There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom; however, the government imposed restrictions that affected members of minority religious groups. A lack of harmonization between the 1977 law on religious groups and the 2007 constitution contributed to problems regarding the legal status and rights of religious groups. There was no progress in the restitution of religious properties expropriated by the former communist Yugoslav government. The government continued to implement the law in a manner that limited the ability of foreign SPC clergy to obtain permanent or long-term residency. The Ministry of Interior denied permits for temporary residency to most SPC clergy residing in Montenegro based on the fact that the SPC refuses to register with the Ministry of Interior as an official religious group; however, the SPC stated such decisions were politically motivated.
Major religious groups stated that the law regulating their legal status was outdated and inadequate, because it failed to address many issues relating to relations between the state and religious groups. Some NGOs demanded the termination of the government’s agreements with the Islamic and Jewish groups and the Holy See in advance of the adoption of a new comprehensive law designed to harmonize existing laws with the constitution.
The Office of the Ombudsman reported that it lacked the human, technical, and financial resources to implement the law on discrimination fully.
No major religious group with previously filed claims for restitution regained ownership or received just compensation for its properties expropriated by the former communist Yugoslav government after World War II. Insufficient funding and failure to adopt pertinent legislation complicated government efforts to address these claims.
Religious groups voiced dissatisfaction with the amount and type of assistance received from the state. Only the largest religious groups received funding, and most were uninformed about the criteria established for requesting funds. Since June, the SPC received 5,000 euros ($6,410), the CPC 36,000 euros ($46,153), the Muslim community 2,000 euros ($2,564), the Jewish community 5,000 euros ($6,369), and the Catholic Church 42,000 euros ($53,846). There was no data available on the amount of funds that other religious groups received before June, except that the SPC had received an additional 13,779 euros ($22,647).
The SPC stated that tax exemptions were applicable to a very limited scope of items, such as the procurement of church bells, crosses, and religious icons. The government generally did not tax organized pilgrimages to approximately 800 Christian shrines and 133 mosques.
The SPC continued to refuse to comply with a law mandating that every religious group register with the local police, stating that the church had existed before the law was adopted. The SPC also criticized the government for refusing to discuss an agreement on mutual relations, even though the government had similar agreements with the Catholic, Islamic, and Jewish groups.
On March 12, the CPC sharply criticized the government, demanding protection of its religious rights, access to all Orthodox churches in the country, the restoration of all shrines altered by the SPC, and the cancellation of a 1920 decree that gave the SPC rights to all CPC shrines.
The SPC continued to state that attempted deportation of and denial of visas to its clergy constituted religious and political discrimination by the Ministry of Interior. On February 14, during a visit by the prime minister, approximately 100 residents of Pljevlja protested against the alleged harassment of SPC clergy. On February 22, the Ministry of Interior delayed its planned expulsion of SPC priests from Pljevlja on grounds of illegally residing in the country, pending a resolution of their legal complaint. On April 12, the Court of Appeals revoked the decision of the Ministry of Interior to expel an SPC priest for disturbing public peace and order and for illegally residing in the country. On December 28, the ministry again denied the requests for temporary residence of five SPC priests from Pljevlja. The ministry denied claims of discrimination and asserted that it was implementing the law, as the SPC was not registered in the country.
On May 31, the Administrative Court revoked the Ministry of Interior’s decision to deny a temporary residence permit to the rector of the Podgorica SPC parish, Velibor Dzomic, who has lived in the country for 18 years. On September 12, the ministry again rejected Dzomic’s request. According to the ministry, Dzomic did not receive a permit because the National Security Agency had concluded that he jeopardized national security, peace, and order. Dzomic remained in the country at year’s end.
On August 8, unknown perpetrators vandalized an SPC church that an army helicopter had illegally placed on the summit of Mt. Rumija in 2005. On December 9, the State Prosecutor interrogated the rector of the Serbian Orthodox church in Bar, Jovan Plamenac, about a letter he had written to Speaker of Parliament Ranko Krivokapic stating that if Krivokapic “mentions the church at Rumija just one more time, he will get what he has long deserved.” Krivokapic had stated publicly on several occasions that authorities should remove the church.
On October 9, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favor of the government in a case the SPC had filed for the return of church property. The SPC was seeking the return of property seized during the communist era. The court ruled that the SPC had filed the case under a provision of the law that was deemed unconstitutional prior to its filing. The SPC accused the government and private media of misrepresenting the result by reporting that the state had won the case, rather than that the ECHR had ruled for the state on procedural grounds.
On November 19, the Podgorica Misdemeanor Court reprimanded SPC Metropolitan Amfilohije for disseminating hate speech in sermons in January 2011. Amfilohije stated in the sermons that anyone who “demolished the church, may God demolish him and his heirs.”
The Administration for Protection of Cultural Heritage stated that the SPC violated the law when it altered, remodeled, and restored original facades and interiors on a number of shrines. The administration announced that all such projects required a valid permit.
On October 31, the Reis of the Islamic Community stated that the Islamic Community had difficulty acquiring land and permits to build a cemetery and house of worship in Tivat. As a result, Muslims from Tivat had to use cemeteries in Podgorica or in the north of the country.
On January 17, the government announced it was giving land in Podgorica free of charge to the small Jewish community to build the country’s first synagogue and cultural center in hundreds of years.