News 05 Jul 13

Montenegro Urged to Depoliticise Judiciary

The Montenegrin government needs to implement reforms quickly to free the country’s judiciary from political influence, said the German ambassador to Podgorica.

Milena Milosevic

German ambassador Pius Fischer told Podgorica-based newspaper Dnevne novine on Thursday that the fact that the country’s judiciary was not independent from politicians was a matter of concern for Europe.

“The administrative court of Montenegro demonstrated considerable independence in a few of its decisions. Other cases raised certain doubts about the independence of the judiciary,” Fischer said, without citing specific court decisions.

He said that political influence on the judiciary should be reduced by reforms to the judicial and prosecutorial councils, and to the processed for appointing the heads of the supreme and constitutional courts and the supreme state prosecutor, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe advisory body.

The Venice Commission in December 2012 urged Montenegro, among other things, to change the structure of the Judicial Council to primarily include judges and lawyers rather than members of parliament.

“Now the political parties are responsible for following the [Venice Commisssion] recommendations and reaching an appropriate compromise on this important issue,” Fischer said.

Montenegro last week adopted a proposal for an action plan for the latest stage in the process of harmonising its laws with the body of EU legislation known as the ‘acquis’ – the chapter dealing with the judiciary and fundamental rights.

Constitutional changes aimed at depoliticising the judiciary are due to be pushed through by the end of July.

The opposition, however, accused the ruling coalition of stalling the constitutional changes because of its unwillingness to give up its influence over the judiciary.

Fisher said in an interview that he expects the amendments to be adopted by the end of July in order to prevent any negative impact of EU accession negotiations.

European Commission progress reports on Montenegro have frequently highlighted the politicisation of the judiciary as one of the country’s weakest spots.

Judicial independence is seen as key to the fight against organised crime and corruption - two issues seen as major obstacles to the country’s further advance towards the EU.

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