Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Montenegro is a mixed parliamentary and presidential republic with a population of approximately 630,000. Filip Vujanovic was elected president on April 6, 2008. On March 29, 2009, Montenegro held parliamentary elections. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe, both elections met almost all international commitments and standards for democratic elections. The government generally respects the human rights of its citizens and continues efforts to address human rights violations; however, numerous problems persist to various degrees, including a not fully independent judiciary; abusive and arbitrary arrests; police mistreatment of suspects in detention; lengthy pretrial detention and trials; police impunity; harassment of journalists; substandard prison and detention conditions; widespread corruption in law enforcement and judiciary; trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic minorities, particularly Roma, internally displaced persons, and women; and a lack of adequate legislation on freedom of religion and against discrimination.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's main democracy objectives are to accelerate the country's path toward democracy and full integration into NATO and the European Union. With this in mind, the United States has focused on strengthening parliament's legislative and oversight capacities, promoting the rule of law, and reinforcing the criminal justice system's ability to combat corruption and to advance war crimes prosecutions. The United States has also promoted a free, active and professional media; sought to strengthen the capacity of civil society; promoted religious freedom and minority rights; and advanced measures to combat trafficking in persons.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States is working with the parliament to strengthen its ability to serve as an effective check and balance on the executive branch. The United States supports efforts to improve the legislative drafting and oversight capacities of parliament and to facilitate a greater role for the political opposition in committee work. U.S.-funded technical assistance and training promotes more efficient and ethical legislative operations, including through improved administrative structures and rules of procedure. To promote free and fair elections, the embassy has been supporting local monitoring organizations. This assistance includes volunteer recruitment and training, voter education, monitoring of the electoral process, parallel vote tabulations, and observation and analysis of election results. To promote judicial independence, the United States is building the capacity of the judiciary through training on aspects of criminal law and procedure; this is essential if judges are to become more independent and reasoned in their decision-making. The United States supports efforts to advance the rule of law by providing technical assistance to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime, Corruption, and War Crimes, particularly to strengthen its witness protection unit. This assistance focuses on enhancing the office's cooperation with peers in other southeastern European countries and on improving investigation techniques, including those relating to money laundering and trafficking-in-persons cases. U.S.-supported programs also provide training for judges, lawyers, and law students on a variety of criminal law and procedure topics, including ethics, corporate liability, and plea bargaining. Finally, the United States actively supports legislative reforms in the area of criminal procedure with a view toward instituting an investigative role for prosecutors, plea bargaining, more workable search and seizure provisions, and guarantees for basic human rights for the accused.

To advance media freedom and enhance the media's watchdog role, U.S. programs have awarded prizes for investigative journalism and provided a combination of specialized training, analytical information-sharing software, and legal and technical support to independent media outlets to improve their ability to report on corruption. The U.S. Government's anticorruption efforts also include helping citizens' organizations press for more government accountability and action to root out corruption and to spark greater public debate about corruption.

The United States continues to support the development of NGOs dedicated to advocacy of human rights and democracy. U.S. programs continue to support NGOs dedicated to ensuring free and fair elections. U.S.-funded programs work with civil society to improve respect for the rule of law and transparent governance at both the local and national level. A U.S.-supported NGO trained judges from the administrative and supreme courts. With U.S. support, local watchdog NGOs have increased the effectiveness of government implementation of legislation in key areas, such as urban planning, conflict of interest, labor rights, and environmental protection. Small grants support civil society institutions that engage on a variety of challenges facing the country, including civic education and youth development, promotion of a free and independent media, rule of law reforms, and Euro-Atlantic integration. U.S.-funded exchange programs for high school and college students continue to play a key role in exposing youth to broad democratic values.

U.S. officials maintain close relations with leaders of religious and ethnic minority communities and representatives of human rights NGOs, as well as with government officials. The embassy engages in regular outreach to various religious communities, including through the ambassador's annual Iftar and the ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, which has supported projects to renovate both a monastery and mosque. U.S. assistance empowers ethnic minorities, such as the Roma community. U.S. diplomacy and assistance have resulted in greater government attention to antitrafficking initiatives within the country and regionwide. The United States has highlighted deficiencies in the prosecution of traffickers and the identification of trafficking victims. U.S. officials have repeatedly met with the government antitrafficking coordinator and other high-level officials to discuss the importance of combating trafficking and the need for concrete results. A newly appointed coordinator has reintroduced regular meetings of a working group in which embassy officials participate. Recently, seven persons were convicted of trafficking in persons.

[This is a mobile copy of Montenegro]