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Government passes draft law on freedom of religion or belief and legal status of religious communities

Government passes draft law on freedom of religion or belief and legal status of religious communities
Published date: 16.05.2019 18:18 | Author: PR Service

Ispis Print

Podgorica, Montenegro (16 May 2019) -- At today's session, the Montenegrin Cabinet passed the Draft Law on freedom of religion or belief and legal status of religious communities. The draft law is in line with the highest international standards, namely the United Nations' conventions in this area, the European Convention on Human Rights with accompanying practices of the European Court of Human Rights, and the Guidelines of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR.

This is a very liberal law that provides the highest level of freedom of belief, conscience and religion and a significantly higher degree of rights and freedoms than any law in this area in the region. The draft law was passed on the basis of the 2015 Draft, after considering hundreds of pages of commentaries, discussions at numerous public gatherings and extensive individual consultations with religious communities.

This draft law provides for the equal obligations and rights of all religious communities operating on the territory of Montenegro and the issue of state property is resolved in a clear and transparent manner. All religious buildings that were property of the State of Montenegro before the loss of its independence and merging into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918, and which subsequently did not become the property of a religious community in the proper legal way, will be recognised as state property. However, if a religious community has evidence that it has become the owner of some property on the basis of former or current legislation, the State will recognise and respect that. Where there is no such evidence and where the property is created or acquired by the State of Montenegro and represents the cultural heritage of all its citizens, such property will be enlisted as cultural treasure, that is, as the state property of Montenegro.

During the discussion on the draft law, Prime Minister Duško Marković pointed to the historical significance of this legal act. 

"After the restoration of independence, after full international affirmation of Montenegro through membership in the Euro-Atlantic family of contemporary Western democracies, it is our duty to fully establish the cultural and civic identity of our country. To this end, this law is extremely important. I would say that it represents the final step on this historic path of cultural emancipation of Montenegro, because we guarantee every citizen of Montenegro the freedom to be or not to be a believer of any religion on their own conscience, whereby the State protects the property and cultural goods belonging to all citizens and ensures that the laws of Montenegro apply equally on the territory of our country," the Prime Minister noted.

The draft law will be forwarded to the Venice Commission prior to its adoption in the Parliament of Montenegro.