Montenegro is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. In previous years, victims of sex trafficking identified in Montenegro were primarily women and girls from Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and to a lesser extent, other countries in Eastern Europe. Victims were subjected to sex trafficking within hospitality facilities, bars, restaurants, night clubs, and cafes. Children of ethnic Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian descent, displaced families, and other vulnerable children from Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia were subjected to forced begging on the streets. There have been reports that ethnic Roma girls from Montenegro, who are often forced into domestic servitude, have been sold into servile marriages in Roma communities in Kosovo. Although uncommon, internationally-organized criminal groups subject Montenegrin women and girls to sex trafficking in other Balkan countries.
The Government of Montenegro does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government increased the anti-trafficking budget, elevated the National Coordinator position from under the Ministry of Interior to an independent agency, assigned a new National Coordinator in September 2013, and convicted more trafficking defendants. The government’s law enforcement efforts remained limited; however, it initiated one new investigation and prosecution against a trafficking offender. Victim identification remained inadequate.
Recommendations for Montenegro:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, including complicit officials; greatly increase proactive screening of potential victims, especially in vulnerable populations and potential victims of forced labor; develop a multi-disciplinary approach to proactive victim identification and include civil society groups and NGOs in the national referral mechanism; train law enforcement and judiciary officials on a victim-centered approach; continue to train law enforcement and border police on victim identification and trafficking awareness; ensure that police, social workers, and other officials working with high risk populations are trained to proactively identify and refer trafficking victims to services; ensure raids conducted are ‘smart’ raids to free trafficking victims while minimizing harm to others and include arrangements to segregate traffickers from victims, to conduct victim-centered interviews, to cross-reference victims’ accounts, and to quickly transition to post-rescue care and shelter for identified victims; and encourage trafficking victims’ participation in prosecutions against traffickers.
The Government of Montenegro demonstrated an overall low level of law enforcement efforts in 2013 with regard to trafficking, it investigated and prosecuted one new alleged trafficking offender, and convicted more defendants than in the previous reporting period. Montenegro prohibits sex and labor trafficking through Article 444 of its criminal code, which prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2013, Parliament adopted amendments to the criminal code to include criminalization of slavery and offenses similar to slavery, and to characterize the victim’s consent to the intended exploitation as irrelevant. During the reporting period, the government investigated one new suspected trafficking offender, equal to the number of investigations in 2012, and prosecuted one new defendant, a decrease from 23 defendants in three cases in 2012. The government convicted seven defendants for sex trafficking from cases originally opened in 2010 and 2012, compared to one conviction in 2012. Five defendants received sentences of three years’ imprisonment; one was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment; and one was sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment. In January 2014, the Court of Appeals upheld a retrial verdict exonerating three police officers for human trafficking and acquitted six defendants, including the police officers complicit in human trafficking. The government did not report any investigations of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government provided training to labor inspectors, approximately 60 regional anti-trafficking offices, police officers, and prosecutors to identify victims of forced labor. During employment reviews, labor inspectors failed to identify any cases of forced labor. The government organized seminars on combating trafficking in persons and victim identification for representatives of law enforcement, prosecution, and judiciary. The Judicial training center organized two trainings for more than 60 judicial representatives on criminal instruments used in transnational crime, including trafficking.
The government had mixed protection efforts; although it increased funding for anti-trafficking efforts, including fully funding a shelter for victims, victim identification remained inadequate. The government adopted a new Law on Social and Child Protection in May 2013, mandating that persons who are victims of trafficking be offered special protection. The government reported identifying two female potential victims of trafficking in 2013, compared with eight victims identified in 2012. One victim was referred by an NGO and was accommodated in the government shelter. One was a victim of forced labor. The government coordinated with the Government of Serbia for the safe return of another victim who had been transported to Serbia for forced labor. The police organized crime unit, responsible for investigating trafficking cases, conducted regular and numerous anti-trafficking raids in commercial sex sites and bars. Police continued to follow up on tips of trafficking activities and investigated suspicious businesses, escort agencies, and places where undocumented migrants were found, but they failed to find evidence of trafficking. The government continued to fund the SOS hotline for victims of abuse and domestic violence, including trafficking victims. The police and NGOs continued to utilize the referral mechanism to identify potential victims. The government continued to fully fund a jointly-run shelter for trafficking victims that was open to both domestic and foreign victims; male victims were accommodated in separate living quarters in the shelter. Three victims were accommodated in the shelter during the reporting period. Children were accommodated in the shelter separately from adults. Victims had freedom of movement within the shelter, and could leave after an assessment made by police, or by the social welfare centers in the cases of children. Victims and potential victims were provided with free-of-charge protection, medical, psychological, and social assistance, as well as legal advice regarding their status. There was no difference between the treatment or access to care afforded to foreign and domestic victims. The government allocated a budget of the equivalent of approximately $227,000 to the anti-trafficking office, compared with the equivalent of approximately $182,000 in 2012. Approximately half of the funding was directly allocated to anti-trafficking efforts, including trainings and education, the operation of the shelter for victims, salaries for shelter staff, and the SOS hotline. The government encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders by providing free legal assistance and involving a psychologist when taking victims’ statements. Seven victims cooperated with investigations in 2013. In practice, few victims have participated in the prosecution of their traffickers. NGOs report that victims often change their statements in favor of the traffickers and prefer not to participate in trial out of fear of reprisal. NGOs reported that the police provided adequate protection to victims at all stages of the legal process. Victims were permitted to leave the country and obtain employment pending trial proceedings. The law provided for the possibility of a victim’s restitution, although there were no cases in which a victim requested or obtained restitution. The government had an agreement with NGOs to provide vocational training and reintegration assistance to victims. The government paid for the medical expenses of victims who did not have Montenegrin insurance. The law authorizes extension to foreign victims of a temporary residence permit lasting from three months to one year, although no victims applied for residency during the reporting period. NGOs reported that victims of trafficking were not punished for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Experts reported that the number of trafficking cases and victims are underestimated, given the general stigma and fear attached to reporting a criminal case. Nevertheless, NGOs reported good cooperation with government agencies on projects and specific tasks from the action plans.
The government increased prevention efforts by elevating the National Coordinator position from under the Ministry of Interior to an independent agency, giving it wider jurisdiction and influence, and by assigning a new National Coordinator in September 2013. The government had an anti-trafficking strategy for 2012-2018 and an implementation plan for 2012-2013. The strategy and action plan were monitored through semi-annual reports prepared through joint action of government agencies and civil society. The anti-trafficking office had the overall lead and oversight in coordinating anti-trafficking efforts. The head of the office was also the National Coordinator for the anti-trafficking taskforce, comprising members from the government, two NGOs, and the international community, for the purpose of coordinating anti-trafficking efforts. The government maintained a website for all anti-trafficking efforts conducted on the national and local levels. The government in coordination with NGOs organized training for approximately 120 social and health workers, law enforcement officers, the military contingent, and regional officials on victim identification. The government organized training for approximately 30 representatives from civil society and international organizations on indicators for early identification of victims. The government included trafficking awareness classes in elementary and high schools for the prevention and protection of children from becoming victims. In cooperation with international organizations, the government prepared a victim identification checklist that contains all key points of identification of persons and children who may be potential trafficking victims for both sexual and labor exploitation. The scorecards were disseminated widely to all law enforcement agencies, including border police and prosecutors, health and social workers, school directors, and to all institutions that may come in contact with potential victims. The government conducted a national campaign on trafficking awareness, which included a video played on public and commercial television stations, and promoted the SOS hotline. Posters listing the SOS hotline number were displayed at all border crossings. The government printed and distributed flyers and other advertising material with information intended for youth about the risks and dangers of trafficking, prevention methods, and government agency points of contacts. The government did not have a specific demand-reduction campaign targeting a decrease in commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period. The Montenegrin government provided anti-trafficking training to its military personnel prior to their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.