In the period from 01.01.2022. until 15.02.2023, four cases were formed in the Basic Court in Podgorica, for the criminal offense of abuse by police officers, according to the Article 166a of the Criminal Code of Montenegro.
On the International Day against Police Brutality, we remind you that, in comparison with the same period of the previous year, no effective system has been developed in the field of fight against police torture. Unfortunately, our citizens are still at risk of experiencing some form of torture by police officers, which must be worked on much more intensively at legal and institutional level.
In previous years, Constitutional Court of Montenegro and European Court of Human Rights spoke in their decisions about the ineffectiveness of investigations about cases of alleged police torture, such as those related to the cases of Baranin and Vukčević (2015). For these cases, violation of constitutional prohibition of torture was determined for the first time, due to ineffectively conducted investigation of police abuse. In addition to ineffectiveness of investigations, the existence of police solidarity is also a problem, as was the case in the last event of torture at Sukobin – Murićani border crossing. In this case, none of the police officers reacted to the behavior of a colleague who visibly attacked Albanian citizens, and they even later went to the prosecutor’s office as a sign of support for their fellow police officer. Finally, extortion of statements from citizens is still present, followed also by a mild penalty policy, which is often accompanied by suspended sentences, which does not contribute to the reduction of such forms of abuse.
We spoke about the said problems before the members of the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) at the regular session in Geneva in 2022. We pointed out the actions of the border police towards persons who enter Montenegro using irregular entry points, about the cases of police solidarity, the actions of police officers during the enthronement of the religious leader in Cetinje, but also about the conditions in the detention rooms in police stations.
Hereby we remind about the cases of police torture in which there was no effective investigation, and which were heavily covered by domestic and international media. These include the case of murder of the boxing representative Saša Pejanović (2011), beating of the president of the boxing organization Milorad Martinović (2015), beating of the former councilor in Podgorica Nikola Bajčetić (2015), proceedings against medical technician in the special hospital in Dobrota (2016), proceedings against the police officer for violent behavior according to V.L. in Podgorica (2017), cases of Baranin and Vukčević and others…
The frequency and similarities in the mentioned cases indicate that the state has not created an effective judicial practice as regards the fight against police torture, ill-treatment and unconscionable use of coercive means. This is why it is necessary to work on identification of all responsible persons and face them with individual responsibility, in order for the state to send a message that police torture will not be tolerated. In order for the investigation to be considered effective, it should be conducted by persons de jure and de facto independent of those whose actions they are investigating, and it must be initiated immediately upon the discovery of the competent authorities, and conducted thoroughly and without delay. However, in practice, meeting the criteria of independence and impartiality is often a problem when investigations are conducted against police officers, bearing in mind that prosecutors must cooperate with the police in a given case.
That is why it is necessary to strengthen the penalty policy for cases of torture, and these crimes must be among those crimes that do not expire, which is one of the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture from 2014 regarding the amendment of the Criminal Code of Montenegro. Amendments to the Criminal Code are also necessary in the area of preventing the return of police officers to workplaces that involve contact with citizens after a final verdict for torture. Amendments to the Law on Free Legal Aid are also needed in order to stipulate that this type of aid must also be available to persons who have been abused by police officers.
Civic Alliance is currently actively monitoring cases of torture within the project “No impunity for violations and breach of human rights in Montenegro”, financed by the European Delegation in Montenegro through the IPA and Civil Society Facility (CSF) program, which is being implemented for 20 months.
To this end, we have an open SOS line for reporting cases of torture, violations of human rights and violations of the Code of Police Ethics. We invite all citizens who have suffered torture by police officers to contact us by phone at 020/513-687 in order to help them in proceedings before the competent institutions.