On 25 October 2021, the AIRE Centre organised a Roundtable on “Sentencing Practices of Montenegrin Courts” in Montenegro. Participants discussed the Analysis of Sentencing Practices for the Gravest Crimes, which was presented at the event.


The Analysis, which provides an overview of the sentencing practices for the gravest crimes in the 2017-2018 period, was prepared by the Supreme Court of Montenegro, with the support of the AIRE Centre and the British Embassy in Podgorica.


The Montenegrin courts’ sentencing practices have been criticised as overly lenient, often at the lower half of the sentencing range available, said Acting Supreme Court President Dr. Vesna Vučković at the Roundtable event:


“The Analysis is to serve as an independent mechanism for monitoring headway in judicial reform from the perspective of the citizens and actual conditions for access to justice. The collected and analysed data will be used to define recommendations for the upcoming judicial reforms,” said Vučković.


Biljana Braithwaite, the Director of the AIRE Centre’s Western Balkans Programme, emphasised that the importance of the sentencing practices, and by extension, of researching them, could not be overestimated.


 “This is why I extend my gratitude and congratulations to the team that prepared the Analysis. It testifies to the seriousness of the project and its authors’ resolve to delve into the essence of the courts’ actions and the factors that they take into account when they hand down sentences. The Analysis also covers high-profile corruption and organised crime cases that are still the focus of the European Commission and EU accession requirements, which adds value to the document,” said Braithwaite.


She noted that each of these considerations reinforced her confidence in the exceptional importance of the topic as a choice of focus for the project.


“Sentencing practices always elicit a response. The first thing on which experts and laymen alike comment is the sentence which has been imposed on a criminal. It is, as it were, a mirror of the work of not only the courts, but of the prosecutors and police as well. This is why I believe that, with this Analysis, we have provided all institutions both with the material and the impetus to continue improving their work and pursue their research,” Braithwaite concluded.


British Deputy Head of Mission Steve Arrick said that rule of law was a great priority for the UK Government and formed part of its efforts to fight corruption and serious and organized crime.


“I am therefore pleased that the Analysis of Sentencing Practices we are discussing today encompasses criminal offences of high-level corruption and serious and organized crime. Prevention, suppression and punishment of these crimes are your responsibility towards the citizens of Montenegro, but also an extremely important part of your path towards the European Union,” he said


The Supreme Court prepared the Analysis as part of ongoing work to examine and apply the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to facilitate the fulfilment of Montenegro’s EU accession obligations, said the Analysis authors, retired Supreme Court judges Petar Stojanović and Radule Kojović, who were assisted in this endeavour by Advisers Bojana Bandović, Katarina Kapuci Lakićević and Ksenija Jovićević Korać.


The sentencing practices of the courts in the region were presented at the Roundtable. The practices of Croatian courts were outlined by retired judge Ana Garačić, who chaired the Criminal Division of the Croatian Supreme Court. Zlatko M. Knežević, a judge of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented the sentencing practices of BiH courts, while the situation in the courts of the Republic of Serbia was analysed by Belgrade Law School Professor Dr Zoran Stojanović.

A summary of the Analysis is available in English here