Non-governmental organisations evladine organizacije Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Juventas, SOS hotline for women and children victims of violence, Queer Montenegro, Centre for monitoring and research (CEMI) and Center for Development of NGOs (CDNGOs) regarding the President Filip Vujanovic Call for previous consultations with non-governmental organisations focused on protection of human rights and freedoms, regarding the opinion on candidate Mr Šućko Baković (current Ombudsman) as Ombudsman of Montenegro expressed its position at the held consultations as well as in the letter to the president Vujanovic.
The letter is given in integral form:
PRESIDENT OF MONTENEGRO
Podgorica, 11 November 2015
Your Excellency VUJANOVIĆ
We are addressing You regarding the Call for previous consultations with non-governmental organisations focused on protection of human rights and freedoms, regarding the opinion on candidate Mr Šućko Baković (current Ombudsman) as Ombudsman of Montenegro.
Pursuant to the abovementioned, we emphasize the following:
1) It is unclear why the Ministry of Human Rights and Minority Rights is included in these consultations, thus violating the provisions of Law on Ombudsman and Constitution of Montenegro, which prescribe that Ombudsman is an independent and autonomous body, and legal process is regulated in a manner in which the consultations are conducted directly between the interested parties and President without the interference of Government. (1)
2) Furthermore, by presenting one candidate, namely the current Ombudsman, the process of consultations is being limited and comes down to simple “voting” for and against that proposal, or in other words – re-election, undermining the spirit of Law which prescribes wide array of consultations that should result with more proposals among which You, as an authorised proposer, would select the best one and suggest him/her to the Parliament. We believe that there are still those who have at least earned to be equally considered as candidates for this important function, which is why we express our regrets due to the manner in which this process is being rendered senseless.
3) Concerning the proposed candidate Mr Šućko Baković, for his new term of office as Ombudsman, it is concerning that there is such an insisting on this candidate in the year when European Commission expressed series of substantial and serious assessments on the performance and capacities of Ombudsman in its Montenegro 2015 Report, and this is directly questioning the political will of state of Montenegro to implement the obligations on its path to EU and its will to acknowledge the recommendations of European Commission.
4) Particularly, the Montenegro 2015 Report by European Commission (2) , among other, states the following:
o ,,…Human rights institutions remain weak. The Ombudsman and Ministry of Human Rights and Minorities need to be reinforced, following the reform of the anti-dicsrimination framework. Staff knowledge on international and European human rights law and standards, and their ability to supervise the spending of funds, remains insufficient…“.
o ,,…Some posts in the Ombudsman’s department still remain vacant, specifially those dealing with human rights and discrimination. The capacity of this institution to effectively handel complaints remains limited: its internal organisation has to improve to cope with its broad mandate. An internal review mechanism for complaints would help improve the quality of decisions. Overall, key institutions in charge of human rights policy, including the relevant Ministry, are understaffed and existing staff require further training, particularly on international human rights standards…“.
o Concerning National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), “…Inspections by the Ombudsman appear to be improving conditions for detainees, notably regarding health. The NPM department remains understaffed and its capacities need to be strenghtened by improving the quaity of viists and priority setting. Concerns remain over the prevention and punishment of torture and ill-treatment, both in police facilities and prisons…”;
o In the part on non-discrimination it is stated that “The capacity of the Ombudsman’s Office to effectively handle complaints remains limited and the follow-up on reported cases of discimination has not improved. LGBTI civil society organisations have continued to raise concerns over the Ombudsman’s lack of results, in particular over its handling of petitions and complaints concerning discrimination …”
o As regards equality between women and men it is assessed that “…The law also shifts the referral mechanism on gender equality from the Human Rights Ministry to the Ombudsman who will consenquently need increased administrative capacity to carry out its enhanced role, including through hiring staff experienced in gender issues …”
o In part on LGBT rights it is noted that “Cooperation between the Ombudsman and LGBTI organisations requires improvement, as does cooperation between relevant institutions.”
5) The EC Report was never this strict, and rightly so, given the existing capacities and performance of the institution of Ombudsman, that has been functional for more than ten years, and, unfortunately, still finds itself at the initial stage of development, which is the direct responsibility of heads of that institution, primarily of Ombudsman. Hence, insisting on this award in the form of a new term of office to the existing Ombudsman instead of holding him accountable for such assessments in the mildest form said sends a negative message to citizens of Montenegro and European Commission.
6) Finally, there is no doubt that numerous identified problems and omissions, which consequently result in the inefficiency of this institution, are the direct consequence of poor governing capabilities of current Ombudsman and the lack of will to upgrade the status of this institution on the level of relevant actor in the protection and promotion of human rights in Montenegro, which was previously indicated on numerous occasions by relevant NGOs in Montenegro. If this continues to be ignored, the process of consultations with the NGO will not be the only thing rendered senseless, it will directly contribute to further deterioration of institution of Ombudsman, which enjoys great importance in democratic societies.
In order to further improve the work of the institution of Ombudsman it is necessary to take into consideration the positive experiences in the functioning of similar bodies from region, and wider. This certainly implies the dialogue on alternatives, which simultaneously implies the consideration of numerous other candidates and the selection of best one. Precisely the right one would meet the part of expectations of stakeholders and which certainly relates also to regular public appearances, more precise critics on the work of public institutions and officials, unambiguous and open space for acting and daily use of that space, especially in media and through the comprehensive cooperation with NGO sector.
Hoping that you will take into consideration these arguments,
Daliborka ULJAREVIĆ, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Ivana VUJOVIĆ, President of Managing board, NGO Juventas
Biljana ZEKOVIĆ, Executive Director, SOS hotline for women and children victims of violence
Danijel KALEZIĆ, President of Managing board, Queer Montenegro
Zlatko VUJOVIĆ, President of Managing board, NGO Centre for monitoring and research (CEMI)
Ana NOVAKOVIĆ, Executive Director, Center for Development of NGOs (CDNGOs)
(1) Article 7, Law on Ombudsman