COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CONSIDERS REPORT OF MONTENEGRO

Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination
3 March 2009

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the initial report of Montenegro on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Presenting the report, Fuad Nimani, Minister for Human and Minority Rights Protection of Montenegro, said that, after regaining independence by Referendum on 21 May 2006, Montenegro had started undertaking comprehensive reforms of its legal system on the basis of the decision of its citizens to live in a State that shared the basic values of freedom, peace, tolerance, respect of human rights and freedoms, multiculturalism, democracy and the rule of law. It was those very principles that served as the foundation for the Constitution adopted in October 2007, which also guaranteed to national minorities and other minority communities the rights and freedoms that they could exercise collectively or individually, including the right to express and preserve their national, ethnic, cultural and religious specificity; the right to use their language for private, public and official purposes; the right to be educated in their own language in State-owned institutions; in areas where they made up a significant portion of the population, the right to authentic representation in the Parliament of Montenegro; and the right to proportional representation in public services, public administration bodies and local self-government. Montenegro had also decided to draft a general law prohibiting discrimination and it was believed the Parliament would adopt the draft law this year.

Turning to the situation of the Roma, significant progress had been made, Mr. Nimani said. At its 8 November 2007 session, the Government had adopted the Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of the Roma, Ashkelia and Egyptian Population in Montenegro, 2008-2012. Among the priority areas of work of the Strategy were the development of a database on that population; regulating their legal status; education; preservation of culture and traditions; employment and labour rights; health; social and child protection; improvement of housing; and participation in public and political life. In addition to the funds allocated for the improvement of the position of the Roma by the relevant departments, the Government had allocated an additional 400,000 euros in 2008 for those issues. Moreover, it had established a commission to monitor the implementation of the Strategy, whose members included representatives of Roma non-governmental organizations.

In preliminary concluding observations, Dilip Lahiri, the Committee Expert serving as country Rapporteur for the report of Montenegro, welcomed the extensive legislation enacted since independence with a view to integrating international human rights standards, including the very forward-looking 2007 Constitution, the Ombudsman's institution, provisions relating to Asylum and Employment of Refugees and the strategy for the improvement of the Roma population. However, it was not unfair to say that there was still a wide gap between the legislation and frameworks put into place and the practical situation on the ground. While noting the statement that Montenegro did not have a climate of impunity, there was sufficient evidence to indicate that there were ingrained habits and the working methods of the police and judiciary which impacted negatively on the situation of disadvantaged groups. Those longstanding habits and methods of work had to be broken. In addition, while it was noted that affirmative action steps had been taken and achievements made in the situation of the Roma, in particular with regard to education, the fact remained that the situation was still pretty abysmal. Montenegro would be urged to take targeted steps that would allow for a marked improvement of the status of the Roma community.

Other Committee Experts then raised questions and asked for further information on subjects pertaining to, among other things, the main provisions of the new draft anti-discrimination law and the timetable for its adoption; whether there were broadcasting facilities for programmes in minority languages; concern about a heating up of ethnic tensions in the region, particularly in Bosnia, and what measures Montenegro was taking to proactively ensure that there was no spillover; acts of violence committed against specific ethnic groups, in particular Roma, despite a decrease in such acts; and confusion in the 2003 census categories, which had categories such as Muslim – which overlapped with Bosniak and Albanian – and which had a very high level of undeclared persons.

The delegation of Montenegro also included Milomir Mihaljevic, Permanent Representative of Montenegro to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other members from the Permanent Mission, as well as representatives of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights Protection; the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Public Administration; the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Welfare; the Ministry of Justice; the Bureau for Care of Refugees; and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro.

The Committee will present its written observations and recommendations on the initial report of Montenegro at the end of its session, which concludes on 6 March.

When the Committee next reconvenes in public, at 3 p.m. on Friday, 6 March, it will make public its concluding observations on the reports considered over the past three weeks before formally closing its seventy-fourth session.

