Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses satisfaction with the fact that the European Commission has acknowledged the arguments presented by the CCE, when it comes to problems in the implementation of the Law on Misdemeanors, including it in the annual Progress Report on Montenegro.
The European Commission in its Progress Report for 2014 states: “Competence for conducting misdemeanor proceedings should be transferred to courts without further delay. It is a matter of serious concern that, under the current system, prison sentences can be imposed by misdemeanor bodies appointed by the executive.”
This is the basis on which CCE has filed, back in the 2012, to the Constitutional Court of Montenegro an Initiative to review the constitutionality of certain provisions of this Law (the complete text of the Initiative is available in CCE publication “Three years of violations of the Constitution: who is responsible?”). Unfortunately, although this problem has been recognized by the European Commission, the Constitutional Court up this date has not yet decided, despite numerous CCE urgings and public appeals.
We should remind that the existing legal solution is to the detriment of the citizens of Montenegro, which for three years were judged by the judge chosen by the executive authorities, i.e. Government of Montenegro. This is direct violation of the Constitution of Montenegro, highest legal act. Thus, in the period from the beginning of implementation the new Law on Misdemeanors (09/01/2011) to 31/12/2013, according to the Register of fines, which generates a final court decision, 439 persons were sentenced to imprisonment.
These prison sentences are not brought in front of the tribunal established by law – but in front of the executive authority, which is contrary to the principle of separation of powers. The fact that the executive, and not a judicial authority (meaning without a court), sent to jail 439 persons jeopardizing one of the basic human rights – the right to freedom, because these persons have not had an independent and impartial trial. For the fact that 439 persons in Montenegro were sent in an unconstitutional way to jail nobody has responded, and the consequences are irreversible.
It is concerning that the Constitutional Court remains silent for two years, besides our efforts to draw attention to the existing anomalies that stand directly on the Montenegrin path of EU integration. By non-interference into its own work, the Constitutional Court shall also bear the direct responsibility of this problem, which was confirmed in the 2014 Progress Report.
CCE accesses that we cannot talk about the rule of law without radical changes, among other things, violations of the system set up by this Law and reviewing the unconstitutional verdicts. The prolongation of transitional period for three years is unacceptable and this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible and rectify all existing solutions which are bad in order to protect the basic human rights of the citizens of Montenegro.
Snežana Kaluđerović, programme coordinator