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Non-governmental organizations Civic Alliance (CA), Action for Human Rights (HRA), Center for Women’s Rights (CŽP), and Roma youth organization “Walk with us – Phiren Amenca” participated today in the preparatory meeting for the Universal Periodic Review of the state of human rights for Montenegro (Universal Periodic Review – UPR). At the meeting, they presented to delegations of the UN member states information on the state of (dis)respect for human rights in Montenegro in the areas they cover and advocated that their recommendations be included among the recommendations that Montenegro should fulfill in the coming period. Each speaker had a strictly limited time of 5 minutes at their disposal to make observations about the development of the situation regarding the respect for human rights in relation to 2018 – the previous time when Montenegro was on the agenda of this UN mechanism.

Legal adviser in CA, Ivana Đođić, spoke about asylum seekers, persons with temporary and international protection and persons at risk of statelessness in Montenegro. She recommended Montenegro to work on improving the capacity of the Directorate for Asylum, to provide access to rights for persons who are in the process of determining the status of stateless persons, that the competent institutions should make a decision to determine the status of stateless persons within the deadline provided by law, and to provide access and harmonize the legislative framework for persons with approved temporary protection in Montenegro.

Executive Director of HRA, Tea Gorjanc Prelević, spoke about the need to strengthen the independence and responsibility of the judiciary, as a prerequisite for the protection of all human rights. She recommended consideration of the vetting of all judges and state prosecutors, implementation of the recommendations of UN treaty bodies and the Council of Europe (GRECO and the Venice Commission), proactive prosecution of war crimes, effective investigations of reports of torture and attacks on journalists, and mandatory suspension of all civil servants accused of torture.

Executive Director of CŽP, Maja Raičević, spoke about gender equality, access to justice, representation of women in politics and gender-based discrimination in the field of work, as well as about the poverty of women and the related poverty of children. She recommended that Montenegro improve the provisions against women discrimination and that the state to enable effective implementation of the Law on Temporary Child Support and quick payments from the Alimony Fund.

Executive Director of Phiren Amenca, Elvis Beriša, spoke about the necessity of adopting the Act on Organizing School Transport for Roma children as a prerequisite for the implementation of the program of desegregation of Roma children, enabling the right to learn in the Roma mother tongue and introducing affirmative action when enrolling in faculties for the Roma community. He highlighted years of political discrimination against the Roma and suggested amending the electoral legislation in order to implement the general principle of non-discrimination in the political participation of Roma. He recommended that Montenegro should take concrete steps to facilitate the approach to resolving the legal status of Roma with a focus on the required registration of children immediately after birth, regardless of their parents’ documentation or residence status.

The preparatory meeting is held one month before the session of the UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council, the body that implements the UPR, which will prepare a report on the state of human rights with recommendations for improvement. On May 8, the state delegation of Montenegro will have the opportunity to present progress compared to the previous UPR report from 2018 and answer the questions of other countries, which will then give recommendations to Montenegro. The session on May 8 will be broadcast live via the Internet, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

This is the fourth cycle of UPR, and the cycle lasts from four to five years. On average, each country receives about 200 recommendations for improving the state of human rights in relation to various topics: economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights, as well as the principles of international humanitarian law.

UPR is a unique process initiated by the United Nations in order to improve the human rights situation in UN member states and to resolve the issue of human rights violations in those countries. This process is led by the states, in cooperation with the Human Rights Council, which gives each state the opportunity to state what activities they have undertaken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and fulfill their obligations to respect human rights. The UPR process is designed to provide equal treatment for each state – each is subject to review and each can make recommendations. Currently, there is no other universal mechanism of this kind.

We would like to thank the UN office in Montenegro for its technical support, especially Ms. Anjet Lanting, who helped the NGO representatives prepare for this meeting. Civic Alliance expresses its special gratitude to the UNHCR office in Montenegro, with whose financial support it has been implementing the project of providing legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and persons at risk of statelessness in Montenegro for four years, which the representative of the GA spoke about at the session held in Geneva.