Response to the letter by Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders: Paying no attention to pressures of any kind

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    Podgorica, Montenegro (19 September 2016) — The Public Relations Service of the Government of Montenegro has sent on Monday, 19 September 2016 the response to the Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Reporters Without Borders in relation to their letter sent earlier on the same day to the Prime Minister of Montenegro via the Public Relations Service…

    Podgorica, Montenegro (19 September 2016) — The Public Relations Service of the Government of Montenegro has sent on Monday, 19 September 2016 the response to the Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Reporters Without Borders in relation to their letter sent earlier on the same day to the Prime Minister of Montenegro via the Public Relations Service.

    The letters are attached below.

    Letter sent to Prime Minister Đukanović in Montenegrin

    Letter sent to Prime Minister Đukanović in English

    PUBLIC RELATIONS SERVICE
    GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO

    GOVERNMENT OF MONTENEGRO
    SECRETARIAT-GENERAL
    PUBLIC RELATIONS SERVICE

    19 September 2016

    Human Rights Watch
    Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director

    Committee to Protect Journalists
    Joel Simon, Executive Director

    Reporters Without Borders
    Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General

    Via: e-mail mocilna@hrw.org

    Dear gentlemen,

    The Government of Montenegro has received earlier today your letter addressed to the Prime Minister and sent to the Public Relations Service in which you express your protest against, as you said, the “prolonged pre-trial detention” of a person charged by Montenegrin justice authorities, a person that has been arrested in an international joint action against narcotics smugglers.

    I am certain that your respected organisations know that power in Montenegro, as in any democratic state, is shared among the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, and that the Prime Minister as the head of the executive branch does not have, cannot have, and should not have any competency or influence over another branch of government. For this reason it is strange that you chose to address your letter to him.

    However, given that you expressed your interest in the matter I would like to underline the following facts:

    Mr Jovo Martinović has been arrested on 22 October 2015 in an international police action provisionally dubbed “Operation Poppy” on reasonable suspicion that he has committed unlawful acts of criminal association and illegal production, storage, and sale of illicit drugs. The acts he has been indicted of have nothing to do with the profession of reporting and journalism.

    The investigative judge has prescribed detention as a way to ensure the presence of the defendant and to prevent any hindrance to the criminal procedure, and the detention has since been prolonged in line with the law. The Special Prosecutor’s Office has undertaken an investigation between 24 October 2015 and 8 April 2016 and it has formally indicted Mr Martinović and 13 other persons. This document is in the public domain and is available at the Special Prosecutor’s Office website.

    With this in mind, it can be concluded that the Special Prosecutor’s Office has acted within a reasonable time and in line with the legally prescribed time-frame for investigation.

    Moreover, the indictment has been raised and confirmed on the basis of evidence obtained in a legal procedure of an international joint action. A court procedure is now pending, where the validity of the indictment will be tested and in which the defendant will have the right to defence in line with the principles of fair trial.

    I take this opportunity to bring to your attention the EU’s latest Montenegro 2015 Report, which states the following regarding the Montenegrin judiciary (pages 4-5): “Important steps were taken to align the legal framework with European standards, increasing professionalism and independence. The emphasis now should be on implementation,” and “Further progress in the accession negotiations overall will also depend on progress on the rule of law: the latter will also have to be demonstrated, and assessed, on the basis of credible track records in the fight against corruption and organised crime.

    I also wish to underline the fact that in recent years one of our main assessments, as well as of our international partners, has been that organised crime and corruption are among the main challenges for Montenegro and the other countries in the region. We took these findings and assessments seriously and we are determined, as a serious government and state, to overcome those challenges. I believe you have had the opportunity to inform yourself from the media about the concrete activities in Montenegro in this area. We intend to continue with an even stronger determination and efficiency to work to this end, paying no attention to pressure, regardless of its origin.

    Due to the fact that your letter has been made public, I am making this response available to the public as well.

    Sincerely,

    Srdjan Kusovac
    Adviser to the Prime Minister
    Head of the PR Service

    Source: Government of Montenegro