Responsibility for prosecuting war crimes is in authorities

Daliborka Uljarević, executive director of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), had a presentation today at the international conference “Regional cooperation and reconciliation after the judgment of the ICTY: continuation or stalemate?”, held in the Austrian city of Reichenau. The conference runs from 2-4 of May 2013, and is organized by the Austrian Ministry of Defense and Sports, Austrian National Academy of Defense and the PfP Consortium of Defense Academies and the Institute for Security Studies.

Within the panel “Reconciliation, Cooperation and European integration: the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania,” Uljarević referred to the expectations of the International Court in The Hague, and perceptions of that court after some of the recent verdicts that have provoked controversial reactions. She assessed that dealing with war-time past had been and still remains one of the most sensitive issues when it comes to the regional cooperation and bilateral relations, and the countries will need much more than declarative political statements, if they want progress to be noted in this area. She also stressed the importance of the efforts of civil society in the positioning of this issue, insisting on the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes and ensuring justice for the victims. Uljarević underlined that countries from the region have to be more committed and more directly participate in the process of establishing transitional justice at all levels, and in this context pointed out to the importance of supporting the initiative for RECOM – Regional Commission for Establishing the Facts about War Crimes and Other Serious people to human rights violations in the former Yugoslavia period of the 1991st up in 2001.

Speaking about the obstacles in effectively dealing with the past, in the case of Montenegro, Uljarević drew attention to the fact that the government, which was a participant of war in the 90s, today leads the process of European integration in this country. “Therefore, Montenegro remains the only country in the region to live in the paradox of the existence of crime, victims of crime, but not the perpetrators and those who ordered the crimes. Charges are falling; trials indicate conscious procrastination with intention to relativize the crimes, what leads to judgments of acquittal. The main reason for this is the lack of political will to bring the inspirers to justice. The previous procedures relating to war crimes cases showed that the Montenegrin institutions and authorities are not prepared to establish the facts about the crimes and to prosecute those responsible in accordance with the law. Some of these trials have been turned into a farce, which resulted that those, who at the beginning believed that the truth will be established, are now deeply disappointed and have no confidence in the Montenegrin judiciary at all. This causes serious concern, as it indicates that we will need a lot of that civic and democratic mature to understand that it is our interest and need of a society, that cases of war crimes are fully investigated,“ stated Uljarević.

Finally, Uljarević expressed hope that this issue will be professionally treated in the context of the opening of negotiations on Chapters 23 and 24, “having on mind that in its basis lays (non)existence of the rule of law, and that it should be continued with insisting on these issues even in the Montenegrin context, no matter how it sometimes sounds cynically, taking into the account the current ruling structure.”

Chiara Gaia Iascone, programme associate