Montenegro Seeks to Ban Commenting on Verdicts

The initiative by Montenegro’s judges to ban public comments on non-final verdicts is largely seen as controversial and against the basic principles of open trials.The most recent proposal of the Association of Judges of Montenegro aims to forbid public comments on court decisions which are not final, Vijesti Television reported on Tuesday.

The association has been criticising in the past the alleged media pressures over certain courts and judges.

The organisation recognises constitutional right of people to comment on final verdicts, but it also appealed for comments during the trials not to be made in a way which would harm the independence of judges.

The initiative, which would turn public comments on non-final verdicts into a criminal act, was renewed these days during the ongoing public debate about the changes to the current Criminal Code.

Although some lawyers expressed their understanding for such proposal, most of the legal experts in the country criticize the initiative.

Velija Muric, the president of Montenegrin Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights. told BIRN that the practice of people to comment on court decisions is good, because it contributes to the public control over the judiciary.

“The trials might also benefit from investigative journalism, which can point to the certain issues,” he said.

Muric added that by merely lodging an appeal to the first instance verdict, the defence in each trail is making a public comment on a court decision, because those appeals are not labeled as official secrets, but, on the contrary, are available to the public.

Serbia criminalized commenting publicly on non-final court decisions in 2009.

However, since such legal provision has not been followed in practice, the authorities recently decided to abolish it.

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