On the occasion of International Day against Police Brutality, Civic Alliance warns that Montenegro has not yet developed an effective system for combating police torture.
Police torture and ill-treatment in Montenegro have been a major problem for years and a question to which our institutions have not yet provided a response. In many cases, investigations did not reveal the perpetrators of police torture and there was no prosecution of responsible officials who committed or ordered torture and ill-treatment. Investigations conducted by the competent prosecutor’s office are ineffective.
Unfortunately, we have the same situation today, when we celebrate this day. According to its mandate, the Police are obliged to protect the rights of citizens and, as defined by law to “ensure the protection of security and property of citizens and exercise of freedoms and rights of citizens.” However, it there are often cases of police officers have hidden, and who are willing to continue to do so, information about colleagues who abused citizens. This is the main explanation from the authorities as regards the question why cases of torture and ill-treatment are not processed. Hence, these processes are often slow and without a clear determination of responsibility and punishment. Hereby we remind that for the case from 28/07/2021 in Cetinje, Ombudsman stated that there was no timely reaction in the form of the typical notifying Basic State Prosecutor’s Office Cetinje about the event in question, which should have been done on the same day when the complainant made convincing allegations of abuse in the Minutes. This is supported by the fact that information about the event in question was sent to the Department for Internal Control of Police Work on the next day, only after a video about the incident that disturbed the public was published.
On 21/06/2017, the Constitutional Court has for the first time confirmed a violation of the constitutional prohibition of torture due to ineffective investigation of police ill-treatment in the Baranin and Vukčević case. Despite that, the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica did not execute the decisions of the Constitutional Court and did not conduct an investigation of police violence against these persons at the level of the minimum European standard. The main reason why the investigation was ineffective is precisely because the identity of perpetrators of torture has not been established due to the solidarity among the officers. We remind that on the same day when Baranin and Vukčević were beaten, there were several similar incidents in which citizens suffered abuse and torture because police officers broke up protests; in all these cases there was no effective investigation.
The European Court of Human Rights pointed to this occurrence, which determined that the competent state authorities, primarily the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police, did not conduct an efficient and effective investigation in order to discover the perpetrators of abuse and punish them adequately. In the above-mentioned case of Baranin and Vukčević, it was determined that the investigation was not prompt, thorough and independent, which significantly reduced its ability to identify the responsible persons.
In cases when police officers are identified or prosecuted, sanctions are often milder than those prescribed by law, often making the whole process meaningless. It is a precedent in court practice that we also have cases of signing a plea agreement with the accused for several criminal acts of torture that are confirmed by video material, and which envisages only a suspended sentence.
There should be also mentioned the latest events in Cetinje from September 2021 and the actions of the security sector during the enthronement of Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral Joanikije. Representatives of Civic Alliance were in the field on this occasion to monitor respect for human rights. On this occasion, we registered examples of excessive use of force by Police and excessive use of tear gas, which we discovered in communication with people who were interviewed at the Cetinje police station, but also during conversations with citizens in the town square. So far, there has been no effective investigation in these cases either.
All this indicates that the state is not fighting effectively against police torture, abuse and illegal use of coercive means. The current practice is unacceptable and does not lead to the prevention of police officers to commit such and similar crimes. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct efficient, effective and independent investigations that will result in the identification of all responsible persons and confront them with individual responsibility, in order to send the message that police torture will not be tolerated and that no one is above the law.