Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in the Case-Law of ECHR

This guidebook serves to better understand the European standard of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and built on the long-standing practice of the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

It is a minimum standard, which means that there is nothing standing in the way of states being able to afford people in their jurisdiction a standard that is even higher than that which is guaranteed by the Convention and presented in this guidebook.

The European Court of Human Rights has issued hundreds of decisions and rulings in which it had considered whether states had violated the right to freedom of assembly. We are not going to mention all of them in this document. Instead, we will try to provide a good selection that reflects the most important things the Court had to say on this topic to date.

The guidebook also offers a colorful catalog of events and people who, for various reasons, have invested energy in expressing themselves in public, connecting with others, and attempting to change something together in the countries in which they live. The Court considered, inter alia, petitions of druids concerning Stonehenge, those of Greenpeace boat activists against whalers, farmers who blocked highways, female protesters who were beaten on Women’s Day, illegal immigrants who participated in the protest held in a church in Paris, as well as those of numerous opposition leaders who stood before police cordons. The cases they submitted to Strasbourg speak volumes about the state of democracy in their countries. Based on the decisions of the Court in these cases, we can become better acquainted with the European democratic values and accordingly assess the performance of the authorities in Montenegro.

The guidebook was created as part of the project “Voice Your Rights! – Expanding Space for Free Assemblies” implemented by non-governmental organizations Institute Alternative (IA) and Human Rights Action (HRA) with the support of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro.

Infographic: Women in public administration

In Montenegro, women are slightly more numerous than men, and they make up 50.5% of the population according the latest research. Also, now more than ever, women are highly educated and more often they achieve bachelor, specialist or master’s degree of educational level. However, it is not so common for a woman in Montenegro to hold a high-paid managerial position. Instead, positions of power and status are traditionally held by men. Although more numerous in our public administration, women do not hold decision-making positions, and the higher we go on the hierarchical ladder, both on national and local level, the fewer women there are.

Check out our new infographic to find out why total sum and overall percentages do not reveal the true nature of the position of women in Montenegro’s public administration:


Djukanovic’s Decision on the Elections Date is Unconstitutional

If the elections are held on 30 August, when the President scheduled them, Montenegro could have “two Parliaments” for the period of 36 days.

The Decision of the President of Montenegro to hold elections for MPs on 30 August is unconstitutional.

With a complete interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Constitution and Law on Election of Councillors and Members of Parliament, it is indisputable that without reducing the mandate of the current convocation of the Parliament, the elections can not be held on 30 August.

If that really happens, Montenegro will have “two Parliaments”, that is two convocation of the Parliament in 36-day period (from 1 October to 6 November).

By the Constitution of Montenegro, the mandate of an MP lasts for four years. Since the current convocation was constituted on 7 November 2016, the mandate of the current MPs in the Parliament lasts until 6 November 2020.

If the elections were held on 30 August, according to the Law on Election of Councillors and Members of Parliament, the mandates of MPs of the new Parliament would have to be confirmed “within 30 days after elections” not later than 1 October. Automatically, on the same day, “the mandate of the previous convocation ends”.

Therefore, the new convocation of the Parliament would be confirmed 36 days before the expiration of the mandate of the current convocation prescribed by the Constitution. In other words, while according to the Law, the mandate of the previous convocation would end, according to the Constitution, that mandate would last until 6 November.

This is an inadmissible constitutional and legal situation which, if it is a matter of rough omission, requires an urgent reaction from the President of the state and a new decision on the date of elections. If, on the other hand, it is a question of the President’s intention to violate the Constitution, it is necessary that the Constitutional Court urgently and ex officio revoke President’s decision as unconstitutional.

Stevo Muk
President of the Managing Board of the Institute Alternative
Boris Marić
Executive director of Center for Civil Liberties CEGAS

Public Administration Reform Council – first session in a year

The 12th session of the Public Administration Reform Council was held on Friday, June 19. The session was chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister for Political System, Interior and Foreign Policy, Zoran Pažin.

Among others, on the Council’s agenda also were:

We expressed our dissatisfaction with the fact that more than a year has passed since the last session of the Council (the 11th session was held in May 2019). Meanwhile, initiatives to hold sessions initiated by the members of civil society were not accepted. Council has not discussed important documents such as the Semiannual Report on the Implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy, reports on optimisation and others. Council also has not discussed about events related to the loss of funds from the sector budget support, nor on the issues important to the public administration reform, such as proposed amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information.

We pointed out the need to change the way the Council works, in order to fulfil its role of coordinating reform processes and meaningfully contribute to the implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy.

In addition to the detailed findings on the public administration reform, that we published in March this year, we also pointed out methodological problems in reporting and monitoring activities and meeting objectives as well. We especially emphasised the importance of objectively informing public about the success of public administration reform, measured by the percentage of funds withdrawn from the sector budget support. We also stressed as important need to inform the public about the reasons why we received only half of the possible EU support.

