Press release: Parliament to decide on sending the police on peacekeeping missions

Institute alternative has addressed the members of the Security and Defense Committee with proposal of amendments to the Law on Deployment of the Armed Forces of Montenegro Units to the International Forces (…)* that would include the Parliament in deciding on deploying the police and other state organs in peacekeeping missions. Amendments to this law on the agenda of today’s session of the Committee, but they do not treat the control the deployment of the Police, which is becoming increasingly common form of contributions to peacekeeping missions.

Unlike the units of the Army of Montenegro, when deciding on deploying the representatives of the police, civil protection and public administration bodies to peacekeeping missions, the Government is not obliged to obtain the approval of the Parliament.

The Government alone decides on the participation of members of civil defense, police and state administration employees in peacekeeping missions and other activities abroad, while the Parliament is completely excluded from this process.

Security and Defense Committee was not consulted when making these decisions, nor it was, in the previous period, particularly informed about the activities of the representative of the Police Administration in peacekeeping missions, except for scarce and basic information in the annual report of the Ministry of Interior

This is particularly worrying because the Law on Parliamentary Oversight of Security and Defense explicitly states the duty of the Committee to deliberate these reports, and therefore the competent institutions to regularly submit them.

We believe that the approval of the Parliament is necessary and when deciding on deployment of members of civilians, police and employees of the state administration in missions abroad.

The solution currently in force dates from 2008, but it was made outdated and incomplete by adopting the Law on Parliamentary Oversight, and represents one of the obstacles to the further development of parliamentary oversight in the area of security and defense.

* Full name of the law: Law On Deployment of the Armed Forces Of Montenegro Units to the International Forces And Participation Of Members Of Civil Defence, Police And Public Administration Employees In The International Missions And Other Activities Abroad

Institute Alternative Team

Meeting of the Supervisory Board of the network “Our Administration“

Meeting of the Supervisory Board of the NGO network “Our Administration“ of Institute Alternative, Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro, Bonum, Novi horizont and Natura was held today.

The network was established within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!“, that is focused on the monitoring of the public administration reform by civil society organisations, financed by the European Union (EU) within the programme of support to the development of local civil society organisations (Civil Society Facility).

With the desire to strengthen the dialogue with key decision-makers regarding the process, Institute Alternative initiated together with its partners the establishment of the Supervisory Board of the network “Our Administration“ and called for the representatives of the Ministry of Interior and the Union of Municipalities to become its members.

The meeting was attended by the heads of NGOs that are members of the networks, Milka Tadić from the Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro, Mikan Medenica from NGO Natura, Nazif Velić from NGO Novi horizont and Ruždija Strujić from NGO Bonum, as well as Saša Šćekić, assistant to the Secretary General of the Union of Municipalities and Danijela Nedeljković-Vukčević, head of the Directorate for Public Administration at the Ministry of Interior.

“Our Administration“ will, parallelly with monitoring of the implementation of the Strategy that the Government is to adopt today, work on the strengthening of Montenegrin civil society, including the media, with the goal of achieving their greater participation in the process.

The areas that will particularly be in the focus of our attention during the implementation of the public administration reform are the issues of servants’ responsibility, which is currently not handled in a systemic manner, as well as the so-far neglected issue of the local level service provision.

Upon presenting the already conducted activities within the project, the participants of the meeting have provided an array of suggestions based on their own experience in the public administration that will be of help for the network in its further research questions and activities’ formulation.

Cooperation between the NGOs and Parliament to be regulated by Rules of Procedure

Center for Development of NGOs (CRNVO), Centre for Civic Education (CCE) and Institute Alternative (IA) will not sign the proposed agreement on cooperation with the Parliament of Montenegro, which came as an initiative from the president of Parliament, Darko Pajović.

Namely, CRNVO, CCE and IA assess that the agreement, as legally non-binding act, nowadays does not represent the basis for further cooperation between the two sectors. Such general agreement would have made sense several years ago, when it was necessary to demonstrate good will for the cooperation between Parliament and NGOs, as well as the opening of legislative body in relation to civic society. Neither side could have been particularly satisfied with the outcomes of that agreement since the effects of its implementation remained limited, but it did present the first step towards the establishment of institutional relation between the Parliament and NGOs.

