Human Rights in Europe - Review of 2019 - Montenegro [EUR 01/2098/2020]


Past murders and attacks on journalists and media workers were not resolved. The Constitutional Court found that investigations into alleged torture and ill-treatment failed to meet international standards. The funding of NGOs was threatened and human rights defenders were subjected to smear campaigns by media supportive of the government.


Montenegro joined NATO in June. Serious concerns continued about criminal proceedings against 14 men, including Russian intelligence officers and opposition leaders, who were indicted in May for “violent overthrow of the government” and “preventing NATO accession” on election day in October 2016.

Lack of accountability

The State Prosecutor’s Office reportedly reviewed seven war crimes cases, in which all but four defendants had been acquitted, to determine whether grounds existed to reopen proceedings. In September, the government reported it would pay the victims EUR1.35 million in compensation.

Proceedings opened in September against Vlado Zmajević, who was arrested in Montenegro in 2016 and indicted – originally by Serbia – for war crimes in Kosovo.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In June and again in July, the Constitutional Court found that the State Prosecutor’s Office had failed to conduct effective investigations into the alleged torture and ill-treatment during demonstrations in November 2015 of Branimir Vukčević and Momčilo Baranin, and Milorad Martinović, respectively.

Proceedings against prison officers indicted in 2016 for abusing prisoners continued to be delayed by their lawyers, with no verdict by December.

Freedom of expression

In June, the government proposed to amend the Law on Gatherings to prohibit protests in front of Parliament. NGOs feared that amended legislation on sources of NGO income would potentially reduce their funding, and allow the government to decide whether new NGOs could be registered.


Civil society members of a commission charged with monitoring investigations into violence against journalists continued to be denied security clearance to classified documents.

Investigative journalist Jovo Martinović, detained in 2015, was released in February after international appeals, but proceedings – alleging his membership of a drug-trafficking gang that he had been investigating – continued at the end of the year.

In October, the Constitutional Court awarded journalist Tufik Softić EUR7,000 in compensation for the ineffective investigation into the 2007 attack on his life, continued threats and his fear of another attempt on his life.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In April, activists proposed a model law on gender identity. In August, members of the NGO LGBT Forum Progress were attacked; one was hospitalized.

Economic, social and cultural rights

In January, the government cut by 25% a lifetime benefit, provided under the 2016 Law on Social and Child Protection, to mothers with three or more children who gave up employment. Protests followed, including a 14-day hungerstrike in March. In June, the government abolished the benefit completely. Although the law was potentially discriminatory, beneficiaries feared that, with insufficient support to enable them to return to work, the lost benefit would have a drastic impact on their family income.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Almost 1,000 Roma and Egyptian refugees who fled Kosovo in 1999 remained at Konik camp outside the capital, Podgorica, awaiting resettlement into adequate EU-funded apartments, 120 of which were completed in November.

Around 800 Roma and Egyptians remained at risk of statelessness, their applications for regular status pending. Some 379 had only three years’ temporary residence. In May, the government withdrew a procedure to determine statelessness from a draft Law on Foreigners.

Four men convicted in May of grave offences against general safety, for overloading a boat in 1999, resulting in the deaths of 35 Roma refugees, were sentenced in December to between six and eight years' imprisonment.