The report published on September 2017 by the Council of Europe’s Anti-racism Commission commends the authorities for strengthening protection against hate crimes, empowering the Ombudsman and improving the situation of Roma. Yet, LGBT persons are still targets of violence, Roma remain at risk of social exclusion and segregation, and no reliable data on hate crimes exists.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said that Montenegro, in general, is a good example of multi-ethnic tolerance and speech, despite occasional intolerant statements by politicians, media and clergy. ECRI welcomed the introduction into legislation of a new provision making racist and homo/transphobic motivation an aggravating circumstance, and banning racial discrimination and hate speech in law. The Ombudsman has been empowered to investigate complaints as well as to initiate and participate in court proceedings.
The ECRI report stresses that a late birth registration procedure regulating the legal status of internally displaced Roma lacking personal documents has been introduced. More than half of Roma children attend primary school; pupils receive school supplies, books and financial assistance for transport and meals. Alternative housing has been provided to residents of the Konik camp which is now being closed down, in line with ECRI’s previous recommendation.
However, despite the progress achieved, some issues still give rise to concern.
There is no reliable data on hate speech and hate-motivated violence. New anti-hate crime legislation is rarely applied due to the lack of expertise among the law enforcement and the judiciary.
“Combatting racist hate speech and violence is of utmost importance to ensure that the human dignity of everyone is fully respected,” said ECRI’s Chair, Christian Ahlund. “The low number of prosecutions risks sending a wrong signal which might create a culture of impunity.”
While a certain progress in the respect for LGBT rights and the acceptance of LGBT persons has been made, they are still the most common target of hate speech and violence, including from high-level church leaders.
The national Roma strategies have not been fully implemented. Roma remain at risk of social exclusion and segregation. Data suggests that their access to employment is alarmingly low and the school drop-out rates are still high.
ECRI gives a number of recommendations to the Montenegrin authorities, including the following two which should be implemented as a matter of priority and will be followed up within two years: setting up a comprehensive data collection system for racist and homo/transphobic hate speech and violence incidents; and institutionalising and increasing the number of Roma mediators/assistants at pre-school and primary school level to ensure Roma children attendance and decrease the drop-out risk.
Other recommendations include training the police and the judiciary on the application of the anti-hate legislation; taking measures to combat hate speech on the internet; amending the anti-discrimination legislation to suppress public financing for organisations and political parties advocating racism; engaging with the Serbian Orthodox Church to explore how the Church could use its moral standing to prevent and combat hate speech, including against LGBT persons; adopting an integrated approach to the Roma housing issue going beyond the construction projects and including anti-segregation measures and facilitating access to employment, education and decision making; as well as hiring a proportionate number of Roma to the civil service.
The report was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Montenegro in October 2016 and takes account of developments up to 23 March 2017, except where expressly indicated.