Stevo Muk claims the parliamentary oversight of the security sector to be weak
Podgorica – In carrying out the control and oversight of the security sector, results of the Parliament, its Committee for Security and Defense, are still weak, although there is some progress, states President of Institute Alternative’s Managing Board Stevo Muk.
“While heads of the defense and security institutions do appear before the Committee, submit certain reports and answer questions of the Committee members, it seems that only the representatives of the DPS are content. No one else is convinced that the work of these institutions takes place in accordance with the law”, said Muk for Vijesti.
Commenting on claims that a lack of political will is the reason for inadequate parliamentary oversight of the security sector, Muk said that such thing was obvious. The authorities, in his opinion, do not want to change the legal framework or the practice, while the opposition does not believe that changing the legal framework could result in change of the practice.
“I believe that the role of SDP is very important, because it can provide the opposition with a required majority for changes in this area,” said Muk.
The NATO integration process should be used to achieve more progress in that area, since it is an integral part of the reforms that must achieved, he added.
“It is known that the Montenegrin political ‘will’ is first created through tenacious demands of the international community. Therefore, this process is no exception,” said Muk, stating that a comprehensive contribution of the media and NGOs is required as well.
Commenting on the effectiveness of the Committee for Security and Defense in the exercise of its constitutional jurisdictions – democratic and civilian control of the security sector – Muk pointed to the fact that the types of information that are presented to this body are not clearly defined, so that its work depends on what the authorities decide to offer as information.
“Still, the Committee does not use the possibility of demanding special reports in order to get the information missing in the basic reports”, added Muk.
Muk said that an effective oversight of the security sector needs to focus on system issues, on the use of already legally granted possibilities, and greater use of public. Systemic issues include, e.g. defining the responsibilities of the Parliament to consider and adopt the conclusions of the Committee in plenary sessions, require statements and feedback from the Government, etc.
“If we remember the situation with the conclusions concerning Operation Balkan Warrior, we will see that further communication between the Parliament and the Government were blocked because of the fact that further proceeding of the Committee’s conclusions is not legally defined”, states Muk. He adds that, according to the findings of Institute Alternative, the Parliamentary plenum has never adopted any conclusion of the Committee.
“The President and the Collegium of the Parliament will need to address this issue,” he adds.
Not everything ANB does is confidential
Looking at the recent session of the Committee for Security and Defence, which was closed to the public and dealt with the work of the National Security Agency’s (ANB) report for 2009, Muk says there no reason for keeping the most of that report out of public reach.
This, in his opinion, includes the disclosure of general information, evaluations and assessments, without specific data on persons, current events and details of operational nature, which should be kept confidential because of nature of ANB’s work.
Muk believes that the public should be familiar with the key threats to national security, which is the practice of relevant security services. He also suggests that the public should be informed about the number of prosecuted cases in which the data collected by the ANB has helped in investigating criminal offenses related to organized crime and corruption. In this regard, an information about implemented secret surveillance measures and their results would be especially important.
Muk claims that it is in the public interest to have information about the work of the ANB’s Inspector General available. This is particularly important in the context of earlier allegations about political and economic activities of individual officers of ANB, and their connections with individuals marked as ‘interesting’ in terms of security affaires.
Since ANB has earlier made parts of its annual reports available through requests for free access to information, there is no reason to make them publicly available immediately after the session of the Parliamentary Committee when the full report will be presented in secret, states Muk
“A significant step forward in public relations and building confidence in the work of ANB would be a press conference at which the Head of ANB would present those parts of ANB’s annual report for which there cannot be justification for keeping them secret”, claims Muk.
What about the Law on Parliamentary Oversight?
Commenting on the persistent delay in the adoption of the Law on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector, despite the fact that in principle the text of the act is completed and that the Committee has committed to finalizing the task in numerous occasions, Muk said that the parliamentary majority apparently does not consider that adopting this law is in their interest.
This, in his opinion, may be evidence in support of claims that the defense and security sector have many negative sides that could not stand the control by the Parliament and the public.
“There is no justification for an almost two-year delay in adopting this act”, said Muk.
Statement of Institute Alternative’s President of the Managing Board to the daily newspaper Vijesti, 08/08/2010