Centre for Civic Education (CCE) believes that today’s decision of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the first instance verdict acquitting the accused of the deportation of Bosnian-Herzegovinian refugees from Montenegro in 1992, is just the final result of a process that was a farce, without response to the need of establishing all the facts necessary to contribute to comprehensive clarification of this case and determination of individual responsibility.
Court of Appeals has just confirmed what is going on for years in Montenegro when it comes to the prosecution of war crimes. Although we have victims and crimes, establishing responsibility and bringing perpetrators and principals to the justice is still missing. It is devastating for Montenegro and its judicial authorities that, 21 years since the crime was committed, 8 years since the opening of the case, and nearly 5 years of indictment, we are witnessing closing of the case without specified criminal responsibility and with confirmation of the decision made by criminal court of first instance that this case is not war crime for which the defendant or others could be responsible.
CCE points out that such a decision sends a very bad message, because it shows that even a crime of this magnitude, in which over 50 people lost their lives and dozens of families were destroyed, can go unpunished. Such an attitude towards the victims is not conducive to the establishment of the rule of law, nor builds the necessary trust between the peoples of the former Yugoslavia.
In this case, the judicial authorities have demonstrated that they don’t have the strength, capacity and political independence to adequately prosecute war crimes cases. They had to act much more responsibly and with knowledge that the judgment besides punishing offenders have a wider social significance and contribute to the establishment or renewal of relations between citizens’ countries in the region.
It must not be forgotten that at least 66 Bosnian-Muslim civilians were illegally arrested in Montenegro, and handed to them enemy’s army of Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a hostage. Only 12 deported persons managed to survive torture in concentration camps. The remains of most of the victims have not yet been found. Regardless of the outcome of the trial what we are witnessing today, CCE will continue to insist on establishing facts and justice for the victims, because we, as a society, owe that to all the victims of crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.
Mirela Rebronja, Programme coordinator