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Hundreds of inmates in Montenegro have been refusing food for eight days, demanding better conditions and a new amnesty law.
Around 500 prisoners at a jail in Spuz, on the outskirts of the capital Podgorica, launched the hunger strike in protest against what they believe are overcrowded cells, bad food, poor medical treatment and over-long trials.
They also want the government to introduce a new amnesty law which would allow those against whom final trial verdicts are still pending to be released from jail early.
The justice ministry said that the hunger strikers’ health had not suffered so far.
“The head of the [prison] institute and heads of security visited the prisoners who are on strike, and medical examinsations proved that their health condition was stable,” the justice ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
Families of the hunger strikers gathered in front of the jail on Thursday to support their relatives’ demands.
One of them, Milica Koker, told local media that 20,000 signatures had been gathered so far on a petition for changes to the amnesty law.
“I don’t know why it hasn’t been changed so far and why we have to react in this way,” Koker said.
The justice minister said that legal changes were the prerogative of parliament, although it promised to “prepare an opinion about the convicts’ initiative” in time for the government’s next session.
International organisations and local rights groups have often drawn attention to overcrowding and poor conditions in Montenegro’s jails and police stations.
More than 200 prisoners have either refused to join the protest at the jail in Spuz or have given up the hunger strike already.
In two high-profile war crimes trials currently ongoing in Pristina, a series of witnesses have retracted previous statements alleging abuse at Kosovo Liberation Army detention centres.