Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
Third session meeting highlights
3 December 2008 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Montenegro this morning, during which 30 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on the Bahamas following the review of the country on Monday, 1 December.
Presenting the national report of Montenegro was MIRAS RADOVIC, Minister of Justice, who noted that after gaining the independence in the Referendum on 21 May 2006, Montenegro started undertaking comprehensive reforms of its legal system. Huge efforts have made in creating a Constitution which will include a whole range of human rights and freedoms contained in the basic documents of international organizations that Montenegro acceded to at the very beginning of its existence as a sovereign and independent State. The Montenegrin Constitution classified human rights and freedoms into three groups: personal rights and freedoms, political rights and freedoms, and economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms. Also seen as highly significant were the provisions in the Constitution governing special minority rights – rights guaranteeing full protection of national, cultural, linguistic and religious identity to minority populations. Further development of the legal system of Montenegro had been marked by numerous activities aimed at strengthening the legislative and institutional framework as well as by the efforts of State bodies and other institutions to establish inventive practices in the implementation of the newly adopted legislation. The Minister recalled that twenty days ago the Montenegrin delegation participated for the first time in the session of the Committee against Torture, which was also the first time the State had to defend a treaty body report. In line with the recommendation issued by the Committee, Montenegro established an inter-ministerial working group with the task of devising an action plan for the prevention of torture.
Among the measures undertaken in the area of human rights, the State had recently adopted a Strategy for the Reform of the Judiciary for the period 2007-2012 and the Judicial Council elected more than 30 judges, he noted. With the view to improving the efficiency of courts and avoiding significant delays in trials, the Law on the Protection of the Rights to Trial within a Reasonable Time was adopted. The new Criminal Procedure Code was also prepared and the Government was due to adopt the proposal by the end of December 2008. Moreover, judicial authorities have devised a precise programme for dealing with the backlog of cases, which had enjoyed good results thus far. A multi-layered approach was used in combating corruption and organized crime. The Parliament of Montenegro passed the Resolution on Combating Corruption and Organized Crime and expressed its willingness to engage all its capacities in the preparation of the national anti-corruption legislation. At the end of May this year, the Government adopted the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Programme for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime for the period 2008-2009. Additionally, training for judges, prosecutors and civil servants in the filed of prevention and combating corruption and organized crime had been developed in cooperation with international organizations, the UN Development Programme and the UN Democracy Fund. Among other measures taken, in November this year, the Government adopted the Draft Law on Foreign Nationals which led to the first time that Montenegro independently regulated the entrance, movement and residence of foreign nationals.
The war and instability in the region for almost two decades put Montenegro in the position to share the burden and consequences of these events with its neighbours, the Minister stated. Tens of thousands of displaced persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo have found shelter and security in Montenegro. It was recalled that in the late 1990s Montenegro hosted 130,000 IDPs from the territory of the former Yugoslavia, which made up some 25% of its population. After gaining its independence and sovereignty, Montenegro adopted a decision allowing IDPs to temporarily keep their status and rights and established the Bureau for the Care of Refugees with the task of providing care to these individuals. Montenegro had made contributions to preserving harmony among ethnic, confessional, and cultural entities in the country. The Minister recalled that Montenegro was the only State in the territory of former Yugoslavia that succeeded in avoiding war and ethnic conflicts in its territory.
In response to question submitted in advance on the issue of Roma in Montenegro, the Minister noted that the Government approved the project "Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015" and in January 2005 adopted an action plan for the implementation of this project. The goal of Montenegro was to break the vicious circle of poverty and exclusion of Roma from social life. The Government also adopted in November 2007 the Strategy for the Improvement of Status of the Roma Population in Montenegro 2008-2012.
During the three-hour interactive discussion delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the State’s response to a visit by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights in June 2008; efforts made in combating human trafficking; the adoption of the law on gender equality; efforts to protect minorities, including the adoption of the Law on Minority Rights and Freedoms; the adoption of the Constitution in 2007; the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman; the State’s cooperation with international mechanisms and its extended standing invitation to Special Procedures; efforts to strengthen the judiciary; steps to improve the situation of refugees; the construction of centres for asylum seekers; and Montenegro’s accession to the International Criminal Court.
Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and observers participating in the interactive discussion related to progress attained thus far on the national action plan on Roma; the budget allocated for the plan of action on the Decade for the Integration of the Roma people 2005-2015; the timetable for the adoption for the bill on combating discrimination; the status of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the legal status of IDPs and the policies and measures providing for their social benefits, and the technical assistance required in this regard; and steps taken to stamp out racial discrimination and segregation of minorities, in general.
