The Centre for Civic Education (CCE), within the edition “Dealing with the past in Montenegro”, has published second publication “Kaluđerski laz” case. The edition has been founded by the publication on “Morinj” case.
Compiling key and authentic documents of the war crimes in Montenegro, this time of the Kaludjerski Laz case, the CCE wants to accelerate termination of the negative practices of inadequate war crimes processing, building of the necessary institutional framework and encouragement for constructive dealing with the past. It also enables future lawyers, researchers and other stakeholders to have easier integral insight into all aspects of the trial. This structure of the publication contributes to future actions that should lead to the revelation and processing of those responsible for this war crime.
We remind that during the NATO bombing of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in 1999, about 100,000 refugees from the territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija entered the territory of the Republic of Montenegro. Most of them entered Montenegro via municipalities of Rozaje and Plav. According to local officials, up to 8,000 persons daily entered Montenegro through mountain ranges between Montenegro and Kosovo. At one point in spring of 1999, every sixth inhabitant of Montenegro was a refugee.
According to the former Republican, now Montenegrin state authorities and the international community, the fact that Montenegro has provided care and warmly welcomed so many refugees played a crucial role in ensuring Montenegro’s reputation during the Kosovo war. However, such an arduously built reputation has been threatened by some events at the border.
Most of the refugees have safely entered Montenegro, but in several cases Yugoslav Army have been firing on refugees within the Podgorica Corps area of responsibility and this activity resulted with large number of dead. In its indictment, submitted on 30 July 2008, the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office stated that in one of those incidents that occurred on 18 April 1999, six persons were killed and five were wounded, and that in other cases that took place from 18 April to 21 May 1999, at several locations were killed 11 other persons. The whole case will be named after village Kaludjerski Laz, where the most tragic event took place, although all the crimes, even on that day, were not committed at that location. The Kaludjerski Laz process began with the indictment against eight members of the Yugoslav army, which was submitted on 30 July 2008, and it was ended with the verdict of the Appellate court on 8 December 2014. After seven years of this process and dismissal of the part of the indictment, all the accused persons were acquitted.
There is still a lot of vagueness about this crime as different data on number of victims, time of murders and the unlawful conduct of evidence appeared before, during and after this process. The fact that no one has ever been responsible for the murder of at least 15 persons, including children, women and the elderly, who were killed while seeking shelter in Montenegro, remains.
The indictment for the crime in Kaludjerski Laz was submitted due to considerable media and international pressure. However, the lack of identification of individual perpetrators and lack of establishing responsibility points on serious weaknesses within the justice system, as well as on lack of political will to prioritize war crimes issues.
Adequate processing of war crimes, reparation, dealing with the past and building an objective and humane culture of remembrance of these events are not only obligations that Montenegro and its society have to accomplish because of their international partners, but the basis for overall social progress.
Milos Vukanovic, Programme Advisor