The Parliament Undermines the Legal System of Montenegro

The reaction of the Parliament of Montenegro regarding the decision of the Basic Court by which it issued interim order requesting the Parliament of Montenegro to reinstate Goran Đurović at the position of the RTCG Council member within eight days, until the completion of the judicial proceeding, is scandalous and represents an open attack of the ruling party on the judiciary. The Parliament, in its official press release, stated that by doing this the Basic Court “tried to render meaningless the division of powers into executive, legislature and judiciary established by the Constitution of Montenegro and in this manner tries to undermine the legal system of the state”.

Such unprecedented attack of the Parliament of Montenegro on the judicial system presents open party pressure on judiciary and can have far-reaching consequences on the entire society. The Parliament, i.e. MPs of the ruling majority with this demonstrate that they do not recognize the constitutional division of powers into executive, legislature and judiciary, nor do they understand the role of the judiciary in the control of legal acting of other branches. If they advert to the Constitution, it would be good for ruling majority MPs to read the Constitution that in Article 11 envisages limitations of powers by the Constitution and law and prescribes that relation of powers is based on checks and balances.

The ruling majority obviously believes that it is enough to have a Parliament in the system in which the majority would declare what is right and what not, and decide on who is guilty and who is not, while the citizens should not have any mechanism of legal protection from their arbitrariness.

Particularly worrisome are comments of the DPS MP, Marta Šćepanović, party trustee for the implementation and defence of unlawful Parliament decisions concerning dismissal of inconvenient members of the RTCG Council. Her statements that the Basic Court has become competent for the Parliament decisions overnight, and that this court cannot decide on Parliament decisions and that the Basic Court is deciding on the decisions of the Parliament of Montenegro for the first time are not correct.

Namely, Marta Šćepanović, as the president of the Legislative Committee, as well as the parliamentary majority, should be the first to know that apart from the possibility of assessing the legality of decisions of the Parliament by the regular Basic Court, provided by the Constitution and the Law, there is already such practice in place as well. This practice has been established by the Supreme Court, the highest judicial instance. The matter is even more dismal for the parliamentary majority, since the Supreme Court defended the jurisdiction of the basic court in the dispute concerning appointment of members of the Agency for Electronic Media in which it determined the violation of the law by the Administrative Committee and the Parliament, based on the complaint of Slavica Striković.

Therefore, there is no doubt that the Basic Court is competent to re-examine decisions of the Parliament, although it is hard for the ruling majority MPs to accept the possibility that anyone could question their arbitrary and in certain cases unlawful work.

We appeal to the Council of the Basic Court to be persistent in the law enforcement, to resist the pressures and keep its integrity by defending the decision of its judge, especially in the light of the importance that unbiased, quality and efficient judiciary has in the context of establishing the rule of law as emphasized in the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans. There is no doubt that the judiciary’s handling of this issue will be of paramount importance for assessing the judiciary in the forthcoming EC report and we believe that the reputation of the judiciary is more important than interests of any political party.

Ana Novaković, Executive Director, Center for the Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (CDNGO)
Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Stevo Muk, President of the Governing Board, Institute Alternative (IA)
Zlatko Vujović, President of the Governing Board, Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI)

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