Report of Montenegro

According to a table of comparative statistics taken from the 1991 and the 2003 censuses contained in the initial report of Montenegro (CERD/C/MNE/1), the population of Montenegro increased from 615,035 to 620,145 persons, made up of a number of different national origins, principally Montenegrin (43.16 per cent), Serbian (31.99 per cent), Bosniak (7.77 per cent), Albanian (5.03 per cent) and Croatian (1.1 per cent). There were 3,282 Romani persons in Montenegro in 1993, and only 2,601 in 2003 or 0.42 per cent of the population. The majority of Montenegrins are Orthodox Christians (74.28 per cent), with a large Muslim population (17.74 per cent), as well as a sizeable Catholic (3.54 per cent) minority.

Bearing in mind that the Constitution does not strictly define the status of national and ethnic groups as a collectivity, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights Protection initiated the creation of the law on minorities’ rights and freedoms, that was adopted in 2006. In addition, every indirect and direct kind of discrimination is prohibited by this Law in any form which includes also discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, national belonging, social origin, birth or any status related to it, religion, political or any other persuasion, financial standing, culture, language, age or psychological and physical disability. Pursuant to the Law on electing councillors and members of Parliament, positive discrimination was enacted for the majority of Albanian citizens, inter alia prescribing that Albanian parties shall have five places in the Parliament. In addition, the Law on Employment, adopted on 31 January 2002, anticipates that a person in search for employment shall be given equal access in exercising rights for employment regardless of national belonging, race, gender, language, religion, political or any other belief, education, social origin or material state. As part of the programme “Active Employment Policy”, the Employment Agency of Montenegro has had numerous activities that cover persons belonging to the Roma, Ashkelia and Egyptian [minority group], as the discrimination phenomenon is often present in Roma employment.

Presentation of Report

FUAD NIMANI, Minister for Human and Minority Rights Protection of Montenegro, said that, after regaining independence by referendum on 21 May 2006, Montenegro had started undertaking comprehensive reforms of its legal system on the basis of the decision of Montenegrin citizens to live in a State that shared the basic values of freedom, peace, tolerance, respect of human rights and freedoms, multiculturalism, democracy and the rule of law. It was those very principles that served as the foundation for the Constitution Montenegro adopted in October 2007. Huge efforts had been put into creating a Constitution that would include a whole range of human rights and freedoms contained in the fundamental documents of international organizations that Montenegro had acceded to at the very beginning of its existence as an independent State. Particularly underlined was the Constitutional principle that international agreements and generally accepted rules of international law formed an integral part of the internal legal order, that they had supremacy over national legislation and that they applied directly when they regulated the relations differently from internal legislation.

Mr. Nimani underscored that, in addition to fundamental human rights and freedoms, the Constitution guaranteed to national minorities and other minority national communities the rights and freedoms that they could exercise either individually or in association with others, including the right to express, preserve, develop and publicly show their national, ethnic, cultural and religious specificity; the right to use their language and script for private, public and official purposes; the right to be educated in their own language in State-owned institutions and to have curricula that also included the history and culture of members of national minorities and other minority national communities; in areas where they made a significant participation in the population, the right to have procedures in State and judicial bodies also conducted in the language of national minorities and other communities and the right to authentic representation in the Parliament of Montenegro and local councils at the self-government level; the right to proportional representation in public services, public administration bodies and local self-government; and the right to information in their own language.

It was important to note here the significant novelties in the area of promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms, Mr. Nimani said, which included the introduction of the new constitutional category of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms (Ombudsman), as an autonomous and independent body taking measures for the protection of human rights and freedoms and the establishment of the Judicial Council, as an independent and autonomous body that ensured the independence and autonomy of courts and judges.

Mr. Nimani also wished to point out that Article 8 of the Constitution prohibited any direct or indirect discrimination on any grounds. In addition, it laid down that measures aimed at creating conditions for national, gender and overall equality and protection of persons that were in a position of inequality would not be considered discrimination. Such special measures might be applied only until the objectives for which they had been taken had been accomplished. In addition to prohibiting discrimination in the legal order of Montenegro and in its criminal legislation, Montenegro had decided to draft a general law on prohibition of discrimination. The working version of the law was now complete and its provisions were being harmonized with laws from a number of different areas. It was believed the Parliament would adopt the draft law this year. The law covered a number of different areas and special cases of discrimination as well as the new institutional mechanism to combat discrimination.

