Montenegro "violated European Convention on Human Rights"

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Montenegro has violated Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Source: B92, Tanjug
(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

It concerns the deaths in August 1999 of a group of persons of Roma ethnicity from Serbia (Kosovo), and Montenegrin authorities' failure to conduct "a prompt and effective investigation" into the case.

"In today’s (Sept. 19, 2017) Chamber judgment 1 in the case, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 2 (right to life - investigation) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of one of the applicants," the Strasbourg-based court announced on its website.

"The court concluded that the government had failed to justify the duration of the criminal proceedings, which had lasted more than ten years and seven months after a new indictment had been issued in 2006. Referring to its case-law, the court underlined in particular that the passage of time inevitably eroded the amount and quality of evidence available and that the appearance of a lack of diligence cast doubt on the good faith of the investigative efforts," a press released said, and added:

"Lengthy proceedings also prolonged the ordeal for members of the family. The court therefore considered that the delays in question could not be regarded as compatible with the State’s obligation under Article 2."

The Randjelovic and Others vs. Montenegro case was originally lodged by 13 applicants who are Serbian nationals, one of whom is also a national of the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," the court said.

"The applicants’ relatives were among a group of around 70 Roma who boarded a boat on the Montenegrin coast on the night of August 15, 1999 with the intention of reaching Italy. A few hours later, the boat sank, owing to the large number of passengers. One passenger survived the accident," the statement said.

Subsequently, 35 bodies were found in the sea, on which autopsies were performed. The forensic specialists considered that, while the cause of death could not be established with certainty, the passengers were likely to have died from drowning, the court said.

"In September 1999 a judicial investigation was opened against seven individuals on suspicion of illegally crossing the state border in connection with reckless endangerment. In October 1999 the state prosecutor in Bar issued an indictment with the Court of First Instance in Bar against the seven suspects," the statement said, and added:

"After a number of hearings had been held, the case was eventually transferred to the High Court in Podgorica in April 2004. A new formal investigation was opened in November 2004 and a new indictment was issued in October 2006, against eight defendants, who were charged with reckless endangerment. In 2008 the court rejected the indictment in respect of one of the defendants. It subsequently decided that two defendants who lived outside of Montenegro would be tried in absence. After a number of further delays, notably caused by a number of hearings being adjourned, the High Court acquitted all defendants in July 2014 for lack of evidence. The prosecutor filed an appeal against that judgment."

The Strasbourg court decided to continue its examination of the case in respect of one applicant, Begija Gasi (Gashi), who had submitted her observations within the required time-limit - and it "struck the application out of its list of cases as far as the remaining applicants were concerned, who had not responded to the court’s requests for their submissions."

The court also "rejected a number of objections by the Montenegrin government as regards the admissibility of the complaint."

The chamber judgment, that is not final, "held that Montenegro was to pay Ms. Gasi 12,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 500 in respect of costs and expenses."

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