MONTENEGRO: Tier 2 Watch List
The Government of Montenegro does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by increasing funds for the NGO-run shelter and the Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (OFTIP). The government adopted a 2017 action plan for the implementation of its 2012-2018 anti-trafficking strategy. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers for the second consecutive year and tried several potential trafficking cases as lesser crimes. The government identified fewer victims overall and did not identify any sex trafficking victims. The lack of convictions prevented victims from obtaining restitution from their traffickers. Therefore, Montenegro was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MONTENEGRO
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, for trafficking crimes under article 444 of the criminal code; encourage trafficking victims’ participation in prosecutions in a manner that protects victims; increase proactive screening of potential victims, especially for children engaged in begging and women in prostitution; train first responders on victim identification and referral and provide advanced training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement on trafficking investigations and prosecutions; make efforts to ensure raids of prostitution establishments do not lead to the arrest of trafficking victims, minimize harm to potential victims and include arrangements to segregate traffickers from such victims; conduct victim-centered interviews, and quickly transition identified victims to post-rescue care and shelter; create a compensation fund, allocate adequate funds towards a compensation fund, and inform victims of their right to compensation; and integrate Romani groups into decision-making processes regarding victim protection.
The government continued to decrease anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Article 444 of the criminal code prohibits sex and labor trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 12 years imprisonment, with longer sentences possible for cases involving child trafficking, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not initiate any prosecutions under article 444 in 2016 or 2015. The government did not secure any convictions under article 444 in 2016, 2015, or 2014. The government did, however, investigate seven suspected trafficking cases, compared with four in 2015. Two of the 2016 cases led to the arrest and prosecution of three suspects for brokering in prostitution, a crime of promoting prostitution or leading or inciting another to engage in prostitution, and six suspects for migrant smuggling, not trafficking. Observers reported authorities investigated and prosecuted many possible sex trafficking cases under other offenses, such as brokering in prostitution (article 210), due to a lack of evidence or reluctance of victims to act as a witness. Brokering in prostitution prescribes a penalty of up to one year imprisonment, and if against a minor imprisonment for one to ten years. However, in one case involving brokering in prostitution of three children and four adults, the basic court convicted the perpetrator and sentenced her to one year and seven months imprisonment, lower than the prescribed minimum of three years for trafficking of children under article 444. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses.
Law enforcement continued proactive investigations through two taskforces targeting forced child begging and sex trafficking. A specialized trafficking unit within the Department for the Fight against Organized Crime and Corruption of the Police Directorate also investigated trafficking cases. Law enforcement conducted regular raids on bars, night clubs, commercial sex sites, escort agencies, and businesses suspected of illegal employment practices, but these raids did not result in any trafficking investigations. In 2015, the government established a new Office of the Special State Prosecutor to expand its capacity to prosecute cases of organized crime, including trafficking; however, the last suspect prosecuted under article 444 was in 2014. The Ministry of Interior (MOI), in cooperation with an international organization, trained 91 border police officers in eight separate sessions. The government also trained 41 members of local parliaments, 16 prosecutors, and 30 judges. MOI, OFTIP, and the police academy trained 17 representatives from the police directorate on trafficking issues. The police academy also trained new police cadets on trafficking issues. The government slightly increased cooperation with foreign governments and signed a trilateral agreement with Albania and Kosovo that unified standard operating procedures (SOPs) on identifying trafficking victims and providing support services. The government also extradited to Serbia two Serbians suspected of trafficking.
The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government identified one potential trafficking victim, compared to 16 potential victims in 2015. The potential victim was a child forced to beg. The government did not identify any sex trafficking victims (16 sex trafficking victims in 2015). The government also identified two female Romani children forced into marriage and vulnerable to domestic servitude (four children forced into marriage in 2015). The government-funded NGO-run shelter accommodated the only child victim, compared to four victims in 2015. OFTIP allocated €27,000 ($28,451) to the NGO-run shelter, compared to €26,000 ($27,397) in 2015. Police identified 75 child beggars in 2016, compared to 122 in 2015 and 156 in 2014, but did not identify any of them as trafficking victims. The government accommodated most of the children identified as beggars at local social welfare centers until being released to their parents or guardians.
A multi-disciplinary national referral mechanism provided SOPs for identifying and referring victims to services. First responders carried out the preliminary identification of potential victims and then contacted police who formally recognized the individuals as potential trafficking victims. The government identified potential victims as an official trafficking victim only in cases with a final conviction; however, the government provided the same services to potential victims and officially recognized victims. The government, in cooperation with international organizations, continued to disseminate a victim identification checklist containing trafficking indicators to all law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, health and social workers, and school directors; however, police still conducted the majority of proactive identification efforts. For example, police officers proactively screened foreign nationals and seasonal workers during the summer tourist season for indicators of trafficking. Observers reported the low number of identified victims illustrates victim identification procedures remained an area for improvement.
The government-funded NGO-run shelter makes available specialized services for trafficking victims, including medical, psychological, and social assistance; legal assistance; and vocational training and reintegration assistance. Male victims can be accommodated in separate living quarters in the shelter, as were children from adults. Victims can leave the shelter after assessment by police, or by the social welfare centers in the case of children. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) operated local and social welfare centers and two regional institutions, which provide general services for victims of abuse, including trafficking victims. Although MLSW did not provide specialized services for trafficking victims, MLSW can provide separate facilities for males and females. MLSW trained 112 staff on trafficking indicators and interview techniques.
The law provides witness protection, free legal aid, and a psychologist to encourage victims to participate in prosecutions; however, observers reported the government assigned lawyers with little or no experience in trafficking. The law also provides for the possibility for victim restitution and entitles foreign trafficking victims to receive a temporary residence permit, lasting from three months to one year, and work authorization. No victims applied for temporary residence permits in 2016 or 2015. Additionally, no victims participated in the prosecution of their traffickers or requested restitution in 2016 and 2015. The Law on Compensation of Victims is intended to provide financial assistance to victims of intentional violent crimes leading to severe physical injuries or emotional distress; however, this law will not go into effect until Montenegro becomes a member of the European Union. Montenegrin law prohibits the detention or arrest of persons believed to be human trafficking victims for crimes related to the trafficking. However, in October 2014, the high court confirmed the guilty verdict of a Moldovan trafficking victim and sentenced her in absentia to one year in prison for perjury for her testimony in a high profile 2002 trafficking case in which she accused high-level officials of being involved in human trafficking. NGO representatives strongly condemned the verdict for its weak legal reasoning and its chilling effect on possible future cases.
The government increased prevention efforts. The government adopted a 2017 action plan to implement its 2012-2018 anti-trafficking strategy. The government produced semiannual reports on progress implementing the strategy and action plan and allocated €174,860 ($184,260) to OFTIP, compared to €151,165 ($159,289) in 2015. OFTIP led overall anti-trafficking efforts and the head of OFTIP was the national coordinator for the anti-trafficking taskforce, comprised of government agencies, NGOs, international organizations, and the international community. The coordination team monitored the implementation of the national referral mechanism and met twice a year and when a potential victim was identified.
The government organized seminars for healthcare workers, municipality representatives, social workers, and inspectors, on their respective roles and responsibilities in anti-trafficking efforts. The government also conducted a joint training on a multi-disciplinary approach to combating trafficking of children with police, prosecutors, judges, social workers, NGO and international organization representatives, and local government officials. The government, in coordination with the Roma Council and NGOs, organized awareness campaigns targeting the Romani community on trafficking issues. The government continued to support two hotlines for victims of abuse and domestic violence, including trafficking victims. One hotline received 414 calls of which 15 were potential trafficking cases. The other hotline received 3,384 calls but only a small portion involved trafficking. In addition, the government conducted a national awareness campaign that included an awareness-raising video shown on television stations; and increased cooperation with media outlets to advertise the SOS hotline. Authorities provided specialized training to labor inspectors, although inspectors did not identify any cases of forced labor during the reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The national action plan included providing anti-trafficking training for diplomats; however, the government did not report providing training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government required nationals deployed abroad as part of peacekeeping or similar missions to attend lectures on trafficking. The government trained 52 soldiers on trafficking before their deployment.
As reported over the past five years, 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, neighboring Balkan countries, and, to a lesser extent, other countries in Eastern Europe. Sex trafficking victims are exploited in hospitality facilities, bars, restaurants, night clubs, and cafes. Children, particularly Roma and Albanian, are subjected to forced begging. Romani girls from Montenegro reportedly have been sold into marriages in Romani communities in Montenegro and, to a lesser extent, in Kosovo, and forced into domestic servitude. International organized criminal groups occasionally subject Montenegrin women and girls to sex trafficking in other Balkan countries.