FIRST ANNUAL REPORT ON MONITORING COURT PROCEEDINGS IN MONTENEGRO
Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) in cooperation with Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) and the Network for the Affirmation of European Integration Processes (MAEIP), with the support of the European Union and the Ministry of Public Administration, is implementing the project entitled “Judicial Reform: Upgrading CSO’s capacities to contribute to the integrity of judiciary” (hereinafter: the Project).
The Project will aim to contribute to a greater degree of rule of law in Montenegro, which will be reflected in the evaluation and enhancement of the professionalism, accountability, efficiency and integrity of the judiciary through the establishment of closer cooperation and more efficient mechanisms between civil society organizations and judicial institutions. The goal of this project is reflected in the improvement of the capacities of local organizations and greater involvement of the civil society in the reform of the judicial system in Montenegro and negotiations related to Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights).
One of the most significant project activities is focused on the monitoring of court proceedings in the courts of Montenegro. Trial monitoring activities are conducted in accordance with the OSCE’s methodology for court proceeding monitoring, developed by CeMI and the OSCE Mission to Montenegro, as part of the trial monitoring program implemented in the period between 2007-2014.
During the reporting period, which generally coincides with the first year of project implementation, CeMI and CEDEM observers monitored 150 criminal cases and 263 main hearings in five basic courts (Basic Court in Podgorica, Basic Court in Nikšić, Basic Court in Danilovgrad, Basic Court in Bar and Basic Court in Cetinje) and the High Court in Podgorica. The monitoring of court proceedings is conducted in accordance with the principles defined in the Memorandum of Cooperation signed by the Supreme Court of Montenegro, CeMI and CEDEM, at the very beginning of the project implementation.
This report is a preliminary set of results within the first year of the monitoring of court proceedings (February 2018 – December 2018). The main objective of the report was to evaluate the state of court practice in Montenegro, concerning the application of national legislation, as well as the international standards of fair trail, based on direct observations made by observers during trial monitoring. Also, the conclusions and preliminary recommendations, that form the integral part of the report, suggest to the relevant institutions implementation of appropriate measures based on the identified shortcomings, aimed at achieving fair and efficient judicial system in Montenegro.
The report consists of an introductory section that outlines the methodology of trial monitoring and provides general guidance on the purpose and scope of the trial monitoring program. The central part of the report covers the results of court proceedings monitoring with preliminary conclusions and recommendations on how to improve the practice of adherence to the standards of fair trial by all participants in court proceedings in Montenegro. It should be noted that in relation to reporting on monitored criminal proceedings, the fact that the investigation phase and the pre-trial procedure were not the subject of observation – except in situations where certain issues related to these stages of the proceedings were mentioned during the main trial – represents a limiting factor. It should also be emphasised that CeMI and CEDEM observers did not focus on the merits of the cases observed, but only on whether the proceedings were conducted in accordance with international fair trial standards and relevant national legislation. In order to protect the right to privacy and respect for the independence of the court, the Report does not specify the names of the judges and parties to the proceedings. This must be emphasized in particular because the report contains the information on cases in which the procedure has not been completed.
The preliminary observations from the court proceedings in this report, represent the results of the work under the first phase of the project activities. The Final Report will be prepared and published in 2020 and will include an analysis of the follow-up trials for 2018 and 2019. Finally, in the introductory part of the report, we must thank all the representatives of the judiciary, prosecutors, attorneys and other colleagues who enabled CeMI and CEDEM observers to carry out the first phase of trial monitoring project activities in accordance with the planned dynamics and methodology. We expect that quality cooperation with all participants in court proceedings will continue in the next phase of project implementation.