By Nick Meynen.
On Monday 18 August, at 9:30AM, Montenegro police arrested Naim Prelvukaj, coordinator of the Council for the Prevention of landfill in the village Martinaj. Despite using only peaceful means of protest, Naim Prelvukaj was charged with obstruction of an officer on duty by the Court of Plav municipality and sent to serve a sentence of 10 days in prison. In the past, Naim has been physically mistreated after one of his previous three arrests.
The arrest received wide media attention in regional media due to the history of the local struggle (media reports are here, here, here, here, here and here). Naim is regionally known as an opponent of the Montenegrin government’s discriminatory policy against Albanians but he is also supported by some well-known Montenegro academics for his environmental activism.
The police assists the municipality of Plav in implementing a unilateral decision to build an illegal open garbage landfill. The municipality misused the official cadastral Office and located the landfill close to water wells for one of the neighborhoods of Martinaj village. Another problem is that the site is located on the Hill Jerina, on the ruins of the ancient city of Illyrian Empress Jerina, causing a conflict with the law for the protection of cultural heritage. Instead of protecting this heritage, authorities have issued penalties and fines to Naim and to other citizens of Martinaj, only because they defended the right to be in a clean and healthy environment.
We call on the authorities of Montenegro to respect legitimate peaceful protests. We also recall that Montenegro ratified the legally binding Aarhus Convention, which provides access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.
Constructing a new landfill is also contradictory to the Montenegro’s aspirations to join the EU, where a new ambitious legislation has been proposed in regards to waste. It aims to reduce and eventually ban landfills for municipal waste by 2025. Instead of building new landfills, the Montenegro government should invest in recycling facilities that give jobs for the local communities.