22 NGOs appeal to the State Prosecutor’s Office to drop the misdemeanour proceedings against historian Boban Batrićević

Today, 22 non-governmental organizations appealed to the acting State Supreme Prosecutor, Tatjana Begović, to review the decision of the State Prosecutor Snežana Šišević to initiate misdemeanour proceedings against Boban Batrićević, a historian and professor of the Faculty for Montenegrin Language and Literature (FCJK) and the author of the column “Mumble by methodology and Đaonikie” published on the Antena M portal. NGOs warn that this misdemeanour procedure reintroduces “verbal delict” to the Montenegrin practice and jeopardizes freedom of expression, which is inappropriate for a country that is a member of the Council of Europe and aspires to join the European Union. NGOs have requested the acting State Supreme Prosecutor to review the decision of prosecutor Šišević, taking into account international standards, and order the suspension of the misdemeanour proceedings.

In the proceeding against Batrićević, the first hearing before the Court for Misdemeanours in Podgorica was scheduled for 22 January 2024. The State Prosecutor’s Office accuses Batrićević of having violated Article 19 of the Law on Public Order and Peace with the column, which prescribes: “Anyone who, in a public place by speech, inscription, sign or in any other way offends another person based on national, racial or religious affiliation, ethnic origin or other personal characteristics, shall be fined for a misdemeanour in the amount of 250 EUR to 1,500 EUR or imprisonment for up to 60 days”. NGOs point out that Batrićević’s critical review of the controversial views of the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), Metropolitan Joanikije and Bishop Metodije of Budimlja-Nikšić is protected by freedom of expression. In their letter to the acting State Supreme Prosecutor, they reminded that the human right to freedom of expression protects the expression of strong value judgments, which also contain a dose of insult, exaggeration, and provocation, as long as they are grounded on facts. The European Court of Human Rights explained this in many of its judgments, including Šabanović v. Montenegro and Serbia (paragraph 36) and Koprivica v. Montenegro (paragraph 61) from 2011.

You can view the letter here.

Human Rights Action (HRA)
Spectra Association
Center for Democratic Transition (CDT)
Center for Civil Liberties (CEGAS)
Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM)
Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN CG)
Center for monitoring and research (CeMI)
Center for Training and Education of Montenegro
Center for the Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (CRNVO)
Center fot Women Rights (CWP)
Center for Women’s and Peace Education ANIMA
Montenegrin LGBTIQ association Queer Montenegro
Montenegrin PEN Center
Montenegrin women’s lobby
Montenegrin Philological Society
Association of Professional Journalists of Montenegro (DPNCG)
ERA – Alliance for equal rights of LGBTI persons in the Western Balkans and Turkey
Media center