Remembering crime in Štrpci – 21 years later

On the occasion of marking the twenty first anniversary of crime in Štrpci, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) recalls that victims of this and other war crimes committed in Montenegro or on behalf of Montenegro, shall not be forgotten, and that they are still waiting for justice to be served. Even after more than two decades, the full responsibility for kidnapping and murder of nineteen civilians in Štrpci, including eight citizens of Montenegro, has not been determined.

Post-Yugoslav societies, especially Montenegrin one, are obliged to remember 27 February, 1993, when the innocent people were taken out of the train 671, operating on the line Belgrade-Bar, by force and later killed only because of their religious and ethnic affiliation, i.e. personal differences. The only convicted person for kidnapping of 19 innocent citizens was Nebojša Ranisavljević from Despotovac, who was released from the prison in 2011, after he had served the sentence. He was arrested in October 1996 and the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje sentenced him to 15 years in prison, on 9 September 2002. The verdict was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Montenegro in April 2004. Milan Lukić, who commanded a group of kidnappers, was convicted before the Tribunal in Hague in 2009 for the crimes against Muslim civilians in Višegrad during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) but the indictment never covered the crime in Štrpci.

In September 2013, the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office announced the possibility of reopening this case due to obtaining of new evidence. That fact gave a hope that the sad epilogue of not determining the full responsibility for this crime might get a new direction that would lead to serving justice for victims. On that occasion, Milan Lukić was questioned two times in Hague – in November 2013 and in January 2014 – while the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the investigation for more persons has been conducted in Serbia and B&H.

There are no statutes of limitations for war crimes, and responsibility for failure to process them and for their impunity in Montenegro is within the judicial authorities, primarily the Prosecutor’s Office, that in none of these cases of war crimes which were conducted by them succeeded to obtain enough evidence that would make indictments strong and legally sustainable. Still, civil society is the only dominantly investing efforts in order not to forget war tragedies and victims of war crimes, while institutions remain inert. Thus, we invite countries of the region to dedicate themselves more firmly to the establishment of long lasting peace and stable future through additional mechanisms, like the one that REKOM is, which would enable determining the facts about war crimes that happened on the territory of ex Yugoslavia in the period of 1991-2001.

Tamara Milaš, Programme Associate