The practice of impunity for war crimes has to be stopped

On the occasion of International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims which is celebrated on 24 March, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) emphasizes that adequate facing with the past for every society, as well as for the Montenegrin one, is the basis for establishment of the rule of law. The state, together with other parts of Montenegrin society, is obliged to dedicate itself and work continuously to identify the fact about the fate of the victims and prosecute those who are responsible for crimes.

Wars that were led in former Yugoslavia, during 90s, left behind hundreds of thousands of victims and millions of people who had become refugees or internally displaced persons. Unfortunately, establishing facts about these events goes reluctantly by competent authorities that still do not show full readiness to face this issue, even though it is their legal and moral obligation.

Official statistics show that more than 12.000 people are missing, 423.000 are refugees and displaced persons who still cannot go back to their homes, and there are about 20.000 people who are still stateless or are in danger of becoming stateless. Besides, at least 20.000 women that were exposed to sexual violence in war have not received adequate support yet, which combining with impunity for war crimes, hinders reconciliation and endangers full enjoyment of human rights, democracy and rule of law.

For ages, CCE, independently or together with Montenegrin and regional partners, makes efforts in order to solve these issues in a way that would restore the dignity of victims, but also warns of risks that are caused by systematically not dealing with the past, together with procrastination and making the judicial procedures in cases of war crimes meaningless.

There are no statutes of limitations for war crimes, but postponement of their processing and making the process meaningless represent an additional way of trampling on the dignity of the victims. In this respect, Montenegrin Prosecution has an unacceptable poor performance, and that is the reason why this issue was raised in the last Montenegro Progress Report by the EC. “Montenegro needs to stop with practice of impunity. All important reports on war crimes need to be monitored. Decisions of Montenegrin judiciary on war crimes need to be in accordance with international humanitarian law, to represent jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and to fully implement national criminal legislation. Indictments for command responsibility, complicity or aiding and abetting have not been brought so far. Montenegro should ensure that civilian victims obtain justice and reparation”, states the Report.

International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims – 24 March is another reminder that the state should prosecute human rights violations of the past and work efficiently in order to clarify the fate of the victims. That way, the state can contribute to the culture of remembrance and compassion.

International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims was established by the United Nations General Assembly as a day of remembrance for Archbishop Oscar Arnfulo Romero, a great fighter for human rights, who was killed on 24 March 1980, due to his sharp condemnation of human rights violation of the most vulnerable populations, defending the principle of the right to life, the promotion of human dignity and fierce opposition to all forms of violence. The purpose of celebrating this day is to show respect and remembrance of the victims of serious and systematic human rights violations and to promote importance of the right to truth and justice.

Tamara Milaš, Programme Associate