Watchdog Initiative: "Monitoring of Enforcement of the Article 220 of the Criminal Law of the Republic of Montenegro"
Thursday, October 21, 2004 9:25 AM


Analysis in Serbian Available Here

Violence, in different forms, is a part of everyday life for women. Laws do not adequately address the problem, and the practice of hiding violence, especially when endangered women hide the violence they have suffered, makes violence prevention and punishment of abusers very difficult. Society does not have an adequate solution for this commonly occurring social problem, and coordination and cooperation between institutions responsible for addressing the problem remain inadequate.

In April, 2004, the SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence Podgorica, along with its partner organizations, SOS hotlines from Bar and Berane, and with the support from USAID/MAP/ORT, started the Watchdog Initiative, “Monitoring of Enforcement of the Article 220 of the Criminal Law of the Republic of Montenegro”, which defines domestic violence as a criminal act. The data is related to the monitoring of enforcement of this article within Courts and Security Centers in 9 Montenegrin municipalities (Podgorica, Kolasin, Danilovgrad, Bar, Ulcinj, Budva, Berane, Rozaje and Plav) and provide an analysis of the level of client satisfaction/dissatisfaction with services obtained in the institutions mentioned above.

This initiative is directed toward institutions that are of crucial importance in improving and enforcing legislation and procedures which regulate violence against women, which are the Ministry of Interior and Judiciary.

The initiative’s goals are: creation of positive legislation, increased level of enforcement of this article in the practice, more effective punishment of abusers, which will lead to improved treatment of endangered persons in institutions. Another important goal of this initiative is to increase citizens' awareness about the work of the institutions.

Within this initiative, we have analyzed data obtained from Security Centers and Courts, interviews with SOS hotlines’ clients, as well as statements from representatives of the institutions mentioned before.

Analyzing data obtained from Security Centers in municipalities mentioned above for the period of the previous 6 months, we can conclude that there are:

  • 141 citizens’ total charges for 9 Security Centers;
  • 31 persons (22.1%) who are imprisoned and charged;
  • 61 persons (43.6%) who have received a warning from the public officials;
  • 61 processed criminal charges (43.6%);
  • 32 charges on the evaluation of the Prosecutor’s office (22.9%);
  • 114 female victims (81.4%) (Spouses abused by their husbands, mothers abused by their sons, sisters abused by their brothers, daughters abused by their fathers, daughters-in-law abused by their fathers-in law…);
  • 23 male victims (16.4%) the majority of which consists of parents whose children are delinquents or users of psychoactive substances (PAS)
  • 130 violators who were males (93%) (there were recorded only 3 cases in Montenegro where the abusers were woman: 1 case involving the woman’s husband, and 2 involving the women’s children);
  •  6 children who were victims of violence (4.3%);
  • Interesting information indicating that almost 20% out of total number of abusers were using alcohol at the moment of committing violence in the family; information which confirms our belief that alcohol is not the cause of the violence, but may increase already present aggression.

Analysis by each Security Center

Table: Analysis By Security Center
Type of Data Podgorica Kolasin* Danilovgrad Berane Rozaje* Plav* Bar Budva* Ulcinj
Number of citizens’ criminal charges/
% of total
3 / 75
Number of warnings/
% of total
Number of processed criminal charges/
% of total
Number of cases on prosecutor’s evaluation/
% of total

*A percentage of the total cannot be provided for these security centers because the total number is not available.

Data available for each Security Center indicate significant differences in the types of intervention used. In Podgorica’s Security Center, for example, the dominant intervention is a warning issued to the violator by officials, while in Berane’s Security Center, criminal charges are most often used. This data implies an existing consistency/inconsistency of enforcement of article 220 which defines violence in family as a criminal act.

Analysis by each Court

Court in Berane

  • 33 processed cases, out of which 18 resulted in sentences (or 54.5%).
  • Type of sentences: 1 acquittal sentence (or 6%), 10 suspended sentences (or 55.6%), 7 fines (or 38.9%).

Court in Bar

  • 10 citizens’ criminal charges and 5 processed cases by Security Center.
  • Out of 5 processed cases, there were 3 indictments (or 60%).
  • No sentences.

Court in Podgorica

  • 81 citizens’ criminal charges and 15 processed cases by Security Center.
  • 12 indictments, and 3 requests for investigation.

* Regarding prosecutor’s recommendations for all mentioned cases, the most frequently issued sentences are acquittal sentences, which depend on the level, circumstances, types and continuity of the violence.

* In cases where the violators were alcohol or drug users, prosecutor’s recommendations are usually suspended sentences with the security measure (medical treatment).

* We do not have information how many suspended sentences have additional security measures.


  • The relationship between the number of citizens’ criminal charges, the number of processed cases and the number of sentences are inconsistent. Out of 100% of citizens’ criminal charges, 43% end up as “warnings” to the violators by police officers; 43% are processed, out of which only 41% get court’s epilog, which clearly indicates an absence of positive practice in prosecution and sentencing.
  • The forms of violence are alarming,  and the most frequent form of violence is both psychological and physical; and the victims are usually women.
  • The absence of any completed legal process this year illusttrates how slow and ineffective the court procedures are, even when there is a sound legal basis.

During interviews, representatives from institutions stated “practical” reasons for the inadequate enforcement of current law, negating the influence of their personal attitudes and beliefs. The most frequent reasons cited were:

  • Absence of court practice
  • Absence of quality law comments
  • Absence of official, formal, and precisely formulated legal categories of violence within the family
  • Testimony; more precisely the possibility for victims or their relatives to request disqualification of testimony
  • Absence of material evidence (many women do not posses necessary medical documentation of abuse)
  • Lack of information about the continuity/repetition of the violence
  • Personal dilemmas which have an extremely strong influence on types of sentences, such as:
    • Is the violator bluffing or not while he is threatening?
    • Is the monetary fine impoverishing the family, rather than serving as an “educational” measure?
    • Is the woman going to be “punished” for false testimony if she withdraws the criminal charge?
    • Can insults and blows be considered violence in the family?

Evaluation of clients’ satisfaction/dissatisfaction

Women who had used services in institutions were given an oportunity to evaluate their satisfaction of institutional work through questionnaires (500 women were chosen at random) in which they could describe their own experiences as: a) negative; b) average; c) positive. In addition to the poll, women were interviewed in the Legal office of SOS hotline.

  • Polled women who used police services stated that they had a negative experience in 38.7% cases, average experience in 35.5%, and positive experience in 25.8% cases.
  • Women who used judicial services had a negative experiences in 17.1% cases, average in 63.4% cases, and positive in 19.5% cases.
  • Beneficiaries of the Center for social work services had a  negative experience in 36.4% cases, average in 54.5% cases, and positive experience in only 9.1% cases.

While interviewing clients of SOS hotline who used services in Security Centers, the Judiciary, and the Center for social work, we saw little progress in the improvement of their level of satisfaction in relation to the data which we analyzed last year. Praises are mostly related to specific persons, which indicates that the situation as a whole has not been improved very much.

  • 30% of women stated that most of their criminal charges were never processed by the Courts;
  • 85% of women said that they were pressured into reconciliation with marital partners, that they accepted it unwillingly because of the feeling that they will be viewed as the ones who “do not care” for their families if they do not accept the public official's proposal for reconciliation;
  • 63% of women stated that after “reconciliation”, more precisely, after the police officer’s “warning” to the violator, they were beaten immediatley upon returning to the home, but they did not report it because they lost faith in institutional assistance;
  • 83% of women believe that their husbands-violators receive preferential treatment in institutions;
  • 89.5% of women had complaints of slow and ineffective court procedures, specifically citing court employees' absence of awareness regarding the delicate problem of domestic violence;
  • 100% of SOS hotlines’ clients had complaints about the high price of legal costs and services from attorneys, 87% of them were not able to pay the court costs, attorneys’ fees, etc. Therefore, help obtained from volunteers of SOS hotlines was very important for them (all services for clients are free of charge);
  • 25% of women stated that public officials are minimizing the problem of violence suffered at the hands of close and distant relatives with whom they live. Public officials view these conflicts as “women’s incidents” even though this kind of violence poses huge consequences; - Beneficiaries of the Center for social work services stated that the biggest problem is absence of room (space) for meetings between parents and children in this Center, so they are forced to organize these meetings at inadequate places (street, cafe bar, pastry shop) which their ex-husbands often use for further mistreatment;
  • 69% of clients are not satisfied with the way their children are given to their ex-husbands. They stress that no one is determining whether the fathers are capabible of caring for the children. Some fathers are drunk during the visitation-period and they drive the children in the car, taking them to café bars, mistreating them (one drunk father had forgotten where he left his child). Nevertheless, this is not prompting a decision from the Center for social work to take away the parental rights of these incapable fathers.

Activists of SOS Hotline have recognized the following problems:

  • A huge number of women are turning to us with the request of writing the charges for a division of marital goods, proposals for transfers of property, which implies the presence of economical violence. Through these requests, the woman is expressing her fear that she and her children will lose their material goods. She has been told that she will be thrown out on the street, that she and the children will lose their property and things, signifying that she has been an object of exploitation for years; 
  • The violence has many long-term consequences on the victim’s psychology. Psychological abuse is often accompanied by physical violence, which clearly implies that this type of violence is a serious problem, and for this reason, it should not be hidden within the family as a private problem, but should be brought out in the open so that the state can develop effective mechanisms for violence prevention and solutions to the violence;
  • The powerlessness of institutions to enforce of effective decisions as well as decisions ready to be carried out (which regulate very important issues for marriage and illegitimate marriage, and especially for those decisions relating to children). (There was a case where a woman obtained a decision from the Center for social work with clearly articulated obligations for her ex illegitimate partner regarding thechildren, but she has been waiting for a year, because the responsible institution literally does not have strength to enforce their own decision); 
  • Absence of clearly defined legal measures for security, (called a “restraining order” for the violator), and the basic human right of protection and security is being violated.

The fact is that public officials' (as well as the public's) minimizing of the effects of violence against women and children, remains an obstacle on the road of securing protection for persons endangered by violence. This increases the potential for various types of institutional mistreatment of women and children victims of domestic violence, out of which the most frequent are as follows:

  • Long-term and exhausting processes for the victim,
  • Disregard of the legal regulations, amd making decisions based on personal convictions, attitudes and prejudices,
  • Preferential treatment,
  • Uncoordinated work of state services responsible for solving these problems (transferring responsibilities) which leads to a long and arduous process in which the victim wanders from one institution to another.


Analysis of the current situation shows that, despite certain positive steps forward, the state system’s institutions possess an inadequate awareness of domestic violence, which poses serious consequences for society as a whole. The system's role in violence prevention is very important.

The problem is that public officials see “reconciliation” of marital partners who are in a violent situation as a professional success; even if long-term experiences show that domestic violence is characterized as continuous (repetitive). Also, the permanent return of the wife to her husband-violator, with the advice to be patient and accept the violator’s promises that he will never do it again, provoke the feeling of helplessness in the woman and children and the belief that there is no way out of the violent situation.

Data, which proves that minimizing the effects of domestic violence is a problem within the process of providing security and protection to victims of violence, are as follows:

  • In Security Center Podgorica there is only one inspector in charge for solving this problem, which, with all his efforts and professionalism, is not enough for the amount of necessary work;
  • Very often, cases of domestic violence are shifted to the “staff from the sector”, which means that it is shifted to the police officers who are not educated, and who do not know how to handle domestic violence;
  • There is no unique data base used for monitoring this occurrence, and this leads to inadequate measures.

Very often, charges in Security Centers end up as a police officers’ “warning” to violators. Tolerant treatment by the judiciary toward violators can also be viewed as a result of minimizing the problem of violence in family.

The recognition of the problem of violence against women and children will allow the system and society to address the issues that restrict or prevent officials from the Ministry of Interior to act in adequate way. As well as the courts’ inability to provide an adequate punishment, and all privileges given to the violator which allow him to perform long-term, unpunished violence. We conclude that it is necessary to ask some questions to the public, and at the same time offer proposals for more effective solutions to the problems:


  • Who is responsible in cases where the violator carries out his threats, and injures or even kills the victim?
  • Did the responsible persons from the Judiciary and Ministry of Interior have common understanding, exchange experiences and determine unique criteria for enforcement of  Article 220?
  • Is the need for “preserving the family” at any cost, even at the cost of violence against a victim is who is seeking help in institutions, the result of our prejudices, or just an excuse for “not interfering”, or in another way, just not performing professional obligations?
  • What are the acts that give authority to the police officers for “pronouncing” so many warnings, and when will this authority be given to the courts as in every state?


  • The state has to harmonize the relationship between the actual situation and the needs for regulation of violence prevention and control;
  • All criteria should be harmonized immediately on a national level, taking care of adequate enforcement of current laws;
  • The Judiciary needs to take seriously all threats, because all cases with a tragic ending had incidents of previous threats from the husband or ex-husband directed to his wife, or to the members of her family;
  • Independent court conviction has to be more serious in these situations, a better data base about the structure of the problem of domestic violence and its ratio in Montenegrin society is needed;
  • Our criminal law should introduce measure for security defined as a restraining order for the violator, in order to respect the basic human right of protection and security;
  • To create a unique data base in Ministry of Interior, Judiciary, Centers for social work, and Health institutions, with uniform forms and methods for reporting and recording, which will be used for monitoring of the occurrences of violence and undertake adequate measures in response to the data;
  • Responsible persons in this state should realize that for entry into the European Union, it is not enough to follow only the trend of “humanization” of punishments, they must also care about legal satisfaction and victims’ protection;
  • Raise the level of inter-professional cooperation between institutions and NGOs in order to have more uniform action, more effective problem solving, as well as more accountability in the work of institutions mentioned above.