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Constitutional & Legal Foundations

As noted above, Montenegro is one of the two republics of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, self-declared on 11 April 1992 as the successor state to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and formally established by the Constitution of April 27, 1992. The new federal government formed in November 2000 dropped its previous claim of being the sole successor to the SFRY and was recognized by the international community. Montenegrin law is based on a civil law system. All Montenegrins, women and men, are eligible to vote at age 18; 16- and 17-year-olds can also vote if they are employed. Besides participating in the election of the president of the federation, Montenegrins elect their own republican president to a four-year term of service as head of state of the Republic of Montenegro. Milo Djukanovic, an advocate of greater autonomy for Montenegro in the federation with Serbia, was elected president of Montenegro on December 21, 1997. At the federal level, the president of the FRY was Slobodan Miloševic from 1987 until October 2000; he lost the September 2000 presidential election to Vojislav Kostunica, who had advocated for democratic reforms, economic improvements, and an end to corruption. The executive branch at the federal level also includes a prime minister, several deputy ministers, and a cabinet known as the Federal Executive Council.

At the federal level the legislative branch of the FRY is a bicameral Federal Assembly (Savezna Skupstina) composed of a Chamber of Republics (Vece Republika) of 40 members, 20 of them Serbian representatives and 20 Montenegrin representatives, elected to 4-year terms and distributed according to the party distributions in the republican assemblies of Serbia and Montenegro, and a Chamber of Citizens (Vece Gradjana) of 138 members, 108 of them Serbian representatives (half of whom are elected by constituency majorities and half by proportional representation) and 30 of them Montenegrin representatives (6 elected by constituency majorities and 24 by proportional representation), all of whom serve 4-year terms. Decision-making in the republican government of Montenegro increased in importance in 1999 and later as Montenegro's nationalist movement gained further strength and Montenegrins attempted to regulate their internal affairs more to their own liking with less interference from Serbia. The third branch of the federal government is the judicial branch, consisting of the Federal Court (Savezni Sud) and the Constitutional Court, both of whose judges are elected to nine-year terms by the Federal Assembly, the federal legislative body.

During the 1990s the human rights situation in Montenegro markedly worsened as ethnic violence spread in the Balkans. Large flows of refugees and IDPs sought shelter from the violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo and from the 1999 NATO bombing campaign aimed at halting Miloševic's alleged mass expulsions and murders of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Indictments against Montenegrins for war crimes associated with the ethnic violence in the region had yet to produce arrests by early 2001. With the arrest and extradition of Miloševic to The Hague on June 28, 2001, however, other arrests were expected in both Serbia and Montenegro, as well as a potentially more cooperative stance with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia by the republican governments and eventually by the federal government. The promise of substantial international donations to reconstruct the economies and infrastructure of the FRY following Miloševic's extradition in late June 2001 was viewed as a spur likely to produce a more positive climate within both Montenegro and Serbia for international cooperation that could positively impact the social and economic situations of the local Montenegrin population.

Within the FRY in 2000, serious human rights problems had existed, including violence and discrimination against women, trafficking in women and girls for forced prostitution, and police repression, as well as official and societal discrimination against Muslims, Roma, and other minorities in various parts of the FRY. Severe repression of political critics, student activists, the media, and political dissidents under the Miloševic regime also was a serious problem up through the first part of 2000. Hopes within the FRY and among international actors ran high by mid-2001 that the human rights climate would turn in a more positive direction with Miloševic out of the country.

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