Sunday, October 24, 2010
CORRUPTION 101: Citing “lack of evidence” Podgorica court frees officers accused of torturing Albanians
Although international monitoring agencies cited numerous incidents of police brutality during the arrests, the appeals court did not refer to any such evidence in their final conclusions.
Facts that were ignored centered on details that the entire process was marred with inconsistencies and corruption. Immediately following the arrests, Amnesty International reported that the prisoners were subjected to “repeated beatings, including with the intension of forcing a confession, using hands, fists, feet, sticks, and on one occasion a computer cable.” The report went on to assert that “beatings were allegedly conducted by both individual and groups of police officers at the police station, by the antiterrorist police involved in the arrest and by police escorting the men to court” (eye-witness reports named Scekic, Mitrovic and Marko leading the way). Amnesty concluded that “one individual reported that a hood was placed over his head; another that he had a gun held to his head; all were subjected to racist threats on the basis of their Albanian ethnicity” (10/17/06).
In the same vein, the U.S. State Department in a recent Country Report cited the Helsinki Committee of Montenegro that “police had used disproportionate force against some of the arrested persons and their family members during the arrests and subsequent interrogations.” Concurringly, Freedom House reported similar abuses and stated that “the hospitalization of prison inmates after a police raid raised questions of brutality and resulted in a change in prison administration…accusations of political interference and complaints of lengthy judicial processes continued to plague the judicial and prosecutorial systems.”
According to a 2009 Report by USAID (Corruption Assessment: Montenegro), Montenegro’s police system has been criticized with having little independence from judicial and legislative influence. As with many political institutions in Podgorica, corruption continues to be a problem:
- The conflicts of interest law is too limited, the local self-government law is inadequate, and whistleblower protection is insufficient;
- Judges are insufficiently trained;
- Trials take too much time, in part, because the courtrooms are not equipped with, and the judges do not use, any form of court-reporting mechanism;
- Defendants who have insufficient resources to hire their own defense attorneys are given appointed counsel; appointed counsel does not necessarily have any experience or specialized training in criminal defense matters;
- There appears to be little or no communication between prosecutors of the Basic Courts, the police, and building inspectors at the local level;
- Political and economic elites as connected by durable networks based on sharing the benefits of corruption. Corruption is controlled from above with the spoils shared within clans based on family, friendship and regional ties – especially in the banking and construction sectors. They act with perceived impunity – there are few controls to detect and prevent corruption, and there is insignificant enforcement and prosecution of high-level corrupt acts. Corruption is seen as a high reward-low risk activity;
- The leading political party (DPS) has minimal competition, with the opposition parties severely fragmented along ethnic, religious or economic lines and no reasonable possibilities for coalition building;
- Public officials can act with impunity. There are minimal controls and oversight to ensure their accountability and, despite access to information laws, there are sufficient loopholes available to minimize government transparency;
- Weak oversight can be seen in the relatively ineffectual efforts by the criminal justice system to identify, prosecute and sentence corrupt officials, whether they are on the national or local scene;
The Directorate for Anticorruption Initiative (DACI) recently completed a survey research study of the justice sector (2008) where more than one-third of all interviewed parties (1788 respondents) and one quarter of companies had the perception that the judicial system in Montenegro is often or always corrupt.
Contributing to this lack of adequate political will is the minimal nature of political competition in Montenegro. Essentially, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), as the successor to the League of Communists, has served as the ruling party for 60 years. The opposition parties appear to be hopelessly small and fragmented, with few proponents of coalition building. Without political competition from other parties or from the legislature or judiciary, the ruling party feels empowered to wield its authority without need to modify its grip on the spoils of power.
If this corruptive behavior in Montenegro is not overhauled, the paternal relationships between the DPS, judicial and police apparatus’ will continue to function unabridged for many years to come.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 12:10 PM