The crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic is putting health and livelihood at risk, and core values to the test. This virus obviously generates great suffering to many individuals and families, while also severely affecting social and economic development across the world, said the Head of EU Delegation to Montenegro Oana Cristina Popa at the conference “The (dis)respect of human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic,” organised by the Civic Alliance.
An equally detrimental impact of the COVID-19 crisis is the fact that it amplifies inequalities and deeply challenges social cohesion and tolerance. Montenegro is by no means immune to these risks, said Ambassador Popa.
“Vulnerable groups in Montenegro have been hit harder than others. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted, in particularly, the rights and welfare of Montenegrin women and children, victims of an alarming increase of violence and discrimination in periods of lockdowns. We have also seen worrying cases of violation of human rights relating to personal data protection and private life, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement in the country. Finally, the crisis has exposed weaknesses in the functioning and delivery of public services in the country, such as in the health, education, employment, and justice sectors,” said Popa.
The Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights Vladimir Leposavic pointed out that Montenegro has a good legislative framework, and that there is a lot of room for progress. Minister Leposavic announced that he would establish a Directorate for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities and offered Ombudsman Sinisa Bjekovic to sign an agreement .
Ombudsman Sinisa Bjekovic pointed out that this year they had the largest number of cases since the institution was established, but that additional analysis will show the reasons for that. Bjekovic emphasised that, in Montenegro, regardless of warnings, measures, and other notices, there is a constant increase in domestic violence.
Bitter lessons of the COVID-19 crisis suggest that human rights should be placed at the centre of the measures taken to tackle the pandemic, underlined Ambassador Popa and added that any restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom of movement need to be considered with great care.
“In these difficult times, the EU stands ready to support the relevant social and political stakeholders in Montenegro to play their part in promoting, advancing, and acting to protect fundamental rights and freedoms,” concluded Ambassador Popa.
The Programme Director of the Civic Alliance, Milan Radovic, pointed out that it was evident that there was a selective implementation of regulations, i.e. that citizens were arrested on the street or while sitting on benches in the park, while on the other hand politicians violated the measures en masse but were not sanctioned.