Final verdicts do not yield justice without the pre-determined responsibility

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) recalls the crime which took place on 14 February 1993 in municipality of Čajniče, where members of so called Army of B&H, among whom eight were Montenegrin citizens from Pljevlja, attacked the unprotected villages of Trpinje and Šapići, from the territory of Montenegro from the direction of village Bukovica. As a reminder, this crime is still inadequately processed even after 23 years have passed.

CCE expressed its concern due to the frequency of omissions of competent judicial institutions, which go in circle from prosecutions which impose indictments with constructional errors, to courts which wrongly interpret international humanitarian law and do not apply national legislation, thus fail to serve justice for victims and sanction the perpetrators.

Attack on villages Trpinje and Ša¬pi¬ći occurred in early morning hours from the territory of Montenegro, more precisely from Bukovica, Pljevlja. Muslim soldiers previously crossed poorly linked stations of Army of RS and crossed to territory of Montenegro, where they were welcomed by Muslims from Bukovica. In Čajniče, 258 civilians were murdered, and prosecution has the evidence that persons from Bukovica, municipality of Pljevlja, participated in atrocious executions, forced captivation, raping and torture. Police from Čajniče launched criminal complaints against eight Muslims from Pljevlja in 1993 due to a reasonable doubt that they committed a war crime against the civilians in Bosnia in Herzegovina. Eight persons from Pljevlja were suspected of having ordered an attack on civilians and civil settlements, committed murders, treated the local population in an inhuman manner and led them to concentration camps, on 14 February 1993, thereby violating the rules of international right during the times of war. Panel of Higher court from Bijelo Polje made a verdict on 3 October 2011 which freed the indicted of charges that they perpetrated criminal offense against the humanity, after which the Prosecution filed an appeal on the decision of Higher court. Appellate court made a decision on 22 March 2012 based on which it rejected the statements from the appeal of Prosecution and confirmed the first instance verdict which denied the guilt of seven Montenegrin citizens, who participated in the killing of Bosnians. This case constitutes the inappropriate procedure of Appellate Court, whereby this court’s stand is that the crimes from the nineties cannot be processed as crimes against humanity, because there was no international act at the time ratified by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which could have prescribed the ban on those crimes.

CCE would like to use this opportunity as well to call on competent institutions to review former decisions as soon as possible and process them in a legally-adequate manner, not just in the case of Bukovica, but every war crime case that took place in Montenegro, and in which Montenegrin citizens participated. Professional implementation of national law and international standards is the first step of judicial institutions towards the establishment of rule of law, as well as the establishment of necessary trust within Montenegro, and the region.

Entire Montenegrin society, particularly the institutions of system, are obliged to remember this crime, which was perpetrated against the civilians in February 1993, and work together to develop the culture of remembrance and establish transitional justice, in order to secure a sustainable peace and stability in region, and prevent similar crimes from happening again. Precisely this was in the focus of civil society organisations from Montenegro and region, which formed the largest regional coalition which advocates the establishment of RECOM.

Tamara Milaš, programme associate at CCE and spokesperson of Coalition for RECOM in Montenegro