2009, April 15
Andreas Gross, Head of the CoE Monitoring Mission
responded to Vesna Medenica and Miras Radovic
Those with a clear conscience do not complain
Andreas Gross, Head of the PACE Monitoring Mission, yesterday said that «those with a clear conscience do not have to complain about his remarks. ... They know they donít have to blame themselves, and if they are right, enough people will also know about it, so an insignificant voice as mine canít disturb anyone», Gross said for Vijesti, in response to the statement of Vesna Medenica, President of the Supreme Court, who said that he had insulted Montenegrin judges by saying the judiciary is «all but independent».
«I regret to say that by your statement you have hurt all those Montenegrin judges who are honourable and committed to the judicial profession», Medenica said last Thursday. In his interview for Vijesti, published on the same day, Gross stated there was a high level of citizensí distrust in the institutions, while the Government failed to meet the recommendations which the OSCE has been giving for almost a decade. The recommendations, according to Gross, refer to a fair distribution of the property of the Communist Party, establishing an independent judiciary and protection of autonomy of individuals in terms of pressures from managers in the state and state affiliated institutions and companies.
Gross said he was not surprised that the people who «bear responsibility did not like my comments. These are critical, and it is my job to be critical», stated Gross.
He explained that he was talking about a lack of independency in judiciary in the context of the fact that too many Montenegrins donít trust the state and its power and the people who, for some time, have borrowed the power from the citizens. «When you talk about this with the critical citizens in Montenegro, many immediately mention the problem of the judicial system in which, in their opinion, all are not equal while some are more equal and better understood than others», Gross stated.
He said that the lacks of the judiciary in the electoral context were shown during the election day as «many didnít know how to deal with complaints until last instances». Gross emphasized that it was only «one example of the reforms we are yet to accomplish».
«Such critical opinions can be heard
even in countries like Switzerland»
«When I need to understand the lack of trust of a great number of citizens towards freedom and democracy, I have to listen to the citizens much more than to those who occupy the leading positions. It is not surprising that they see the problem from a different perspective and that is why they are giving different answers», Gross added. In her open letter to Gross, Medenica said that he had assessed independency of the judiciary «bravely and without arguments, or available facts». She stated that Gross did not have the mandate to analyse and evaluate the third branch of government.
Miras Radovic, Minister of Justice, who has earlier also commented Grossí statements, said that Grossí statement on independency of the judiciary was problematic by its intonation, while failing to offer closer arguments to support the statement makes it even more unacceptable. «Obviously, when such statements are made, all the efforts that Montenegro has undertaken in the field of the reforms are not considered, as well as the fact that many of our international partners have recognized the progress in the reform process, whose most important essence is strengthening the independence and autonomy of Montenegrin judiciary», Radovic said for Vijesti on Thursday.
Gross pointed out that the problems related to the autonomy of a state institution were usual not only in young democracies, such as Montenegro or Serbia. Such critical opinions, according to Gross, can be heard even in the countries like Switzerland. «Next week we will vote on the reform of cantonal judiciary, for which people think will make the judiciary dependent from the state», Gross said. He emphasized that this was a joint problem for many countries. «It would be a surprise if nobody mentioned this problem in Montenegro», Gross emphasized.
«I was talking about the system, not individuals»
Vesna Medenica, President of the Supreme Court, particularly objected to the fact that Gross had made such statements without previously meeting the legitimate representatives of the judiciary. She told Gross that he owed to the Montenegrin public the reasons that made him conclude the judiciary was «all but independent», and invited him to meet her.
«I am convinced that the acceptance of my open invitation would be followed by your apology to the Montenegrin judges», Medenica wrote in her letter to the Head of the CoE Monitoring Mission.
Gross said: «When I speak about the system I donít evaluate each person working in it. Naturally, there are brave men and women who are trying to do the best they can Ė but fixing the picture and the reality is much more demanding. In a small country it is also often a structural problem which has to be considered with a complete respect for those working in the system», Gross said.