The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Montenegro is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Montenegro is also a State Party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Montenegro is a State Party to the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Article 11 governs freedom of assembly and association:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 52 of the 2007 Constitution of Montenegro governs the right to freedom of assembly:
The freedom of peaceful assembly, without approval, with prior notification of the competent authority shall be guaranteed.
The freedom of assembly may be temporarily restricted by the decision of the competent authority in order to prevent disorder or execution of a criminal offence, threat to health, morality or security of people and property, in accordance with the law.
The 2005 Public Assembly Act is the primary legislation governing assemblies in Montenegro. Article 3 defines peaceful assembly as "any organized gathering of more than 20 citizens held in a public place for the purpose of expressing political, social and other beliefs and interests".
Article 6 requires the organiser to submit an application to hold a peaceful assembly not later than five days in advance.
Article 10 prohibits the holding of an assembly near hospitals; near kindergartens and primary schools while the children are inside; in national parks and protected natural parks, except for peaceful assemblies that propagate environmental protection; near monuments, if it should lead to destruction of protected cultural values; in highways, arterial, regional and local roads in a way that could endanger the safety of traffic; and "in other locations if, considering the time, number of participants or the character of assembly, it could seriously jeopardize movement and work of larger number of citizens".
Article 20 obligates police officers to stop and ban the peaceful assembly, if:
1) it is not reported or it is banned;
2) it is taking place outside the location stated in the application;
3) the participants are incited to armed conflicts, national, racial, religious and other type of hatred or intolerance;
4) the monitors are not able to maintain peace and order;
5) there is actual or direct danger of violence or other types of major violation of public order and peace.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Article 21 of the 2005 Public Assembly Act obliges police officers to take the necessary and inevitable measures to disperse the participants of an unlawful assembly. The use of force by the police is regulated under the 2012 Law on Internal Affairs. Article 14 obligates police officers to "act in compliance with the Constitution, ratified international treaties, law and other regulations". Police officers are further obligated to comply with standards of police action, in particular in the "limitation and restraint in the use of force" and the "prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment".
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
Article 73 of the 2012 Law on Internal Affairs governs the use of firearms. A police officer may use firearms only if other means of force already used were inefficient to reach a result, or when it is necessary to:
1) protect life of people
2) prevent escape of a person captured while committing a criminal offence prosecuted ex officio and punishable by imprisonment sentence of ten years or severe sentence, in case of imminent threat to life
3) prevent escape of a person, lawfully arrested, or a person under the arrest warrant for the commission of criminal offences referred to in item 2 of this Article in case of imminent life threat
4) repel from him the imminent attack threatening his life
5) repel attack on facility or persons being protected, in case of imminent threat to life.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Montenegro, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
There have been no cases against Montenegro before the European Court of Human Rights concerning alleged violations of the right of peaceful assembly or excessive police use of force against demonstrators.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2021 report on Montenegro:
While citizens generally enjoy freedom of assembly, authorities in the past have attempted to limit protests organized by the opposition Democratic Front (DF) party, violence at demonstrations had erupted occasionally, and DPS-controlled media has referred to opposition protests as “antistate.” Some protests in 2020 were marred by arrests and excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators.