As stated in the media, the prosecutor’s office indicted two members of the communal police on charges filed by a citizen in connection with ill-treatment that occurred in 2018, which indicates that it took four years for the prosecutor’s office to file the said indictment. In accordance with international standards, this case of investigating allegations was not processed in a timely manner, bearing in mind that these types of cases must be considered a priority, especially since the accused are officials who have broad powers when it comes to the use of means of coercion and exerting influence on witnesses and the victims themselves.
We will list several international regulations that support the stated claim. The practice of the European Court of Human Rights indicates that the investigation in cases of ill-treatment must be urgent and without unnecessary delays. In addition, Article 12 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Montenegro is a signatory, stipulates that the competent authorities shall proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed. Then, Article 1 of the American Convention on Human Rights specifies that the states parties are required to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into any allegation of torture. The Istanbul Protocol stipulates that “States are required under international law to investigate reported incidents of torture promptly and impartially.”
All this indicates that the prosecutor’s office had to react more effectively, but also that it is necessary to revise the Law on Communal Police regarding its powers on the use of force and means of coercion. In fact, it was to be expected that such situations could occur when the law gave significant powers to the communal police, including the possibility to use physical force, hand spray, batons, and means of coercion.
At the time of the adoption of the Law in 2014, the Civic Alliance (CA) pointed to certain omissions in the law itself, specifically Art. 23, which stipulates that a person caught breaching community order, which constitutes a misdemeanor, can be deprived of liberty by a communal police officer in accordance with the law regulating misdemeanors procedure. CA also pointed to the need for establishing control mechanisms in case of exceeding the authority and violating the rights of citizens, as well as the need to adopt forms for drafting reports on the use of coercive means by communal police officers.
CA warnings and reactions proved justified, since adequate amendments to these legal solutions would have prevented the occurrence of such cases. It is therefore necessary to review the conditions for the application of this law once again and to immediately start creating systemic conditions for its application.
We call on the authorities to draw a lesson from this case and remove all the shortcomings in terms of legislation, which we have pointed to before, and the state prosecutor’s office to consistently apply the practice of the European Court of Human Rights and obligations prescribed by international documents.