Among examples of Montenegro's commitment to its international human rights obligations, Mr. Nimani also drew attention to its presentation of its initial report to the Convention against Torture in 2008, one positive result of which had been the adoption of the Action Plan for the Prevention of Torture in February this year. In addition, in December 2008, Montenegro had presented its national report as part of the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review. Useful guidelines received on that occasion would serve to guide Montenegro's future work in developing a system of protection for human rights and freedoms.

Among a number of strategic plans concerning a broad spectrum of human rights and freedoms that were currently being implemented was the Judicial Reform Strategy for the period 2007-2012 and the Action Plan for its implementation, Mr. Nimani continued. A special focus had been placed on improving the independence and autonomy of the judiciary and building its efficiency. To do that, they had changed the laws governing the organization of the judiciary and had adopted the Law on the Judicial Council, which had been set up in April 2008 with the mandate to appoint judges, establish their responsibility and oversee the work of courts and judges. A similar concept was being applied to the organization of State prosecutors.

Also in the area of the judiciary, to avoid delays of trials, the Law on the Protection of the Right to Trial within a Reasonable Time had been adopted, and a new Criminal Procedure Code had been prepared. Efforts to reduce backlogs had also been made by promoting alternative dispute resolution and establishing the Mediation Centre, Mr. Nimani added

Montenegrin courts were now working on four war crimes cases, and in three cases international legal cooperation had been established to finalize the work. Indictments had been brought in two of those cases and the trials had started. As for the third case, the investigation had been extended to persons that were in higher positions in the security bodies of Montenegro at the time of the crimes. In the fourth case, the dynamics would depend on the willingness of the bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina to speed up the procedure of providing international legal assistance. In that connection, Mr. Nimani observed that Montenegro cooperated with other States in accordance with international conventions and that it cooperated fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, having signed a special agreement on technical cooperation between the Court in The Hague and the Supreme State Prosecutor's Office in December 2007.

A lot of importance was attached to the issue of freedom of movement and residence of foreign nationals, Mr. Nimani said. In that regard, the Law on Asylum had been adopted and the institutional infrastructure for its implementation established, soon to be followed by the construction of the Centre for Asylum-Seekers. So far, six asylum applications had been processed. In November 2008, the Government had also adopted the Law on Foreign Nationals, which had been harmonized with the Schengen Convention in order to facilitate free movement among countries and at the same time strike a balance between the need to ensure free movement of people, goods, services, and capital on the one hand and the need to resolutely combat forms of international crime on the other.

The war and instability in the region for almost two decades had meant tens of thousands of displaced persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as well as displaced persons from Kosovo, had found shelter and security in Montenegro – so much so that in the late 1990s Montenegro had hosted 130,000 displaced persons from the territory of the former Yugoslavia, almost one quarter of its population, Mr. Nimani highlighted. After gaining independence, Montenegro had decided to allow displaced and internally displaced persons to temporarily keep their status and rights and had established the Bureau for the Care of Refugees with the task of caring for those individuals. Activities were taken to re-examine the status of displaced persons and to establish bilateral cooperation with countries of origin in order to resolve the problem.

The constitutional prohibition on discrimination on any grounds had been elaborated further in several recently adopted laws, Mr. Nimani noted. The Law on Gender Equality had been adopted in July 2007 and the Government had subsequently established the Office of Gender Equality to implement its gender equality policy, incorporated in a plan for 2008-2012.

In addition, three new institutions that were very important for the promotion of minority rights had started operating in 2008, Mr. Nimani observed. First, there were electoral assemblies held to elect the members for the Croatian, Bosnian, Roma, Muslim, Albanian and Serbian Councils, which were registered with and financed by the Ministry for Protection of Human and Minority Rights since August 2008. Their role, defined in the Law on Minority Rights and Freedoms, included to submit proposals to State and local government bodies and public services for the promotion and development of the rights of minorities; to give opinions on the curriculum of school subjects that emphasized characteristics of minorities; and to initiate amendments of legislation and other documents regulating the rights of minorities.

Second, Parliament had passed the decision on establishing the Fund for Minorities in February 2008 to support activities aimed at the preservation and development of national i.e. ethnic specific characteristics of national minorities in the field of national, ethnic, cultural, language and confession identity. In July 2008, a 15-member Steering Committee had been elected and the Fund had been allocated 422,125 euros. The funds planned in the budget for 2009 amounted to just over 1 million euros.

Third, recognizing the importance of Montenegrin cultural diversity, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights Protection had undertaken activities to ensure the functioning of the Centre for the Preservation and Development of the Culture of Minorities, Mr. Nimani said. A four-member Steering Committee had been appointed, and provisions made for the premises and necessary financial and technical equipment and, in 2009, the Director had been appointed and that institution had started its work.

Turning to the situation of the Roma, Mr. Nimani observed that, since the submission of its report, Montenegro had made significant progress in its efforts to improve the position of the Roma population in society. At its 8 November 2007 session, the Government had adopted the Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of the Roma, Ashkelia and Egyptian (RAE) Population in Montenegro, 2008-2012. Among the priority areas of work of the Strategy were the development of a database on the Roma, Ashkelia and Egyptian population; regulating their legal status; education; preservation of culture and traditions; employment and labour rights; health and health protection; social and child protection; improvement of housing; and participation in public and political life.

Mr. Nimani noted that, in addition to the funds allocated for the improvement of the position of the Roma by the relevant departments, the Government had allocated an additional 400,000 euros in 2008 for those issues. Moreover, it had established a commission to monitor the implementation of the Strategy, whose members included a wide range of stakeholders from various Government ministries, as well as representatives of Roma non-governmental organizations.

Oral Questions Raised by the Rapporteur and Experts

DILIP LAHIRI, the Committee Expert serving as country Rapporteur for the report of Montenegro, said that the principal concerns of the Committee related to discrimination in law and practice faced by minority ethnic groups, particularly the Roma; the treatment of refugees, "displaced persons" from ex-Yugoslav Republics and so-called "internally displaced persons" from Kosovo; longstanding issues of police abuse and corruption in the judiciary, which impacted particularly on vulnerable and marginalized groups; the absence of harmonization between pre- and post-independence laws; and the wide gap between laws and regulations and implementation.

Here, Mr. Lahiri noted that, since independence in 2006, Montenegro had made impressive progress towards establishing a constitutional and legislative framework as well as institutional and human rights infrastructure, and that the 2007 Constitution was a very forward-looking document incorporating a broad prohibition of "direct or indirect discrimination on any ground". In that respect, he wondered why the new Constitution used the restrictive term "minority national community" instead of "minority". He also noted that the Roma was the only ethnic group not mentioned in the new Constitution and asked if that impacted adversely on their relative status and treatment?

A further concern was that, under the 2006 Minority Rights and Freedom Act, minority rights protection was only extended to citizens, excluding a large part of the Roma community as well as internally displaced persons. Also, while the Constitution guaranteed important rights to protect the identity and to prohibit the assimilation of members of minorities, as well as guaranteeing proportional representation in Parliament, the current electoral legislation governed only the representation of the Albanian minority in Parliament. The Committee had been told that minority groups were dissatisfied with their level of participation in decision-making processes and in cultural affairs, particularly at the national level, Mr. Lahiri said.

Moreover, the authorities had apparently failed in repeated efforts to collect data on the number of minority members employed in the Government agencies, local government and judicial authorities, and in the school system, records were not kept of ethnic affiliation. The same was true with regard to the police, the armed forces and the judiciary. It was also noted that no ethnically disaggregated data had been provided in the report to demonstrate non-discriminatory access to educational, social and economic opportunities. Mr. Lahiri said the reasons for this reluctance to gather and report ethnic statistics were not clear and he asked for an explanation.

In that connection, Mr. Lahiri noted that the report readily acknowledged the dramatic disadvantages suffered by the Roma in terms of education, residence, health and employment and sexual abuse. There appeared to be considerable uncertainty about Roma numbers, with official estimates showing less than 3,000, though data from the field, indicated that there were something like 15,000 to 20,000 Roma in Montenegro, representing a quarter of the refugees and internally displaced persons. While the new Roma Strategy 2008-2012 was a very ambitious document, it seemed unlikely that the goals could be met in a timely fashion and more information on implementation would be welcome.