In terms of implementing the Public Financial Management Reform Programme, almost five years passed waiting for major EU projects to begin, while areas such as transparency of public finances and transition to performance-based budgeting remained at the same level as when the Programme was adopted. We especially pointed out the problem of the inaction of  Property Administration and the delays in the establishment of the unified state property register. According to the report, the register will be in the test phase only next year.

This year, three key documents for public administration reform expires – Public Administration Reform Strategy, Public Financial Management Reform Programme and Public Administration Optimisation Plan.

We need to learn from the failures of these documents in order to prepare the following documents so that they are feasible, meaningful and responsive to the citizens’ needs.

Stevo Muk on the upcoming elections in TV show Načisto

Ambient during preparations of upcoming elections, political crisis and events that occurred in Budva, the Law on Freedom of Religion, ‘’Lists’’ affair – these are just some of the topics our Stevo Muk discussed in the TV show Načisto with Petar Komnenić, on TV Vijesti. Daliborka Uljarević (CCE) and Milica Kovačević (CDT) also participated in TV show broadcasted on June 18, 2020.

Main highlights from TV show:

‘’Government is trying to resolve disputes, which in democratic societies are being solved in courts, by sending police units together with Administrative Inspection, not to file a document, but to physically push into a building a new establishment and those who Government considers legitimate and legal representatives of the electoral will of citizens in this municipality’’, said Muk, referring to the political crisis in Budva. He also said that this absurd system led to contradictions, and have a free mandate to the MP and local councilor, while at the same time gave citizens the opportunity to vote for them from closed lists.

Muk considers that it would be appropriate if we could separate Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) as a political party and Government as constitutional institution which does it job in accordance with the laws, but he concludes that these two sides have grown together and he sees it as a source of all issues.

‘’When we talk about captured institutions, we talk about how political will and behavior of all bodies – both executive and judicial branch, prosecution and police, are being created in the main board of DPS. Unfortunately, there are few people who think for themselves, but they already accepted the principle that belongs to the worst systems and implies – stop thinking and start following the commander, Milo Đukanović, the father of the nation. The problem is that political-institutional networks have grown together to such extent that even the ones in Constitutional Court are waiting for a sign from his cabinet, and if the sign comes they will deal with the Law on Freedom of Religion or some other law, and if not, they will try to find out what he really thinks about it’’, Muk said.

Electoral conditions are the worst so far, and this will not change due to the current general mistrust among opposition parties and prevents them from having a minimum of dialogue, allowing the DPS to organize elections under any conditions. As a problem Muk also sees the inability of opposition parties to find the lowest common denominator, in order to come up with a clear initiative and key demands regarding the election conditions. Considering this, he estimates that for the boycott of the elections there is also issue of lack of unity of all opposition parties, and that the boycott should be seen as a way for putting pressure on the Government, and not as a goal that will express a moral cry over bad election conditions.

As he stated, more worrying than the content of non-paper, which increasingly forms the image of Montenegro’s democratic backslidings, is the reaction of the authorities, which instead of facing the identifies issues – extracts those sentences from this document that seem positive and triumphantly presents them to the public.

The election of Branislav Mićunović as the representative of the NGO sector in the Council of RTV Podgorica, Muk comments as an element on the way to establishing another party television to be paid by citizens, with one clear goal – to promote one political party and one agenda, while marginalizing others from public debate.

‘’This Government will not replace its power for reforms, because they know that with independent institutions and an independent public service, it will no longer be in power’’, Muk concluded.

Watch the entire TV show Načisto here:

Reaction: Respect the law and do not block our path towards EU

Institute Alternative (IA), Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN CG) and Media Centre yesterday urged the institutions to do everything in their power to resolve the situation in Budva within the legal framework and without political interference, and appealed to the EU to warn the top officials about the inappropriate interference of the Government and the police into political issues and local self-government affairs.

The facts in the case of Budva are not in favour of the Government, and it is worth reflecting on them as that is exactly what the Government is trying to camouflage. Namely, the Administrative Inspection within its illegal conduct beyond the scope of its competencies ordered actions and then conducted them with the assistance of a large number of police officers. The entire Montenegro, but also the general interested public, saw what that assistance looked like. The Council for Civic Control of the Police Operations has already identified abuses and excessive police force in this situation.

Briefly, what is decided by the courts in developed democratic states, here has been tried to be handled by incompetent bodies headed by persons with an obvious party interest in the entire case.

We will not comment on other aspects of the Government’s frivolous but threatening reaction because it represents the best confirmation of all our allegations, as well as the concern that the public interest is marginalised by selective law enforcement, strong party influence and deliberate raising of tensions in the already heated socio-political environment in Montenegro. Moreover, the reaction of the ambassadors of the UK and the USA to Montenegro, as well as of the European Commission spokesperson, represent a strong warning about these issues in a diplomatic manner, and we urge the Government of Montenegro not to respond to them in the manner it did to us, to respect the law and to stop blocking our path towards EU.

Milka Tadic Mijovic, President, CIN-CG
Goran Djurovic, director, Media centre
Daliborka Uljarevic, Executive Director, CCE
Stevo Muk, President of the Managing Board, IA