Aleksandra Vavić, Public Policy Researcher at Institute Alternative, participated in the annual meeting on human rights, organised by ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) and presented key issues concerning public assemblies in Montenegro.
Roundtable “Promotion of Police Security for Free Assembly in Accordance with Human Rights in Western Balkans” presented problems and good practices in public assembly domain, what are the result of years of research led by the European Centre for Non-Profit Law and implemented by civil society organisations in the region, including Institute Alternative for Montenegro.
The biggest common issue in all Western Balkan countries regarding public assemblies is the lack of a secure police accountability system. Aleksandra added that last year, in 2017, Ministry of the Interior announced changes in the Law on Public Assemblies to ban assemblies on the roads, which Institute Alternative strongly opposed.
“Amendments to the law, as they were announced in the media, would introduce an absolute ban on peaceful public assemblies in certain locations, and therefore rights would be endangered. One of the key goals of public assemblies is to deliver a message to government institutions, specifically targeted person, group or organisation. Therefore, it is the privilege of the citizens – organisers to decide which location will best suit the purpose of the assembly, and the competent authorities should not impose an absolute ban. On the contrary, deleting the provisions on absolute prohibitions is a recommendation that has addressed to countries which have such provisions in the law for years”, Aleksandra explained.
General uncertainty and inconsistency in policy-making contributes to poor legal framework that allows public discussions in the field of security and defense to be optional. “The issue of public assemblies in Montenegro is still more a question of security, not human rights, so our fear of some new prohibition and non-transparent changes is justified,” she added.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting is the largest European conference dedicated to human rights. This year it was held in Warsaw, and the organisation of the round table was provided by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, European Centre for Non-profit Law which runs the project “Monitoring Right to Free Assembly” with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).