Interview for FOS media about police torture and practice of the Prosecution

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Below you can read the interview with the Public Policy Researcher at the Institute Alternative, Ms. Dina Bajramspahic, on police torture and practice of the Prosecution:

1.        Why do we once again encounter impunity of the special forces in the case of Mijo Martinović, several years after impunity for beating of the late Aleksandar Pejanović, also by the special forces?

Actually, these two cases are closely related in the symbolic plane. It was precisely the case of beating of Aleksandar Pejanovic that has shown to the Ministry of Interior and the Police that, despite the tremendous pressure of domestic and international public, they can “get away with it”, go unpunished, and their acts can fall into oblivion among myriad of other problems and affairs.

Every unpunished misdeed encourages occurrence of other ones and sends a message to the police and other state and local officials that the state will protect them even in the cases of unlawful conduct, given they defend ‘state’ interests with no questions posed. In our case, due to the fact that there was no change of power in decades, national and state interests have been identified with the interests of ruling political parties.

Impunity of police officers has multiple consequences, among which the biggest one is citizens’ distrust and their fear of the Police, fear that they can be treated illegally without any consequences for the Police.

Beating of Mijo Martinović did not happen spontaneously but very consciously as an integral part of the intimidation and rampage of the Special Anti-terrorist Unit (SAJ) on the streets of Police lasting hours, with the intent to convey the message that the state is more powerful than the demonstrators. This “strategy” is extremely undemocratic and unlawful.

2. Do prosecutors really have no mechanisms to “force” the police to co-operate, or they take the path of least resistance?

In this particular case, the Prosecution absolutely took the path of least resistance, pursuing measures and actions only formally and with no real interest, in order to create an illusion that they are doing something, and in fact it tacitly accepted the message that this issue is “of a higher state interest”.

The best proof of this claim is that we learned from the decision of the Constitutional Court that the state prosecutor who acted in this case was examining the victims, witnesses and 55 SAJ officers and did not pose a single question to anyone. In other words, he only listened to their statements without any desire to investigate the details of the case or the will to face them with the fact that there is a clip which clearly shows more than twenty SAJ officials acting brutally.

In addition, the prosecutor was obliged to prosecute the SAJ officers for obstruction of the investigation and for the criminal offense of falsifying the official document since they gave a false statement before the prosecutor and signed the Report on the use of means of coercion containing falsehoods. So, there are mechanisms, and I firmly believe that if SAJ officers had been prosecuted for these other crimes, they would not have shown that much solidarity with the colleagues who used excessive force.

Nevertheless, in order to reduce the space for prosecutors from the Basic and Higher Prosecutor’s Offices for excuses about how the Police does not listen to them, they should be given by law the possibility to initiate disciplinary proceedings against any police officer who does not fulfill their warrants. Only special prosecutors have this possibility for now.

3. Despite announcements of the Supreme State Prosecutor Stanković that everyone will be held accountable for their (in) activity, there are still no disciplinary proceedings initiated against prosecutors. Is it really all that perfect in prosecutors’ quarters or there is still lack of will for the so-called cleansing in their own ranks?

For now, all promises of greater accountability in the Prosecution remain but empty words. In the first six months of this year, in only one disciplinary proceeding a prosecutor was held accountable for failing to submit assets and income data in accordance with the regulations on the prevention of conflicts of interest. A disciplinary sanction imposed on the state prosecutor was a fine in the amount of 20% of his earnings during 3 months.

There is no doubt that in the past period we had a number of controversial cases that required the immediate initiation of relevant proceedings against state prosecutors. However, since we from civil society are often criticized for being subjective and not being versed in law, we now have several cases in which the competent courts as well have noted that some prosecutors do not work properly. Namely, the Constitutional Court noted an ineffective investigation in the cases of Milorad Martinović, Branimir Vukčević and Momčilo Baranin, and the Basic Court in Podgorica ineffective investigation in the case of Tufik Softić. In these cases accountability of acting prosecutors is clear and unequivocal and I expect an urgent initiation of the procedures for determining accountability. Previous experience give me no reason to be optimistic, but I really wonder how the Prosecutorial Council will remain silent to very well-grounded justifications of court decisions.

4. How do you assess the acting of the Prosecutorial Council’s in this and many other cases? Do members really control the work of prosecutors or are they just an embellishment of yet another judiciary reform?

The manner in which the Prosecutorial Council attempted to cover up violation of the law by its member, by concealing that this agenda item was discussed and by concealing its decision, as disclosed exclusively by your media, also undermines already weak trust in their work. Interpretation by which members of the Prosecutorial Council are obliged to observe only one Montenegrin law is particularly problematic.

Our greatest objections to the Prosecutorial Council relate to insufficient rigor in recruiting, promotion and evaluating state prosecutors. This results in a state where we still do not have a merit-system in the Prosecutor’s Office, that is, accurate assessment of the professional performance of prosecutors, in both qualitative and quantitative manner that would allow for well-grounded justifications of decisions on the selection of candidates. This is not the case now, and many prosecutors are discouraged by the fact that prosecutors who are doing easier cases and “refusals” have better statistics. I think that making Prosecutorial Council’s criteria stricter is the most important issue for the reform of the Prosecution and as long as we do not choose the best and most capable for such responsible positions, no other reform will have any effect.

Entire FOS story may be read here.

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