Other questions covered the steps adopted to combat impunity for law enforcement officials; efforts undertaken in monitoring the role of the police; the level of independence of the judiciary; programmes to combat corruption in Montenegro and efforts made in that regard; the provision of human rights training for police, judges and judiciary staff; and measures to address prison overcrowding. Specifically, one delegation asked about the status of the case involving arrest warrants issued by the Dubrovnik Court to Montenegrin citizens because of their involvement with crimes against civilians linked to the events on the Morinj and Kumbor camps.
Additionally questions were raised pertaining to the specific measures planned to cope with the recent cases of harassment and attempted murder against journalists and human rights activists; challenges facing in implementing and specific programmes to combat human trafficking; specific actions/programmes undertaken to provide assistance exclusively for the child victims of trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation; the status of the draft law on domestic violence; the existence of safe-houses for victims of domestic violence and the level and extent of support they receive from the Government; efforts to address issue of sexual harassment in the workplace; and plans to ratify the European Social Charter.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: To maintain the level of efforts made in improving the rights of the Roma; to give priority to implementing the 2007 Strategy for Improving the Position of the Roma Population; to develop reliable statistics on the Roma, Ashkalis and Egyptian minorities in Montenegro; to carry out a census to determine the number of Roma, conducted with support form the UN; to adopt a strategy to ameliorate the living conditions of the Roma population, in particular, amending legislation to ensure access to basic social services, condemn discrimination and to register undocumented Roma refugees; to promote awareness about the Roma population in order to combat discrimination; to ensure a definition of minorities in all laws; to effectively protect the rights of national minorities through relevant legislation; and to ensure access to education of children belonging to national minorities.
Other recommendations were: To promote and protect religious freedom, including religious community and property rights; to continue work on the discrimination bill and ensure its speedy implementation; to mention sexual orientation as a protected category against discrimination in the existing laws on Labour and Employment, as well as in the legislation on hate speech and hate crimes; to take measures to effectively combat domestic violence and to adopt its draft law on domestic violence; to adhere to the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee as regards combating domestic violence; to adopt all measures to ensure equality between men and women under all circumstances; to take steps towards eliminating stereotypes and raising awareness of society of gender equality and human rights of women; and to take additional measures to combat human trafficking, especially of women and children.
Several delegations called on the State under review to address politically motivated attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, to investigate such acts and to bring those responsible to justice. Others called on the State to adopt all measures to ensure journalists had the freedom to practice their profession in line with international standards; and to review legislation and policies to safeguard the respect of freedom of expression and to decriminalize libel and slander.
Additionally, delegations called on Montenegro to enhance its efforts to combat corruption in order to uphold the independence of the judiciary; to conclude all decisions for setting up an effective appointment system for the judiciary; to continue to work implementing the Judicial Reform Action Plan; to introduce specific education programmes and sensitivity training for police, judges and judicial officials aimed at protecting the human rights of NGOs, minorities and persons of sexual orientation; to take further comprehensive measures to address the issue of corruption, in particular in the police force; and to establish and independent monitoring mechanism to enhance the independence of the judiciary.
Another group of recommendations included: To take measures to ensure the rights of IDPs in Montenegro: to continue cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia; to continue efforts to improve the environment; to submit its reports to relevant treaty bodies in due time; to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; to ratify the Convention on Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; and that the international community provide to the Government of Montenegro the necessary technical assistance and financial support for it to be able to implement its strategy concerning the rights of refugees.
Working Group Members taking the floor during the interactive discussion were the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Chile, the Netherlands, Italy, Ukraine, Canada, Slovenia, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Japan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina and China.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Luxembourg, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Turkey, Poland, Czech Republic, Ireland, Croatia, Spain and Norway.
The 17-person delegation of Montenegro consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights Protection, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Public Administration, the Office of the State Prosecutor, the Bureau for Care of Refugees, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Welfare, the Department of Planning in the Police Directorate, the Office of Gender Equality, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Media, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Montenegro to the UN Office at Geneva.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Montenegro are the Russian Federation, China and Brazil.
In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Montenegro can be found here.
Adoption of report on the Bahamas: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Bahamas are Djibouti, Malaysia and the Netherlands. Introducing the report on behalf of the troika ADNIN ANIZAN SITI HAJAR (Malaysia) said the draft report faithfully reflected the facts of the Working Group proceedings. Representing the State under review, MICHAEL BARNETT, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Bahamas, reaffirmed the commitment of the Bahamas to uphold the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The challenges of illegal migration and drug trafficking presented problems including a backlog in cases in court and overcrowded prisons; nevertheless the Government was committed to overcoming these challenges and improving the situation of human rights in the country. Certain recommendations in the report were acceptable to the report, whereas others were not.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Montenegro on Friday, 5 December.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the United Arab Emirates after which it is scheduled to adopt the report on Burundi. In the afternoon, the Working Group will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Israel.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp