NGO Mladiinfo Montenegro attended the conference “The (dis)respect of human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic” organized by the Civic Alliance in cooperation with the EU Delegation and the Council of Europe. The conference was held on December 10, 2020 at the Hilton Hotel in Podgorica, on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.
The conference was addressed by the Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights Vladimir Leposavić, Ombudsman Sinisa Bjeković, Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, HE Oana Kristina Popa, Head of the Program Office of the Council of Europe in Podgorica Evgenia Giakoumopoulou and Program Director of GA Milan Radović.
Minister Leposavić said that when it comes to human rights, the topic is perceived as separate from other legal topics, and that in fact human rights are the entire legal system, that is, that the entire legal system exists because of human rights. It is very important to understand that human rights are not just one of the branches of law and that all areas of law and laws that apply as legal standards actually exist to protect human rights.
He announced that he would form the Directorate for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities and offered the ombudsman Siniša Bjeković to sign an agreement on inter-cooperation.
Leposavić pointed out that Montenegro has a relatively good legislative framework and that there is a lot of room for improvement and progress.
The head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, Oana Kristina Popa, said that the current crisis amplifies inequalities and stated that vulnerable groups in Montenegro are affected much more than others.
“The Covid-19 crisis has particularly affected the rights and well-being of women and children in Montenegro, who are victims of alarmingly high discrimination and violence during lockdown periods”, Popa said.
She also said that we have witnessed cases of human rights violations related to personal data protection and privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement in the country and that the crisis has indicated weaknesses in the functioning and delivery of public services, such as health, education, employment and justice.
Ombudsman Siniša Bjeković pointed out four key principles on which the system of human rights and freedoms is based, and those are their universality, indivisibility, reciprocity, connection and interdependence.
He said that the Ombudsman Institution has never hidden its position that the Constitution of Montenegro, when it comes to human rights and freedoms, deserves serious reform.
Ombudsman Bjeković pointed out that this year they had the largest number of cases since they existed, but that an additional analysis will show the reasons for that.
“What worries the institution of the Ombudsman, apart from civil rights, is the stagnation of human rights in the part of economic and social rights as a consequence of all factors that arose from the pandemic itself”, Bjeković pointed out.
Bjeković emphasized that in Montenegro, regardless of education, measures and other things, there is a constant increase in domestic violence.
Popa said that individuals who were at risk of poverty, discrimination or violence before the pandemic are now even more exposed to it and therefore need the solidarity, support and protection of society now more than ever.