Even 22 years after the crime in Štrpci, competent institutions are still not prepared to deal with the past adequately

On the occasion of 22 years since the crime in Štrpci occurred, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) reminds that 27 February 1993 must never be forgotten, when 19 civilians were kidnapped from train 671, which route was Belgrade-Bar, and murdered in place called Štrpci, whereby 8 were Montenegrin citizens. CCE once again urges the competent institutions to review all previous decisions in cases of war crimes, in order to ensure at least partial compensation to victims and families of crime victims.

So far, only Nebojša Ranisavljević was convicted for the crime which took place in Štrpci, during a proceeding conducted before Higher court in Bijelo Polje, where it was discovered that the crime was planned and that a group of members of Višegrad brigade MRS, led by Milan Lukić, stopped a train in afternoon on 27 February 1993 that was on route Belgrade-Bar. After identifying passengers, 18 persons of Muslim nationality and one person of Croatian nationality were escorted out of train, and afterwards taken to village Prelovo. Then they were searched, robbed, beaten and finally executed, in hall of local elementary school. Ranisavljević was released from prison in 2011, after he served his sentence, while Milan Lukić, who commanded the group of kidnappers, got convicted for crimes against Muslim civilians in Višegrad during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the ICTY in 2009, but he was never tried for the crime that took place in Štrpci. This clearly indicates that, even after more than two decades, complete responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of 19 persons in Štrpci has not been determined, while competent institutions, to this day, have not recognised victims of these crimes as civil victims of war, which thereby makes them accomplices.

CCE has been indicating for years on immeasurable damage caused to stability of society and region due to inadequate impunity of war crimes, as well as on overall feigning of processes, characterised by constructive flaws in terms of unperformed indictments by the Prosecution. This kind of inadequate treatment of war crimes shows that those cases are not state priorities which is why Montenegro was reprimanded in last two progress reports made by the European Commission, as well as in European Parliament’s recently adopted Resolution on Montenegro. A concern is expressed in the Resolution itself that no serious efforts have been taken to tackle impunity in war crime cases; and encourages the competent authorities to prosecute war crimes cases in a timely manner and including at the highest level; urges the competent authorities to effectively investigate, prosecute, try and punish war crimes in line with international standards, to ensure the implementation of court rulings and that victims have swift access to justice and fair compensation.

Thanks to work of civil society organisations, a discussion regarding the past and dealing with it was started in Montenegro, as well as on the importance of the existing mechanisms – above all about judiciary which should process war crimes, but also about establishment of new mechanisms such as the RECOM (Regional Commission for establishing the facts about all victims of war crimes and other serious human rights violations committed on territory of former Yugoslavia). Case of Štrpci, as well as other cases of war crimes must never be forgotten, and as a society, should constantly remind us on the importance of establishing transitional justice and restore dignity to all innocent victims, and to generations that have yet to come.

Victims of crime in Štrpci are: Esad Kapetanović, Ilijaz Ličina, Fehim Bakija, Šećo Softić, Rifet Husović, Sead Đečević, Ismet Babačić, Halil Zupčević, Adem Alomerović, Rasim Ćorić, Fikret Memetović, Favzija Zeković, Nijazim Kajević, Muhedin Hanić, Safet Preljević, Džafer Topuzović, Jusuf Rastoder, Zvezdan Zuličić and Tomo Buzov.

Tamara Milaš,
CCE Programme associate and spokesperson for Coalition for RECOM for Montenegro