Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms Mr Jovan Jole Vučurović today has met with Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Montenegro H.E. Mr Rabii Alhantouli, on his initiative.
The Chairperson of the Committee voiced special satisfaction over friendly relations and good cooperation between Montenegro and the State of Palestine, with the conviction that in the upcoming period the activities should be continued with regard to the further strengthening and development of bilateral relations and mutually beneficial cooperation. He informed the Ambassador about the responsibilities of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms, with special focus on activities of the Committee implemented during the 27th term of the Parliament. He pointed out the Committee was continuously undertaking activities on protection, promotion and improvement of the status of human rights in Montenegro, with special reference to the rights of vulnerable groups, which was also recognised by the European Commission. In line with the practice of adopting planning documents, for ten years, the Committee has been drafting its activity plans, based on the activities of the Parliament, Work Programme of the Government, and the European Commission’s Report on Montenegro, encompassing all important activities from the area of the rule of law, especially from the domain covered by the negotiation chapters 23 and 24. He informed him that, as of 17 December 2020, when the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms of the 27th term of the Parliament was constituted, three meetings of the Committee were held, where they considered numerous acts regarding protection and exercising of human rights. He announced that on 24 February 2021, at the fourth meeting of the Committee, there will be a presentation of the “Multidimensional Poverty of Children in Montenegro” Study, carried out in collaboration of researchers from the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in Florence and the UNICEF Office to Montenegro. The Chairperson of the Committee pointed out that the Committee he chaired was different from other working bodies, due to the fact that it holds meetings outside the building of the Parliament and visits the closed type institutions in which violation of human rights could be anticipated. Furthermore, he reminded that, when he started working in this Committee, he visited the Library for the Blind of Montenegro and learned about their work. He concluded that the cooperation of the Committee with the non-governmental sector and international organisations based in Montenegro was intensive and at a high level.
Ambassador Rabii Alhantouli informed the Chairperson of the Committee about the situation in Palestine and current events. He assessed that the human rights committees were key committees in any parliament, which represented a centre of democratic development, and voiced his understanding for the responsibility entailed by the office of the Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms, especially in the current political situation in Montenegro. One of the priorities of the Ambassador of the State of Palestine was to talk with state officials and inform them about the developments in Palestine, because people still do not have enough information about the situation on the ground. The key issue in Palestine is the issue of human rights and justice. Emphasising that every state based its foreign policy on three elements: national interest, facts, and principles and values, he assessed that what dominated in the world was the interest that prevailed over the principles and values. He was convinced that the Parliament of Montenegro and the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms held a significant role in following the policy of the Government of Montenegro. He reminded that democratic countries had the obligation to observe the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the UN member states to uphold and implement the adopted UN resolutions. The fact is that the State of Palestine is one of few countries regarding which numerous resolutions were adopted describing the situation and seeking the reaction from the international community. However, certain UN member states are voting in support of the resolutions, while their official policy in practice is completely contrary to the provisions of those resolutions.
Chairperson Vučurović emphasised that human rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people must be protected and that it was necessary to find a sustainable solution by peaceful and diplomatic means, thus ensuring the stability of the region, but also of the entire world. Just like the Covid-19 pandemic affected the entire world, thus the failure to solve the “burning issues” in certain parts of the planet could inflame the entire world, so it was necessary for the great powers to be involved in the solving of these problems and propose solutions that would not be guided by the cheering passions. So far, a lot of time has been lost and the most tragic thing is that many human lives have been lost, while a lasting solution to the problem is nowhere in sight.
When asked by Ambassador Alhantouli about the assessment of the situation, of the current political events in Montenegro and human rights and freedoms, Chairperson Jovan Jole Vučurović emphasised that from a broader political approach, and not only from the position of the Chairperson, he wanted to remind that in Montenegrin elections held on 30 August 2020, there had been a change of power after 30 years, or even after 75 years. He thinks that human rights and freedoms are the most threatened during the period of the lack of changeability of power, which has been noticeable in the last 20 years in Montenegro, when, in his opinion, human rights and freedoms of the Serbian people in Montenegro have been violated, especially in the field of employment in state administration and in the field of religious freedom. He reminded of the last year's mass protests of believers and peoples in Montenegro that followed after the adoption of the Law on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs and Legal Status of Religious Communities. He emphasised that the injustice was corrected by the recent adoption of the Law on Amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs and Legal Status of Religious Communities, which, in his belief, brought justice for all religious communities. After the elections, a long period of time passed until the Government of Montenegro was formed, with many ambiguities and details that are not common, because the entities who participated in and who won the elections, do not make up the Government of Montenegro. The Government of Experts has many problems in defining solutions that would contribute to better exercising of human rights and freedoms. He emphasised that the rule of law was the basis for everything and that one cannot talk about human rights in situations when there was no rule of law and unless the citizens trusted the judiciary, prosecutor's office and police. He hopes that in the upcoming period, there will be more decisive action in Chapters 23 and 24, which would contribute to the achievement of specific results. The Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms, in line with its responsibilities determined by the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Montenegro, will give its maximum contribution to the protection of human rights of all citizens in Montenegro.
