegro: overcoming wartime legacy and strengthening media freedoms remain priorities

Country visit report
Strasbourg 23/06/2014
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Montenegro: overcoming wartime legacy and strengthening media freedoms remain priorities

“Montenegro has an important role in regional efforts to establish the truth about serious human rights violations committed during the wars of the 1990s in the region of former Yugoslavia. However, impunity for wartime crimes and access to adequate reparations for all war victims remain issues that need to be effectively addressed by the authorities” said today Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, upon release of his report on his visit to Montenegro, carried out from 17 to 20 March 2014.

To this end, the Commissioner recommends developing programmes for systematic professional education and training in international criminal and humanitarian law for prosecutors and judges. At the same time, he urges the authorities to develop, in close consultation with victims, reparation initiatives that go beyond compensation and include victims’ rehabilitation and social inclusion if necessary. The protracted displacement of about 16 500 persons as a result of the wars of the 1990s remains an issue of serious concern. Despite some important positive measures taken to facilitate access to personal identity documents, a significant number of persons, mostly Roma from Kosovo*, still suffer from the lack of regularisation of their legal status. Deep concerns also persist with regard to the situation of about 2 000 displaced persons, mainly Roma, who still live in the Konik camps near Podgorica. “These camps are plagued by substandard living conditions and reinforce the segregation of their inhabitants from society. It is urgent to end these persons’ ghettoisation, by providing them with adequate accommodation and promoting their full inclusion in society”.

Concerning the approximately 4 000 stateless persons or persons at risk of statelessness, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to help them access civil registration and documentation, and to facilitate the registration of children born outside of hospitals.

Welcoming the recent improvement of the legislative framework against discrimination, the Commissioner recommends ensuring a strengthened role for the Ombudsman and paying closer attention to the human rights of Roma, in particular in terms of their access to quality education and employment. He also commends Montenegro for its measures to improve the human rights of LGBTI persons and urges continued efforts in combatting homophobia and transphobia. “The authorities have to effectively investigate all reported cases of violence against LGBTI persons and ensure accountability before the law. Systematic awareness-raising and educational activities in this field should also be promoted.”

Commending the strengthening of the domestic legislative and institutional framework protecting the human rights of persons with disabilities, Commissioner Muižnieks underscores that “it is now crucial to translate legislation into practice so as to improve the daily lives of persons with disabilities, including as concerns access to the built environment.” He encourages the authorities to step up their efforts to ensure that all children with disabilities are included in mainstream education. The Commissioner calls on Montenegro to move more resolutely towards deinstitutionalised care of persons with disabilities, notably by developing community and alternative solutions such as foster care, community services and individual living. As part of this process, the authorities should initiate a carefully planned and gradual closure of the Komanski Most Institution for Persons with Special Needs.

Lastly, as regards media freedoms, the Commissioner remains worried by the series of acts of violence against journalists which has affected journalists’ freedom of expression. “The authorities have to show zero tolerance to these phenomena, to effectively investigate all cases of threats and physical violence against journalists, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Moreover, recent inflammatory remarks against journalists expressed by certain leading politicians cannot be tolerated, as they have a chilling effect on the media. At the same time, all media actors in the country should initiate a deeper reflection on how to strengthen  ethical standards in journalism and overcome existing divisions in the media sector, including as regards its self-regulatory bodies”.

* Throughout this text, all references to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.