Full public trial is necessary

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) compliments the decision of the president of Supreme court Vesna Medenica, regarding the introduction of audio recording of more significant trials that are of special interest to public. However, this is only the first step on the path of achieving the realisation of constitutional principle according to which trials are public.

CCE is continuously proposing several necessary measures in order to achieve this approach. Firstly, every trial in addition to record needs to have a stenographic record. Secondly, for each judicial proceeding, which is of special importance for Montenegrin public, there has to be a possibility of direct audio recording, which in terms of technicalities, would not be a request that implies bigger funds and effort of judicial authorities. Finally, we firmly believe that courts need to secure all necessary conditions in order to make room for cameras, so that the significant trials that are of special interest to public could be recorded.

CCE previously pointed out on the need of increase of transparency courts’ work, by highlighting positive practices from region. Concerning the area of media reporting and relationship between judicial bodies and public, within its publication “Judiciary and court of public”, CCE proposed the creation and improvement of existing court services for public relations that would proactively inform the public on current cases and their outcomes. Also, we emphasised the need for the improvement of physical conditions in courtrooms and similar premises where journalists are situated, in order for them to have adequate conditions when attending trials. For years we have been urging judicial bodies to enable recording of cases in courtrooms with cameras and voice recorders, especially of those that are of public interest, as well as to establish better coordination of court instances, prosecution and police so that the media would not receive inconsistent statements, and thus further bewilder the public.

Finally, CCE estimated that it is essential to secure direct broadcasting of trials for which there is justified and unambiguous interest of public in a procedural and technical manner, and those are precisely the cases that would be initiated based on the indictments of special prosecution and processed in specialised judicial departments.

Currently in Montenegro, not a single courtroom meets the conditions that could enable adequate direct broadcasting of trials and it is necessary to fix this problem as soon as possible. Hence, the priority should be the renovation of courts in majority of court centres. Majority of resources for these needs could be allocated from effective and efficient implementation of institute of confiscating property acquired based on perpetrating serious crimes that involve corruption and organised crime, which is also stated in the recommendation of CCE, within the “Judiciary and court of public” publication.

Novelty in form of audio recordings of significant trials that are of special interest to public, which has been announced during the conference whereby the Report on work of Supreme court for 2014 was presented, is a positive step forward and it is nice that some of the recommendations that we have proposed, as well as other colleagues from NGO sector did, are being implemented by judicial authorities in terms of improving the capacities and transparency, even though there was significant counteraction when they were first proposed.

Publication “Judiciary and court of public”, which contains some of these recommendations that were submitted in 2013 to Supreme court of Montenegro, Ministry of Justice and Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, was created within project “Monitoring cases of corruption in Montenegro”, supported by the Ministry of European affairs and international cooperation of Kingdom of Netherlands, through the Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands.

Tamara Milaš, programme associate