Interior Minister Raško Konjević speaks about anti-government protests in Podgorica in interview for Atlas TV

    Podgorica, Montenegro (18 October 2015) – Interior Minister Raško Konjević made a guest appearance on the political talk show „Živa istina“ on Atlas Television on the occasion of breaking up anti-government protests in Podgorica.

    When asked to analyse the events which occurred on Saturday morning and Saturday evening in front of the parliament building in Podgorica, and whether the police overstepped its authority, Minister Konjević gave an overview of the events, stressing that the Democratic Front had registered the protest six days before the beginning of the first protest held on 27 September at 18.00 pm, which was in accordance with the Law on Public Assembly. The Security Centre Podgorica approved the request submitted by the organisers, and the Ministry of the Interior reiterated that right to express political or other opinion through a public gathering is guaranteed by the Constitution to each citizen or political party, Minister Konjević emphasised.

    In that regard, the Ministry of the Interior confirmed its commitment to respecting human rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Minister Konjević underlined, adding that, at the same time, organisers and participants of the public gathering were obliged to respect rights of other citizens who do not want to take part in the protests.

    “Once the public gathering in front of the parliament building was approved, the organisers submitted a request to the local authorities seeking permission to set up the stage and demanding the ban on traffic in that part of the St Peter of Cetinje Boulevard,” Minister Konjević said. Considering the first request, the Capital City of Podgorica approved a 7-day public gathering. However, the organisers did not get permission to set up the stage exactly where it had been set up, Mr Konjević underlined. When it comes to the traffic ban, we have to bear in mind the existence of two different authorities – the municipal police and Security Centre Podgorica. That means that the Security Centre Podgorica makes a formal decision on whether to approve or not the traffic ban in a part of a local road along with a prior consent of the local secretariat in charge of traffic affairs. The Ministry of the Interior acted pursuant to the procedure, and following the 7-day period, the Police Authority issued a press release explaining that the public gatherings were held in a peaceful atmosphere. There were several minor individual incidents, but we could say that they were quite peaceful, Minister Konjević stressed.

    “After the expiry of the 7-day period, I met with leaders of the Democratic Front: Andrija Mandić, Nebojša Medojević, Milan Knežević, and Milutin Đukanović, a chief manager who submitted the request to the Security Centre Podgorica. Head of the Police Authority also took part in the meeting,” Minister Konjević highlighted. “We have discussed our joint obligation to respect the law, but they stressed they were not interested in establishing communication with the local authorities,” Minister Konjević pointed out.

    “Having in mind that we could not reach an agreement on certain things, we knew that all of us would be accountable for the alleged violation of the law,” Minister Konjević explained, adding that the law has to be equal for everyone.

    Given the fact that the organisers did not respect the decision made by the local authorities, the municipal police filed a request to the Security Centre Podgorica seeking support and assistance in removing the stage, tents and other facilities in a part of the St Peter of Cetinje Blvd. The protesters’ camp had been set up there contrary to the decision made by the local authority and it was supposed to be removed in order to normalise traffic in that part of the boulevard. The assistance was provided in compliance with the Interior Ministry’s regulations, namely the Law on Internal Affairs and Public Assembly Act. Pursuant to these regulations, the municipal police informed the Security Centre Podgorica about the scheduled time of the assistance and requested the assistance to be provided on Saturday morning, Minister Konjević explained. “Speaking in legal terms, the police assisted the local authority and it was not the first time to do so,” Minister Konjević concluded.

    “The police were legally obliged to make a plan for providing assistance. On Saturday morning, the police first proceeded to secure the perimeter. That means that no one was allowed to enter the area where the assistance to the municipal police was being provided,” Minister Konjević underlined. He stressed that each order issued by the police during providing assistance is obligatory and disobeying a police officer is considered as a violation of peace and order. “I think such a situation is defined by Article 11 of the Penal Code. The Police acted according to the law in performing their tasks,” Minister Konjević emphasised.

    “As to the detention of MP Slaven Radunovic and other protesters, I have to say that happened because they have repeatedly defied the police orders issued at the venue where the municipal police together with police officers were trying to enforce the decision on dismantling the camp set up by the protesters,” Minister Konjević said on the talk show “Živa istina” on Atlas Television. “Police officers were using coercive means in line with the law, and immunity cannot be applied if someone behaves against the law,” Minister Konjević concluded.

    Source: Government of Montenegro