Conference reviews draft law on freedom of religion or belief in Montenegro

Press Release No: 19/08
6 May 2019

From 3 to 4 May, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in cooperation with the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral, organised in Podgorica, an academic conference on “Freedom of Religion or Belief in Montenegro” bringing together renowned international experts on the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief.

The main focus of the academic discourse was the draft Law on Freedom of Religion, which has been the centre of severe criticism by both human rights lawyers and religious representatives for a while. The draft law has been almost unanimously rejected by these experts and stakeholders.

In his greetings, His Eminence Metropolitan Professor Dr Amfilohije (Radovic), Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral in the Serbian Orthodox Church, emphasised that the law, if enacted, would not only limit religious freedom, but can severely threaten the legacy of Eastern Orthodoxy in the region.

CEC President Rev. Christian Krieger, urged the government of Montenegro to not unilaterally pass such a law, but to engage in a constructive dialogue on the issue with churches and religious communities, in order to find best possible solutions, in accordance with the international human rights standards.

In a video message to the conference, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Mr Ahmed Shaheed expressed his hope, “that the government of Montenegro, taking into account the concerns raised, and suggestions provided by different stakeholders, will consider revising the draft law so it becomes compatible with international human rights standards promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Key concerns about the legality of the draft law under the international human rights regime, to which Montenegro subscribed in several international conventions, covers the restrictive provisions concerning registration of religious communities. This includes the plan to seize and disappropriate all church property, which dates back to the time before 1918, and restrictions on freedom of thought, opinion and expression, imposed on religious entities.

The experts, including members of the European Consortium for Church and State Research, professors of international law and human rights called upon the government to revise the draft so it becomes compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights and EU legislation. This is particularly important as Montenegro has applied to join the European Union, which is not only an economic entity, but also a community of law and common values.

Read here outcomes and conclusions from the conference

Greetings and video message from Mr Ahmed Shaheed UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

For more information or an interview, please contact:

Naveen Qayyum
Communication Assistant
Conference of European Churches
Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 2 234 68 42
Fax +32 2 231 14 13
Twitter: @ceceurope

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