Finally, Mr. Lahiri noted that Montenegro had informed the Committee that data on misuse of authority in Montenegro did not record the ethnic origin of the aggrieved individuals, though that was apparently not an uncommon form of ethnic discrimination. That should be easy to set right. He would also appreciate receiving information on what action the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms had taken with respect to the individual complaints received.

Other Committee Experts then raised questions and asked for further information on subjects pertaining to, among other things, the main provisions of the new draft anti-discrimination law and the timetable for its adoption; the content of the amendments contemplated to the Law on Public Broadcast Services; whether there were broadcasting facilities for programmes in minority languages; concern about a heating up of ethnic tensions in the region, particularly in Bosnia, and what measures Montenegro was taking to proactively ensure that there was no spillover; acts of violence committed against specific ethnic groups, in particular Roma, despite a decrease in such acts; and confusion in the 2003 census categories, which had categories such as Muslim – which overlapped with Bosniak and Albanian – and which had a very high level of undeclared persons.

Response by Delegation to Oral Questions

Responding to those questions, the delegation began by observing that it was itself very diverse – with members coming from a number of Montenegro's national minorities, including the Minister, who was from the Albanian minority. That was indicative of the situation in Montenegro, where minorities were represented in all government departments, and demonstrated that Montenegro had well understood the value of European integration.

Concerning the position of Roma in Montenegrin society, the delegation emphasized that, in the most recent census conducted in 2003, every citizen had been given a chance to respond, but they had not been required to identify themselves with any group if they did not wish to. The use of the RAE acronym (for Roma, Ashkelia and Egyptian) had been in conformity with European practice, as well as at the request of those populations themselves. As for the low number of RAE in the 2003 census, it should be noted that some Roma had not identified themselves as such, feeling that it would perhaps be more advantageous to categorize themselves otherwise, as well as the fact that many of the Roma in the country were internally displaced persons and not citizens. On top of that, the RAE population in Montenegro was highly nomadic.

Following a regional conference in 2003, an agreement between nine governments on the Decade for Roma Inclusion, 2005-2015, had been signed and an Action Plan with four priority areas – education, employment, health care and housing – had been developed. To try and determine the size and other data regarding the RAE population, a comprehensive survey had been conducted in cooperation with Roma non-governmental organizations and the Roma Council in which each municipality had been covered. The statistics bureau was now processing that data, but a preliminary report showed around 10,500 Roma in Montenegro.

To socially integrate Roma, Montenegro would start by facilitating access of Roma to education and their inclusion in educational institutions. To do that, the State had promised free school materials and, last year, for 413 Roma enrolled in first grade the State had provided textbooks, schoolbags and other materials free of charge. The State was also committed to providing the same assistance to Roma in higher levels of education, although there were unfortunately very few: 35 Roma were in high school and 9 in university. Those Roma in higher education received substantial scholarships, including housing for six university students and travel expenses for the others. The results of such programmes were shown in the increase in the number of Roma schoolchildren in primary school, which had risen from some 500 in the school year 2001-2002 to 1,263 in the school year 2006-2007.

To improve housing, at the local level, local self-government bodies had provided assistance in a number of municipalities, such as the construction of new apartment facilities to house Roma refugees and the provision of free utilities.

To improve health care, a number of projects had been conducted, which focused on training, improvement of immunization rates and reproductive health of Roma women. In the capital, Podgarica, the municipality with the largest Roma population, there was a health care centre that was actively participating in these projects.

Regarding the issue of Montenegro's bilateral agreement with the United States related to the International Criminal Court, the delegation noted that Montenegro was a party to the Rome Statute and cooperated with the work of the International Criminal Court. In 2007, Montenegro had made a bilateral agreement with the United States by an exchange of notes, which required consultations with the United States relating to the extradition of citizens to the International Criminal Court if they were located in the territories of the two countries. That did not mean that Montenegro would not extradite anyone or that it had the intention of violating international law in any way. So far, there had been no cases that had arisen in connection with the agreement.

