14 March 2019 - On March 13, The U.S. Department of State submitted the annual Report on Human Rights Practices in Montenegro for 2018 – the Human Rights Report that covers internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.
According to the Report, there were no reports that the Government of Montenegro or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, but there were reports of beatings, with some based on LGBTI identity, in prisons and detention centres across the country. The government prosecuted some police officers and correctional officers accused of overstepping their authority, but there were delays in the court proceedings.
In 2018, there were no significant reports regarding prison or detention centre conditions that raised human rights concerns. The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but some NGOs, international organizations, and legal experts asserted that political pressure and corruption influenced prosecutors and judges.
The Human Rights Report states that there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees, that the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary in civil matters, and in 2018, citizens had access to courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for violations of constitutionally recognized human rights.
According to The U.S. Department of State, Montenegrin constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. Still, attacks directed at journalists continued to be a severe problem in 2018. Independent and pro-opposition media complained about unfair treatment and economic pressure from government ministries and agencies. Some media outlets continued to demonstrate a willingness to criticize the government. However, a lack of training and unprofessional journalistic behaviour, combined with low salaries and political pressure, contributed at times to biased coverage.
When it comes to Internet Freedom, the Report states that the Montenegrin Government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no official reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. In 2018, the Government mostly respected the freedom of peaceful assembly, but on several occasions, the Ministry of Interior denied permits to workers and LGBTI groups wishing to assemble to express their grievances.
In regards to the Protection of Refugees, in 2018, the Government allowed individuals to apply for asylum within a few days of entering the country. However, those caught illegally crossing the border who did not apply for asylum were placed into a detention centre for criminal processing and deported. As stated within the Report, of 2,346 asylum applications, 2,079 interviews were scheduled, and 44 were held. Observers noted that attention and readiness to address the increased mixed flow of migrants remained focused on border control aspects, as evidenced by the sharp rise in the number of migrants pushed back from the Montenegrin border during the year.
In terms of Elections and Political Participation, Montenegro held presidential elections on April 15. In its final report on June 28, the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission noted that, although the candidate nominated by the governing party held an institutional advantage, fundamental freedoms were respected. Candidates campaigned freely and the media provided the contestants with a platform to present their views.
When it comes to Section 4 of the Report, Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government, Montenegrin law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but in 2018, the Government did not implement the law effectively, and corruption remained a problem. Some government officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The public viewed corruption as endemic in the government and elsewhere in the public sector at both local and national levels. This was particularly the case in the areas of health, higher education, the judiciary, customs, political parties, police, urban planning, the construction industry, and employment.
The Report also determined that the actual sentences for the acts of discrimination, societal abuses, and trafficking in persons were generally lenient. The country aligned its legislation with the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and domestic violence, but domestic violence remained a persistent and common problem, especially within the Romani communities.
In 2018, data shows that the Government generally enforced the law that provides for the rights of workers, including members of the armed forces, to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes.