The judiciary is not yet fully open

According to this year’s research, the courts in Montenegro meet on average 56.5%, while prosecutor’s offices meet 65% of the openness indicators, These are the best results in the region, evidencing the low level of openness of the courts and prosecutor’s offices in the region.

In cooperation with partners from a regional network of NGOs “Action SEE“, the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) prepared the policy paper in which we analyze a level of transparency, openness and accountability of the judiciary in the Western Balkans region.

The Strategy for the Reform of the Judiciary 2014-2018 recognizes the need to strengthen citizens’ trust in the judiciary through access to information held by judicial institutions, but our research has confirmed that there is still a significant space for enhancing the openness of judicial institutions

Although this year’s result of the openness of judicial institutions in Montenegro needs to be seen in the context of introducing new and more strict indicators, the fact is that these institutions have not worked enough to develop the openness policy during the last year.

Courts publish most of the administrative information such as scope of work, regulations, trial schedules, lists of civil servants and employees with their titles…

However, the websites of most courts are not being updated with press releases or current events. Moreover, publishing information on earnings is also not a practice.

Courts should improve the mechanisms for communicating with the public. Our last year’s findings pointed to the need for improvement of courts’ communication policy with the media and the public, through the training for spokesman and development of a Communication Strategy. Although there is a person or public relations service in most courts, a large number of courts have no practice of publishing press releases, which would make the public aware of the news. Also other methods of communication are not being actively used.

Courts should also improve their capacities to apply the Law on Free Access to Information. More than half of courts (55%) who provided the answers to the questionnaires informed us that they had not participated in any of the free access to information trainings in the previous period.

It should also be added that 23% of courts do not have published updated Guidelines on their websites, and 92% do not publish a database with information granted access upon request.

On the websites of 31% of courts there is no published Code of Ethics of Judges. There is no information on filed complaints in court work reports, as well as violations of the Code of Ethics of Judges or disciplinary responsibility of judges.

As indicated last year, the prosecutor’s office website, although it contains a lot of data, is technically inadequate – there is no functional search, it is not transparent for use and is limited for further improvement of content. Therefore, the last year’s recommendation for creation of a new website

which would be adjusted to the number of institutions and the amount of information remains unchanged.

When it comes to transparency of the Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, key recommendations for improvement of the situation in the previous measurement remain unchanged. These councils should improve their financial transparency.

This research is done through Regional Openness Index which measures the degree to which the institutions of the Western Balkans are open to citizens and society, based on the following four principles: transparency, accessibility, integrity and effectiveness.