Montenegrin civil activist and opposition parties on Thursday accused the police of breaching their powers during the arrest of an opposition mayor and councillors in the town of Budva.
On Thursday, the Council for Civic Control of the Police, an independent body tasked to oversee police forces, warned that some officers had exceeded their powers.
“Police officers used physical force to exceed their authority during the arrest of the Secretary for Investments of the Municipality of Budva, Mladen Mikijelj. They should have ceased use of physical force and concrete intervention as soon as Mikijelj ceased to resist,” the council said.
On Wednesday, police arrested the mayor of the resort of Budva, Marko Carevic, the chief of the local assembly, Krsto Radovic, and several others, after they refused to hand over power.
Heavily armed police surrounded the municipal building and arrested the town management, using force and tear gas to disperse protesters around the building.
Civil society organizations and opposition parties demanded the resignation of police chief Veselin Veljovic after media published a video of an officer kneeling on Mikijelj’s neck while he was lying on the ground, handcuffed. They also alleged that the police had behaved brutally on the orders of the government in Podgorica.
On Wednesday, the US ambassador, Judy Rising Reineke, called on all parties avoid violence or use of force. British ambassador Alison Kemp said human rights and respect for the law were the basis of democracy. “We cannot apply these rights and laws selectively. I would especially call for refraining from violence and the use of force,” Kemp wrote on Twitter.
The arrests came after weeks of tension in the wealthy tourist hot spot between the local authorities, represented by the main opposition parties at the national level, and the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, which has run Montenegro for almost three decades.
The ruling coalition that won the elections in Budva in 2016, led by the opposition Democratic Front and the Democrats, had refused to hand over power after one of its councillors switched sides to support the DPS, which is headed by Montenegro’s veteran leader, Milo Djukanovic. As a result of this move, the opposition-run local government lost the majority in the assembly.
On June 11, the new DPS-led majority dismissed Carevic and Radovic and elected a new mayor and chief of the local assembly.
Carevic accused them of forming a new majority through political corruption, and on June 12, Radovic refused to allow the new management to take power in the town.
Although Montenegro says it upholds human rights and the rule of law, police violence remains a common feature, even it is no longer seen as acceptable.
So far, the European Court for Human Rights has ruled on one police brutality case against Montenegro, while two other cases are pending before the court against Montenegro, both alleging police brutality during 2015 anti-government protests.
Source: Samir Kajošević, balkaninsight.com