22 years after war crime of deportation of Bosnian refugees from Montenegro the justice has not been served yet

On the occasion of 22 years since Montenegrin police arrested illegally at least 66 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, in May and June 1992, on the territory of Montenegro, and deported them as hostages to their enemy’s army of Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and only 12 of them survived extradition to concentration camps, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) reminds that up until now the justice has not been served when it comes to this war crime.

Montenegro did not approach decisively and responsibly the reconsideration of its role in the last Yugoslav wars, even though undoubtedly it took part in war events. Deportation of refugees in 1992 is one of the most terrible events in recent Montenegrin history. Additionally, because of inappropriate political influence, prosecution of war crimes led to failure of primarily Montenegrin prosecution as well as to the failure of the entire judiciary. That has been confirmed by many current acts of prosecution of this and all other war crimes in Montenegro. Many times, CCE pointed out at unacceptable mistakes and actions of the prosecution and the judiciary, which resulted in unexecuted charges of war crimes and usually unidentified fault of the accused, and court decisions that additionally victimized the victims. So far, none from Montenegrin judiciary was held responsible for that effect, and these questions were again the focus of European Commission within the last Montenegro Progress Report. This indicates that, regardless of what Montenegrin judicial authorities tried to do in order to practically cover up these cases and victims not to get the justice, they did not succeed.

The decision made by Appellate court which confirmed the decision of High Court, and that released nine former officers of Ministry of Internal Affairs who were accused for deportation of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the authorities of the Republika Srpska in 1992, indicates that Montenegrin legal system is not capable to determine the responsibility of the state, as well as the responsibility of individuals for this crime. Also, it should be mentioned that the legal system has entered deeply the process of integration by opening two of the most important negotiation chapters 23 and 24, which made an additional obligation for adequate determination of the facts related to crimes committed by state institutions and individuals on the territory of Montenegro or on behalf of Montenegro, as well as their adequate prosecution.

Once again, CCE reminds that there are no statutes of limitations for war crimes and that the truth about motives, character and consequences of these crimes, as well as about responsible persons, will have to be revealed one day and responsible persons will be prosecuted. Therefore, it is necessary to establish an additional mechanism for determining facts and serving the justice for victims, and whose implementation will contribute to the establishment of rule of law and development of necessary trust among peoples of the ex-Yugoslavia countries that was seriously undermined after 90s.

Within the initiative for Women’s Court Feminist Approach to Justice, organized by Anima on 22 and 23 May 2013, CCE representative visited the crime scene of deportation of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Herceg Novi, as well as the crime scenes of crimes that happened during wars in 90s in Morinj, Bukovica, Kaluđerski Laz and Murin, together with representatives of other NGOs from Montenegro dealing with issues of facing the past. In memory of all those innocent victims, the flowers were laid and their respect was paid by a minute of silence.

CCE still insist on the initiative which was filed together with colleagues from Human Rights Action and Anima that there should be established a memorial day for the victims of deportation and that the memorial should be build in Herceg Novi, which was ignored unanimously by authorities on national and local level in Montenegro.

Tamara Milaš, Programme Associate