Montenegro is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Victims of sex trafficking identified in Montenegro are primarily women and girls from Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and to a lesser extent, other countries in eastern Europe. Children of ethnic Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian descent, displaced families, and other vulnerable children from Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia are forced to beg on the streets. There have been reports that ethnic Roma girls from Montenegro, who are often forced into domestic servitude, have been sold into servile marriages in Roma communities in Kosovo. Montenegrin women and girls are vulnerable to sex trafficking in other Balkan countries.
The Government of Montenegro does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government increased funding for victim protection during the reporting period. The government initiated prosecutions against more trafficking offenders, but investigations and convictions remained low. The government’s practice of recognizing only those trafficking victims who have agreed to participate in criminal proceedings that result in convictions may limit efforts to identify and assist the much larger population of victims.
Recommendations for Montenegro: Vigorously pursue sex trafficking and forced labor investigations, prosecutions, and convictions, including against complicit officials; collect and share detailed data on the number of prosecutions, convictions, and victims identified within the country and abroad; encourage proactive formal identification of victims even in cases for which there may not be active criminal proceedings against the trafficking offenders; ensure that police, social workers, and other officials working with high risk populations are trained to proactively identify and refer trafficking victims to services; increase proactive screening and assistance to potential victims of trafficking among Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian populations and other vulnerable children; encourage trafficking victims’ participation in prosecutions against traffickers; and implement a national referral mechanism with a multidisciplinary approach to proactive victim identification and defined responsibilities for frontline responders.
The Government of Montenegro demonstrated modest law enforcement efforts in 2012; the numbers of investigations and convictions declined. Montenegro prohibits sex and labor trafficking through Article 444 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government investigated only one suspected trafficking offender in a case involving seven victims, two of whom were children. The government initiated the prosecution of 23 alleged trafficking offenders and obtained the conviction of one offender in 2012, compared to no new prosecutions and 14 convictions in 2011. The conviction, a retrial following extradition of a trafficker initially done in absentia, resulted in a sentence of two years’ and nine months’ imprisonment. The government did not conclude the sentencing for three public officials convicted of complicity in human trafficking during the previous reporting period. The Government of Montenegro did not report any new investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. A former government official alleged to be complicit in a 2002 human trafficking case appealed the dismissal of his defamation lawsuit filed against a victim of trafficking. A 2012 report on Montenegro by the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) noted serious concerns with the country’s legislative and institutional framework for prosecuting trafficking and protecting victims; courts did not consider the case against complicit officials alleged to have physically and sexually assaulted the victim named in the lawsuit, despite extensive evidence collected during the investigation.
The government increased its protection of trafficking victims over the last year, though its efforts to identify victims remained inadequate. The government reported identifying eight new potential victims of trafficking in 2012, including two children, an increase from one victim identified in 2011. The government coordinated with the Government of Serbia for the safe return of an internally displaced Roma child from a camp in Podgorica who was transported to Serbia and subjected to forced begging. The government reported that police in the organized crime unit conducted numerous anti-trafficking raids in bars, nightclubs, and other commercial sex trade outlets, investigated escort agencies, and monitored street begging for labor trafficking. However, NGOs reported that proactive identification needed to improve in light of the low number of victims assisted in the country. GRETA noted that the government’s legal definition of a trafficking victim is limited to those victims who take part in a successful prosecution and sentencing of their trafficker, which may narrow the number of formally identified victims. Limiting victim identification to those who assist in successful prosecutions excluded victims who chose not to cooperate with police and those who did cooperate but whose trafficker was not convicted. GRETA cited concerns that social workers’ and other officials’ stereotypes and views of Roma impeded progress on identifying and intervening in child trafficking cases.
The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders by providing free legal assistance and involving a psychologist when taking victims’ statements. Seven victims cooperated with investigations in 2012. The government fully funded one NGO-run shelter for trafficking victims that was open to both domestic and foreign victims. During the reporting period, the government moved the shelter to a new facility where children could be housed separately from adults. Two newly identified victims were housed in the shelter during the reporting period; four victims identified in prior years continued to reside in the shelter. The national office for combating trafficking had a budget of the equivalent of approximately $182,000; approximately half of this funding was allotted for the shelter’s operations, an increase from the equivalent of approximately $52,200 spent on the shelter in 2011. Victims in the shelter were provided with medical, psychological, social, and legal assistance. Victims were free to come and go from the shelter following an assessment by police and social welfare officials. Montenegro’s law on foreigners provides for a temporary residence permit for trafficking victims lasting from three months to one year, though no victims applied for residency during the last year. NGOs reported that victims of trafficking were not punished for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government maintained its human trafficking prevention efforts in 2012, supporting an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign on television, displaying anti-trafficking messages publicizing the 24-hour national hotline for potential victims of trafficking on air and railway tickets in coordination with a regional campaign, and displaying posters with the hotline number at all border crossings. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $3,900 to an NGO to operate the hotline. The government distributed flyers in schools informing youth about the risks of human trafficking and publicizing anti-trafficking resources and an educational brochure on forced early child marriage among ethnic Roma and Egyptian communities in Montenegro. In coordination with experts from various ministries and NGOs, the government adopted a new anti-trafficking strategy for 2012 to 2018 and a new national action plan for 2012 to 2013. The national anti-trafficking coordinator announced his resignation, but remained in his position during the reporting period. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. The Montenegrin government provided anti-trafficking training to its military personnel prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.