Podgorica, 16 December 2016 – There is a slight trend towards a reduction in the total backlog of pending cases in all courts annually, analysis of implementation of the protection of the right to trial within a reasonable statutory deadline shows, which was prepared and presented in the EU Info Centre by the NGO Human Rights Action.

“According to the report on the work of the courts, at the end of 2015, a quarter of the cases from 2011 and earlier (a total of 2,437) remained unresolved. Some of the cases that we saw in the study are more than 30 years old – one was 36 and another 34 years old”, said Tea Gorjanc-Prelevic, the Executive Director of Human Rights Action during the presentation of the study

Gorjanc-Prelevic emphasised that enforcement cases are a particular problem.

“Despite a noticeable reduction in the number of enforcement cases, the backlog of enforcement cases is still considerable. There is no statistical information on how many cases were resolved by the courts, how many by public trustees and within what time period,” explained Gorjanc-Prelevic.

Miras Radovic, a Constitutional Court judge, did not agree with the conclusions of the research.

“I think that the progress of the courts in this context has not been small at all, but is actually rather advanced,” said Radovic.

For the European Union, effective reform of the judicial system implies a fair, independent, professional and efficient judiciary for all citizens.

“However, the overall length of the proceedings remains a cause for concern. Even though the introduction of the bailiff system in 2014 contributed significantly to an improvement in the efficiency of the enforcement of court decisions, the courts still face challenges in clearing the backlog of old civil enforcement cases,” said Annalisa Giansanti, the Acting Head of the Political, European Integration and Trade Section of the Delegation of the European Union.

“The right to trial within a reasonable time”, reminded Marijana Lakovic-Drašković, Director of the Directorate General for Justice of the Ministry of Justice, “is one of the foundations of the efficiency of the judicial system and of legal certainty.”

“It should be noted that, starting with the fact that the largest number of complaints against Montenegro before the European Court of Human Rights were for the violation of the right to be tried within a reasonable time, the amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Criminal Procedure were adopted in 2015. They prescribed a limit to the quashing of the first-instance decision by the appellate court and the obligation of the second instance court, if the legal conditions are met for a repeat decision of the first instance court to be quashed, to conduct a hearing and decide on the merits of the case,” explained Lakovic-Draskovic.

In Human Rights Action they believe that this change to the law should allow for the claim for legal satisfaction which is submitted to the Supreme Court to become a tool that can lead to a speeding up of the procedure, while they believe, in relation to acting on the control requirements, that the courts should take a less restrictive approach to adoption of control requirements and should apply the law consistently, which means that when the presidents of the courts adopt a control request they should set the judge a deadline and monitor whether the deadline was respected, i.e. whether the actions were actually implemented and the procedure completed in the given time period.