The Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) condemns in the strongest terms the violent threats made on 24 March 2023 against the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI), an independent non-partisan citizen observer organization and GNDEM member. These threats seek to undermine the rights of not only CeMI, but of other credible civic organizations, such as the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), to conduct impartial election observation and defend the rights of citizens to vote. United Nations Special Rapporteurs have explicitly recognized that election observers, including citizen observers, are human rights defenders. As such, “[m]ember States are urged to take all necessary steps to establish conditions that allow national and international election observers to effectively do their work, and to protect them from any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of their legitimate exercise of their rights and freedoms.”

As Montenegro prepares for the second round of presidential elections on 2 April 2023, GNDEM joins CeMI, CDT, broader Montenegrin civil society, and the international community in expressing serious concern over these threats against credible citizen election observers. We urge the Montenegrin authorities to take all steps possible to protect CeMI and other citizen observer organizations and to investigate these threats and ensure that those responsible are held accountable. Moreover, GNDEM condemns all forms of threats, harassment, intimidation, or acts of violence against election observers. GNDEM stands in solidarity with CeMI and all non-partisan citizen election observers who face these threats against their right to observe elections and defend the right of citizens to vote.

Our colleagues from CeMI received five letters with death threats. The author of these messages sent these messages to the official inbox of the organization that organizes systematic election observation activities, thereby confirming that all messages are directly related to our colleagues’ performance of their professional functions. We welcome that law enforcement agencies in Montenegro and Serbia responded to the reports and launched an investigation. As it became known, the IP address of the person who threatened the observers is in Serbia.

The fact of threats to non-partisan observers is not isolated. Therefore, GNDEM appeals to the UN and the OSCE in this case; these other regional intergovernmental organizations monitor the observance of human rights, with a request to take under systematic control the issue of implementing the rights of observers in their professional work.