Supreme State Prosecutor’s office to issue instructions to prosecutors regarding cases of causing national, race and religious hatred, divisions and intolerance

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) today sent the Acting Supreme State Prosecutor, Tatjana Begović, an Initiative for providing general instructions for the actions of prosecutors in cases of committing act of causing national, race and religious hatred, which are defined in Article 370 of the Criminal Code of Montenegro. The aim of that initiative is to institutionally influence prosecutors’ awareness regarding the dangers that this criminal offense carries, as well as to establish the practice of efficient, consistent and non-selective treatment in these cases.

As an example of inexplicably unequal treatment, the CCE pointed to the recent cases of Miloš Ostojić, now former president of the Audit Committee of Luka Bar, and Ognjen Femić, a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). Namely, in the case of Ostojić and his posts on social media, the reaction of the prosecution was quick and adequate, while in the case of priest Femić, due to the text “Unification or Ukrainianization” on the IN4S portal, it was quite the opposite.

The CCE is on the position that equal treatment and timeliness in actions in all cases can limit the growing hate speech in the public space. On the other hand, the different actions of the Prosecutor’s office neither contribute to strengthening the rule of law, nor to multiculturalism and the civic concept of the state of Montenegro.

Common to the above-mentioned cases, as well as some others, is that they were initiated only after public pressure. The media and non-governmental organizations that keep close eye on these phenomena must not be alone in this, and state institutions, especially the prosecutor’s office, must not react only after public pressure, selectively, but proactively and indiscriminately, which could further have a preventive character instead of the current climate suitable for the development of national and religious hatred.

CCE reminds of the worrying data from the research on multiculturalism, which was conducted with the support of the Fund for the Protection and Exercise of Minority Rights, that about 60% of the respondents believe that the majority of incidents that we have witnessed publicly in society in the last two years are dominantly motivated by religious and ethnic intolerance.

CCE expresses belief that Acting Supreme State Prosecutor should consider this issue as a priority and take measures and actions within the framework of its competences so that the Prosecutor’s office does not contribute to a dangerous climate of polarization in which unsanctioned hate speech becomes practically a daily occurrence through its selective action or professional indifference.

 Vasilije Radulović, Programme Associate