Human Rights Day 2011

“Efficient implementation of laws concerning human rights protection is a key challenge of Montenegro in the time to come. Respect of human rights is not guaranteed by adopting laws only, but through applying laws in practice and through constant work on a mind shift. Also, Montenegro still has to work on synchronizing its legal framework in line with international standards when it comes to the issues of statelessness, gender equality and discrimination”, those were some of the key messages sent from the conference “Human Rights Day – Dignity For All” jointly organized by the Faculty of Law of the University of Montenegro, the OSCE Mission and the UN system in Montenegro, on the occasion of Human Rights Day – 10 December.

An open dialogue at separate panel discussions on three aspects of human rights: statelessness, gender equality and discrimination, brought together a number of relevant actors in Montenegrin society – representatives of Government, European Delegation in Montenegro, diplomatic core, NGOs, ombudsman, experts in the field of human rights, etc., who discussed opportunities and challenges of respect and protection of human rights, mostly in the EU accession context.

“Taking inspiration from timeless power of the Universal Declaration, in a delicate moment of Montenegro’s accession to the European Union there is a growing need to activate all the potentials of Montenegrin society for protection and respect of human rights“, said Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident Coordinator in Montenegro, who pointed out that the UN System in Montenegro pays special attention to the ways how the country copes with statelessness, especially in terms of legal challenges.

Reminding that the UN refugee agency – UNHCR declared 2011 the year of struggle against statelessness, Vrbensky noted that statelessness in Montenegro has a lot in common with the issue of refugees, and praised commitment of the Montenegrin Government to address issue of refugees through adoption of National Strategy for Displaced and Internally Displaced Persons in Montenegro. “The United Nations System in Montenegro will support the Government in implementing the Strategy, including through regional projects that provide a lasting solution of housing problems for refugee families – such as the Sarajevo process which will result in durable housing solutions for over 1,100 refugee families”, Vrbensky said.

The panel discussion “Statelessness in Montenegro – legal ghosts” was an opportunity for representatives of the Government, internationals organisations, academia and NGOs to discuss ways of tackling this regional problem. UNHCR representative Slobodan Raščanin stated that the number of stateless persons in Montenegro is not very high, stressing that the greatest concern is a high number of people who are at risk of becoming stateless, with Roma population as the most vulnerable in this regard.

The authorities were recommended that Montenegro need to strengthen activities on reduction of number of people who are at risk of becoming statelessness, to establish procedures for determining the status of stateless persons and to intensify defining procedures of birth registration.

Representatives of the UN, OSCE and EU particularly highlighted the importance of adoption of the Law Against Discrimination, but stressed out that more efforts are needed in its implementation.

“Eradication of all forms of discrimination is imperative. A zero-tolerance approach to this phenomenon is a goal in front of us”, said Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident
Coordinator, while the Head of the OSCE Mission, Sarunas Adomavicius praised the progress Montenegro has achieved in fulfilling international standards in the area of protection of human rights. “Montenegro as the youngest member of OSCE confirmed its commitment to protection and respect of human rights through a serious step forward in its legislation. Adopting the Law against Discrimination is a key milestone in this regard. However, more efforts need to be invested in the area of practical implementation of that law”, Adomavicius said.

Highlighting the rule of law as the central issue of the EU accession process, the Head of the EU Delegation in Podgorica Leopold Maurer reminded that European citizens are absolutely determined to treasure human rights values.

“The entire process of EU accession is about the rights of people. Montenegro will obviously need to incorporate European legislation within its own, and to involve a number of institutions, lawyers as well as students”, said Maurer and stated that the European Union wwould continue to monitor respect for human rights in Montenegro.

The panel discussion “Prohibition of discrimination – where are we now?” saw an open criticism by participants who agreed that, in spite of solid legal framework on antidiscrimination, members of the LGBT population, national minorities, Roma and persons with disabilities still face discrimination.

“In order to achieve equality for all, the legal framework is not enough. The capacities must be provided for educating citizens and training civil servants when it comes to law enforcement and implementation of laws concerning protection from discrimination”, the panel concluded, emphasizing that tolerance represents the strongest expression of democratic culture.

“Promotion of gender equality is a joint task of men and women”, it was stressed out at the panel discussion “Gender equality – challenges and achievements”. Implementation of laws by the system institutions was highlighted as the key challenge for reaching full gender equality.

“Continuous monitoring of the state institutions’ work should be carried out, along with critical analyses of the entire legal system from the perspective of gender equality, in order to make legal system more consistent”, said Ljiljana Kadić, professor at the Law Faculty.

By identifying specific steps and recommendations for greater protection of human rights, the conference at the Law Faculty showed that developing of culture of respectfor human rights in all segments of society is a prerequisite for their full affirmation.

Representatives of the UN, OSCE and EU reiterated their full support to Montenegro on its way of strengthening the ambient for full respect and protection of human rights.