Providing further information on the situation of refugees and displaced persons, the delegation said that, the Government had adopted the Strategy for the Permanent Solution of the Problem of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in 2005, with the objective of finding a permanent solution within three years in full observance of international principles and taking into account Montenegro's economic capacity. The term refugee was used to refer to people displaced from the former Yugoslav republics – Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia – while the term internally displaced persons was used to refer to people from Kosovo. Depending on the security status of the countries of origin and the wishes of the displaced persons, Montenegro had formulated three potential solutions: repatriation and return to country of origin; local integration; and migration to third countries. The first option had been successfully implemented in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to a lesser extent in the case of Croatia, while there had been almost no migration to third countries.

To put it simply, the majority of displaced persons were still in Montenegro, the delegation said. Those individuals exercised all the rights of citizens of Montenegro. They had access to education, health care, employment and social care. Special attention was paid to providing adequate housing. So far, 886 residential facilities had been provided for some 6,400 individuals. A number of people were still in one of the collective centres, and some were in private facilities. To protect the most vulnerable among this population, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Care was now implementing a project in cooperation with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to ensure that financial allowances were paid to them in the same amount as was received by the resident population.

The delegation said it was important to note that displaced persons had participated in drafting the Strategy for Refugees and the majority of them had declared that they would prefer to be repatriated.

The process known as the Sarajevo Declaration went on along with the implementation of the Strategy for Refugees. Its goal was to close the files of displaced persons at the regional level, with the participation of the international partners UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Commission. In spite of activities in that field, however, no concrete outcomes had been achieved since some issues still remained open between Serbia and Croatia, such as the access to property rights. Montenegro had nevertheless fulfilled its obligations and was the only one to have developed a road map for the process.

Currently, the Government had tasked the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Public Administration with starting the procedure for reconsideration of the status of refugees from the former Yugoslav republics on the basis of the Law on Asylum. The Bureau for the Care of Refugees had been given the task of liasing with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and to update the database on displaced persons from Kosovo. It was also important to note that, under the Law on Montenegrin Citizenship, residence with the status of displaced person was considered as lawful residence for the purpose of applications for Montenegrin citizenship.

Regarding war crimes, the delegation enumerated a number of cases in which indictments had been brought, individuals had been detained and trials were under way. As for claims against the State, a number of cases had been resolved between the Ministry of Justice and the proxies of claimants, and damages awarded, including one case involving 42 claims in which 4.135 million euros had been awarded.

With respect to involvement of minorities in public life, the delegation said that, in the National Parliament, out of 81 members, 5 were Albanian; 8 were Bosniaks; 2 were Croats; and 1 was a Muslim. If those figures were compared with the information in the report, it would be seen that the political participation was actually higher than their proportion in the population.

On the language issue, it should be noted that there was very little difference between the Montenegrin, Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian languages, all of which were mutually comprehensible. The new laws and practices in Montenegro, such as the law on identity cards, demonstrated that the Constitutional guarantees regarding use of minority languages was enforced. This was not an area where any difficulty had been experienced.

With regard to the media, the Government partly financed public broadcasting services, including information and cultural programmes, as well as programmes intended for the national minorities. However, the Government wanted to ensure against having a monopoly on such services, and so it only partly funded public broadcasting and those services retained their independent editorial control and structure.

The delegation explained the situation with regard to the category of "Muslim" as a nationality. That was a throwback to the former Yugsolavia and before that to the Ottoman Empire, when that category had been applied. When one claimed to be Muslim with a capital "M", that was considered a national category. When one claimed to be muslim with a lowercase "m", that signified one's religious affiliation.

Providing more information on the role of the Ombudsman, the delegation said that the Ombudsman could be contacted by anyone in Montenegro if they felt their rights had been infringed. Members of minorities had indeed turned to the Ombudsman to complain that their rights had been violated, most frequently in cases of discrimination in employment. The cases mentioned, however, were not cases of discrimination involving discrimination on racial, ethnic or national grounds.

In terms of the contents of the new anti-discrimination law, the delegation said, among others, it contained a provision that discrimination laws could not be abrogated in cases of war or public emergency; it defined direct and indirect discrimination; and it provided a list of serious forms of discrimination. The new law also contained sections on mobbing; segregation; protection from victimization; discrimination in education and professional development; discrimination in employment and labour relations; discrimination against minority or religious groups; and discrimination on grounds of sexuality identity and sexual orientation.