As previous several years saw some progress in the creation of legal framework for the cooperation of NGOs and Government, NGOs and local self-governments, we believe that Parliament of Montenegro is prepared for a substantial institutional breakthrough in the same direction. Hence, agreement is today, within this framework, an outdated model which is why we suggested a systematic solution of cooperation between the Parliament and NGOs through the intervention on Rules of procedure of Parliament of Montenegro.

Unfortunately, laws are hardly applied in Montenegro. Logically, we have reasons to fear that a general agreement, without any binding norm as the one which is being suggested, would be yet another one of those «display» documents of Parliament of Montenegro for various reports and stakeholders, and that it would not yield any essential change in the cooperation with NGO sector.

CRNVO, CCE and IA have previously experienced the consequences of legally unfounded decisions of working bodies of Parliament, especially in the processes of election and appointment, as well as the ignorance of MPs and of the President to rectify those decisions. This led us all the more to believe that good will for the cooperation with NGO sector, if there is any at all, must be translated in more specific forms than the agreement on cooperation.

CRNVO, CCE and IA have proposals in the direction of amendments of Rules of procedure of Parliament of Montenegro. Should this suggestion to formalise the cooperation end up being adopted, we will be prepared to contribute through the proposal of amendments of Rule of procedure and to improve the quality of relations between the Parliament and NGO sector on such basis

Ana Novaković, Center for Development of NGOs (CRNVO)
Stevo Muk, Institute Alternative (IA)
Daliborka Uljarević, Centre for Civic Education (CGO)

Challenges of Policing the Protests in Montenegro

Two challenges are recognized by analysing protest in Montenegro in late 2015: the excessive use of force and the lack of transparency by the police.

Political and civic protests, that occurred last October in the organization of opposition coalition Democratic Front, lasted almost one month, with the aim to boycott the Parliament and demand resignation of the longstanding Prime Minister, and the Government.

Peaceful protest escalated into violent one, after couple of individuals has thrown flares on the police forces guarding the Parliament. While the police acted in accordance with the procedure at the beginning, protecting themselves and the building, it did not stop using force excessively through the night.

The outcome of protests has shown us just how irresponsible and repressive police force can be.

The Excessive Use of Force

The police have the responsibility to maintain public order and peace during assemblies, taking care of their own integrity in the process. This means that whether peaceful assembly becomes violent, causing the police to act, the force must be used within legal boundaries and respect for human rights.

This was not the case in October 2015 when tear gas and rubber bullets dispersed the protest in front of the Parliament. The problem emerged when the police did not act to provide safe retrieve of those who remained peaceful participants of the assembly, causing harm to many, who suffered from consequences of tear gas.

The protest ended in numerous citizens being hurt due to excessive use of force by the police, including tear gas, rubber bullets, and nightsticks, and prosecution of only three individuals: Commander and two officers of Special Antiterrorist Unit (SAU). While these two officers voluntarily confessed the attack on one individual on the night of the protest, the Commander was not capable of identifying the other 28 of the SAU who attacked the same person, Mr. Martinović.

A flagrant example of excessive use of force by the police during the protests is the beating of citizen Martinović on October 24th. Members of the SAU, dragged him out of the car and beat him bestially (see video).

Shortly after the protest, the Commander of the SAU, Radosav Lješković, witnessed before the Basic Prosecutor’s Office, stating that he cannot identify who were the members of the unit who have beaten the citizen since they wore helmets and masks. Eight members of the SAU also witnessed but only two of them remained in custody.

Thus, Lješković did not know which members of SAU, unit that he is in charge of, brutally injured Martinović. But the lack of responsibility does not stop here; neither his superiors, Slavko Stojanović, Police Administration Director nor Raško Konjević, then Minister of Interior have been held responsible for this act.

Lack of integrity and accountability of three senior officials – Lješković, Stojanović, and Konjević, is dangerous, having in mind the repressive nature of the police apparatus. What is additionally worrying is the obvious intention of police officers to cover up unethical treatment of their colleagues. It sends a message that using excessive use of force is the modus operandi of Montenegrin police, an institution that already does not enjoy great public confidence.

Seven months after protests took place, it is still unknown who were the members of SAU, due to alleged inability to recognize them because of the silence of senior police officers. And who knows how long would the shameful silence last if the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms had not filed a criminal charge against the Commander of SAU, followed by Basic Prosecutor’s Office raising the bill of indictment against him.