Asked whether the Committee was involved in the preparation and consideration of the Proposal for the Law on Amendments to the Law on the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Proposal for the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office for Organised Crime and Corruption, Chairperson Vučurović said that the proposals for laws were submitted by heads of all parliamentary majority MP groups, in order to adopt laws that were supposed to ensure that Montenegro started on its path towards the rule of law and to get rid of certain persons in the judiciary and prosecutor’s office who, in the past five years, had acted more with regard to a crackdown on the Democratic Front and the opposition and less with regard to law enforcement. The adoption of the laws has been postponed for a month and he considered it damaging to Montenegro.
Ambassador Alhantouli believes that in the near future, the political arena in Montenegro will be more homogeneous, because each transition period is difficult and certain adjustments are required. He personally believes that the exercising and protection of human rights of citizens, and not the European integration, is a key priority of the state and its people, with which MP Vučurović has agreed, emphasising that it is not good to have integration for the sake of integration, but for a better life for the citizens, in line with the motto “All rights for everyone, equal rights for all”.
Ambassador Alhantouli emphasised that the topics of justice, rights and freedoms were very important for Palestinians, because for 54 years they have been living in injustice, under the Israeli occupation, while as many as 72 years have passed since the violent creation of the state of Israel. Palestine is an example where the international community has failed to meet its own obligations to respect the international law. The issue of Palestine is a permanent topic on the agenda of the United Nations and that issue was created in the United Nations, because in 1946 the idea of creating a new state of Israel in the territory of Palestine was launched at the UN. Since then, numerous resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly have been adopted, which on average adopts as many as 17 resolutions on Palestine each year, while the Geneva Human Rights Council adopts an average of three resolutions concerning Palestine each year. He reminded that the Division of Palestinian Rights has existed in the United Nations since 1979, while 29 November is celebrated around the world as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Also, numerous reports of independent experts were made on the situation in Palestine. Due to the lack of political will of the great powers, all resolutions are unfortunately just “dead ink on paper”. However, for them in Palestine, resolutions are important because they allow them to collect legal points that they will use at some point to take back everything that is theirs. No one can ignore the extent of human rights violations by Israel, but despite that, no sanctions are being taken against Israel. Although the existing international system is not fair and has double standards, it is the only one that has been made available to them. Palestinian officials have difficulty convincing their own people of the importance of resolutions and continued cooperation with the international community, as there are still no concrete results. People have lost confidence in the international system and Palestinian officials are obliged to demand that every member state of the United Nations abide by its obligations stemming from the resolutions. The path to achieving justice is slow, but he hopes that soon some countries will impose sanctions on Israel for human rights violations.
The Ambassador reminded that the Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution two years ago, which listed more than 100 companies from Israel and the international community involved in human rights violations. He emphasised that, for the first time in history, the International Criminal Court made a decision last week according to which it has jurisdiction over Palestine, which provided an opportunity to bring Israeli criminals to justice. He reminded that he pointed out to previous and current officials in Montenegro the cooperation with Israel on the issue of defence. The fact is that Israel has developed a military industry, but it is important to determine how and where it was developed. Numerous human rights violations by Israel must not be ignored. When it comes to multilateralism, it is necessary to respect international law and the principles of human rights and freedoms.
Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms Mr Jovan Jole Vučurović emphasised that Montenegro’s position was harmonised with the European Union's position regarding the building of illegal settlements, annexation of Palestinian territories, human rights violations in the occupied territories, attacks on religious sites, churches and mosques in Jerusalem, forced displacement of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, as well as the stopping of entry of Russian Sputnik vaccines into the Gaza Strip. The position of Montenegro, as well as the European Union, is that these settlements are illegal under international law and that these events constitute a serious violation of international law and further undermine the implementation of a sustainable “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for which Montenegro consistently and categorically advocates, in order to find a sustainable solution by peaceful and diplomatic means and thus ensure the stability of the region, but also of the whole world.
The interlocutors voiced their satisfaction with today’s meeting, with the expectation that in the coming period, cooperation between Montenegro and the State of Palestine would continue in numerous areas of common interest.