Further Oral Questions Posed by Experts

In a second round of questions Experts asked a number of further questions, including how textbooks, in particular history textbooks, promoted ethnic harmony; whether there was a unit in the Ombudsman's Office that specifically dealt with minorities; whether there had been any complaints lodged with the Ombudsman of discrimination falling under the Convention; the problem posed for the Committee by existence of the category "Muslim" as a national minority, a religious category that was outside the Committee's mandate; whether there were any solutions for the Roma other than integration; whether there had been any asylum requests from countries of sub-Saharan Africa; and whether there was any case law on the ban against racist incitement in the media.

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to those questions, the delegation said that Montenegro was trying to create an integrated society. That did not mean that it was trying to assimilate any groups. The Government was undertaking efforts to help Roma to preserve their language, including, in schools, through the use of the Romani language, and, through the media, by trying to organize special programmes in their language. All Roma groups were encouraged to integrate, while preserving their own ethnic, language and cultural identity.

On the Muslim minority, the delegation noted that Montenegro was a secular State, but according to the Constitution everyone was free to express their religious beliefs freely. There were ethnic Albanians in Parliament, who happened to be muslim, but who were representing the ethnic Albanian minority. There were similarly Bosniaks and Muslims who represented those categories.

There were no separate schools for minorities in Montenegro. Two rooms right next to each other might house pupils learning in Albanian and pupils learning in Montenegrin. There was no conflict between those classes. History teachers were able to use 20 per cent of their course time to teach minority history. The majority and the minorities were working together to create a completely new atmosphere, without prejudice but with appreciation for the differences.


Preliminary Concluding Observations

In preliminary concluding observations, DILIP LAHIRI, the Committee Expert serving as country Rapporteur for the report of Montenegro, said that they had had a fascinating interaction and he thought the complexity of issues in a small country and a small population like Montenegro had provoked a fascinating discussion on its own. Further information on the history of Montenegro would certainly be welcome in the next report. Also of interest would be the introduction of Islam and ethnicity to Montenegro.

Providing a general overview of the Committee's observations recommendations, Mr. Lahiri said the Committee welcomed the timely submission of this initial report, but in the next report more information on the steps for practical implementation of Montenegro's own laws on discrimination and on the implementation of the Convention would be welcome, including disaggregated data on sex, ethnicity and geographical location.

Mr. Lahiri said that one thing that certainly had been clarified in the oral answers had been language and the fact that this was not likely to be a serious issue for discrimination.

Welcome also had been the extensive legislation enacted since independence and the legislation brought into force with a view to integrating international human rights standards. Those included the very forward-looking 2007 Constitution, the Ombudsman's institution, the provisions relating to Asylum and Employment of Refugees; and the strategy for the improvement of the Roma, Ashkelia and Egyptian population.

The Committee had also been encouraged by the progress in adopting the very progressive general law on non-discrimination, details on which had been provided today. Mr. Lahiri hoped that the adoption of that law would be accomplished speedily.

While they had listened with interest to the description of various steps undertaken, it was not unfair to say that there was still a wide gap between intention and the legislation and frameworks put into place and the practical situation on the ground. It was hoped that much more concentrated efforts were put in that area, Mr. Lahiri said

On the general issue of crimes of violence against ethnic and religious minorities, Mr. Lahiri said the Committee had noted the statement that Montenegro did not have a climate of impunity. Nevertheless, there was sufficient evidence to indicate that there were ingrained habits and the working methods of the police and judiciary which impacted negatively on the situation of disadvantaged groups and that those longstanding habits and methods of work had to be broken. In that context, information had not been collected on crimes against ethnic minorities nor had information been provided on action taken by the Ombudsman on the question of racial discrimination, he noted.

On the question of the Roma, it was noted that affirmative action steps had been taken and achievements had been made in primary school education and to improve the opportunities for Roma, but the fact remained that the situation was still pretty abysmal. Mr. Lahiri said the Committee emphasized that opportunity and equality of rights were important, but more important still were results. Montenegro would be urged to take targeted steps that would allow for a marked improvement of the status of the Roma community.

Finally, Mr. Lahiri said that the question of the problematic situation in Bosnia and the possible way that that could affect the situation in Montenegro would, in some way, also be reflected in the concluding observations.

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