While various institutions and civil society organizations condemned this behaviour by the police, Ministry of Interior and Police Administration stood by their action justifying it till the end, mostly by “forgetting” to share all the relevant data regarding the use of force on the night of 24th October.

The Lack of Transparency

The Council for Civic Control of the Police, an external police oversight body in Montenegro, reacted in regard to protests by stating that “culture of silence” still dominates police organization.

There are two problems. Firstly, the police did not mention the use of rubber bullets in the official communication with the Council, during first reporting on the undertaken actions of Commission for determining the circumstances surrounding the use of force, back on 4th November 2015. Secondly, the Commission delivered the report to the Council’s, which then published it on its website. Not long after, Konjević has initiated the process before the Agency for Protection of Personal Data to establish whether there were any breaches of the Law on Personal Data Protection.

Although Agency did not found any breaches, this act has deeper implications on the independence of the external oversight institutions, since it was perceived as a pressure on the Council.

Not only that Ministry is legally obliged to publish and regularly update the list of civil servants on their own accord, but also it was especially necessary for those very moments when Lješković refused to cooperate with Prosecution. If we strive to build the Police which will be the service of the citizens, not a single police officer should try to hide his or her professional identity.

The independence of the external oversight institutions is even more endangered when the Ministry of Interior provided the complete and detailed data on the use of force to the Council of Europe, as international community actor. The Ministry of Interior justified the use of additional coercive means, tear gas and rubber bullets, as the means necessary to avoid direct physical contact and confrontation with protesters.

Policing the Protests in the Future

Police action must be guided by the human rights principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination. Individual acts of police officers have to be prosecuted, while the top officials in the Ministry and in the Police have to condemn excessive use of force.

Police should prescribe precise ways and condition of using these coercive means, in order to control the use of force in the future.

In order to prevent similar happening in future, it is important that all police sectors respect the provision of the Law on Internal Affairs regarding the official identification of all police officers. Otherwise, members of the unit using special uniforms, masks and helmets should wear different recognizable marks known to their superiors, such as number or symbols that would enable citizens to identify officers.

In order to stop further use and abuse of coercive means, and therefore increase the level of integrity within police forces, the police officers need to be trained in order to increase their capacities to deal with stressful situations as well as regular psychological assessments.

Aleksandra VAVIĆ and Ivana BOGOJEVIĆ
Public Policy Researchers

Originally published at the POINTPULSE website.

Public Administration Reform: Violation of civil servants’ rights – Lack of security and legal protection

Public Administration Reform: Violation of civil servants’ rights – The case of Mirsad Đurđević – Lack of security and legal protection

Mirsad Đurđević worked as a senior adviser in the Interior Ministry, for seven years. Most of this time he spent in the regional unit Pljevlja, while also helping out in Tivat and Bar. However, he never received his decision for a permanent job. In early 2015, he lost his job. That year, in February, he was handed his dismissal notice. A few months later, his position has been fulfilled by another civil servant, on the basis of internal competition.

“I was discriminated against on political and religious grounds. My labor rights were often violated“, said Mirsad Đurđević in an interview with the Centre for Investigative Reporting Montenegro (CIN-CG). He is now unemployed.

He claims that he was the only officer of the Regional Unit Pljevlja without a permanent working status, after so many years. He announced that he will seek the protection of his rights before the competent institutions. He added that he was replaced by a person who does not meet the required qualifications, by the decision of mayor Miomir Borović.

Ministry of Interior responded to CIN-CG that Đurđević had the same treatment as other officials, and that his remarks were not “legally and formally justified”.

Đurđević, however, points out that he was discriminated in the course of his work as well.

“I was not assigned in accordance with my qualifications in the Rulebook on systematisation and organization”, he says.

The former official said that the problems continued when he was sent to assist in regional offices in Bar and Tivat. “From June 2013 to June 2014 I was delegated to help out due to lack of personnel in Bar. I never had an official decision regarding this, although I have requested it”, said Đurđević.

Đurđević also claims he did not received compensation for six months, which was due to him since he was reallocated. “I never received the Decision that stated that I am entitled to a monthly fee of 350 euros and 50 euros per month for use of the private car for official purposes, due to reallocation. Also, the fee that was regulated by the Decision was never paid”, he explained.

CIN-CG has received clarification from the Ministry of Interior that Đurđević did not receive a formal decision on transfer due to reasons of urgency, emphasising that he voluntarily agreed to work there for less working hours. “Therefore, the Bureau for Legal and Personnel Affairs of the Ministry of Interior did not receive a proposal for the adoption of decision”, according to MUP. The Ministry of Interior claims its not true that while working in Tivata, Đurđevi was entitled to compensation for the use of private vehicle for official purposes.

Basic court in Pljevlja ruled in favor of Đurđevićev, but later this decision was challenged in the High Court on the grounds that the Labour Law cannot apply to civil servants.

NGO Institute Alternative (IA) has characterized Đurđević’s case as “a specific violation of civil servants’ rights“ in the initiative they sent to the new Minister of Interior, Goran Danilović, this month.

IA, which deals with public administration reform, analysed the amendments of the Civil Service Law. They warned that even the proposed legislative amendments allow the continuation of old practice by which the senior officials have the discretion to appoint candidates who have not been selected as the best ranking during the testing process.

They also warn that the proposed regulations do not prevent political impact on employees in state administration. Categorisation of official positions has not been done precisely. In practice this means that there is no clear line between political and professional positions in state administration, which has been a problem until now.

Ministry of Interior has the biggest number of civil servants, also being the most problematic when it comes to the rights of employees. IA points out the problem of internal ads through which the Ministry of Interior employed a large number of employees for a definite period of time. „According to our findings, there are civil servants who worked for more than 15 years on certain positions, but never receiving a decision on permanent job, but when their positions were advertised, they practically lost their jobs,” stressed IA.

Đurđević addressed both the former Minister of Interior Raško Konjević, as well as the current, Danilović, several times regarding violation of his rights, but never received a reply.

Temporarily employed particularly vulnerable

Milena Milošević, IA’s public policy researcher; says that Đurđević’s case illustrates how the negligence and irresponsibility of the state administration can affect the citizens. She points out that temporarily employed persons are particularly vulnerable in the public administration. “We warned the authorities that having a large number of temporarily employed civil servants is contrary to law, which is also noted by the State Audit Institution“, she explained.

Milošević says that the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where Mirsad was employed, takes the lead in the number of those that are temporarily employed.

She has said that the Government preempted the outcome of the selection process for the jobs that were filled out for a temporary period, by publishing its “controversial information” from 2013, enabling Đurđević’s colleagues to sign up. “Although these colleagues were unfairly privileged compared to other interested applicants, Mirsad was discriminated against. Therefore, this is an example of the way in which bad practices in our administration multiply, and later are „swept under the rug“, she said.

Ministry of Interior, however, claims that all candidates had equal status in the recruitment process: „Vacancies were publicly advertised and the process implemented by the Human Resources Management Administration. None were promised nor provided with resolution of employment status, because the ads were open for any candidate who meets the requirements, and each candidate had equal status and employment opportunities“, MUP responded to the questions of CIN CG.

Milošević commented and Đurđevićev’s transfers from one regional unit to another. Even if they issued a decision on such an assignment, she says, this practice would be questionable because, only permanently employed can be shifted from unit to unit, and have the right to return to their previous work place.

Author: Ana Komatina

Article originally published at the website of the Centre of Investigative Journalism

This article was prepared with the EU-funded project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!”, implemented by Institute Alternative, Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro, Bonum, Novi horizont and Natura. The contents of this article is the sole responsibility of its authors and in no way reflects the stances of the the EU.

Workshop: Centre of Excellence on Policymaking Systems in the Western Balkans

Institute Alternative organised a two-day workshop in Budva within the project “Centre of Excellence on Policymaking Systems in the Western Balkans“ implemented in cooperation with partners from TEN (Think for Europe Network) with the financial support of the Regional Research Promotion Programme (RRPP).

RRPP Workshop

The workshop was held on July 12th and 13th in Budva, within the project “Centre of Excellence on Policymaking Systems in the Western Balkans“ in cooperation with the partners from the European Policy Center (Belgrade), the European Policy Institute (EPI), the Group for Legal and Political Studies (Priština), the Foreign Policy Initiative BH (Sarajevo) and the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (Tirana).

The goal of this project is to raise awareness on the importance of public policy research on a regional level by creating the Centre of Excellence. We discussed the concept of the future Centre of Excellence, the main goals we want to achieve as a unique network of think tanks in the region, as well as the joint cooperation that goes beyond the national level of public policy making.