There is no processing of war crimes, but there are statistics for EC

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), on the occasion of publishing of results of screening by Special State Prosecution in cases of war crimes, elaborated in Report on work of State Prosecution, draws attention of the public to the fact that during 2017 all criminal charges related to cases of war crimes were rejected.

CCE assesses this to be discouraging for the overall process of dealing with the past in which Prosecution has an important role. The existing mechanisms by which processes related to war crimes could be accelerated are insufficiently or inefficiently being used. This is yet another evidence of simulating reforms by Montenegrin institutions which instead of production of tangible results use statistics in an attempt to present that they are dedicatedly working on fulfilment of the set benchmarks within the Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights).

It should be reminded that previous proceedings, via unsustainable indictments and fictitious court proceedings, resulted in acquittal of the majority of those who were indicted for war crimes. Even so, as a rule, this was only a low number of perpetrators and never those who were in higher chain of command. Upon passing of Strategy on investigation of war crimes, which is just an expression of a need of proving before European Commission, Special Prosecution has during 2015 launched new investigations and formed seven cases for criminal offences related to war crimes. This was assessed as positive by domestic and international expert and interested public and that step forward was noted also in the EC Montenegro 2016 Report.

However, it did not take long to be revealed that new investigations were initiated in order to make an illusion of determination of Prosecution to fight against impunity of war crimes. Data from the recently published Report on work of State Prosecution for 2017 also point to this, as per which during 2017 there were no new-formed cases for criminal offences relating to war crimes. Furthermore, it is stated in Report that unresolved complaints against seven persons remained from the previous period, of which against six persons for criminal offence – genocide, and against one for criminal offence – war crime against civilian population. All seven criminal offences have in 2017 been resolved by rejection but the Montenegrin authorised organs have apparently missed to duly inform the European Commission in order for this to be found in this latest EC Report.

This approach does not contribute either to quality or credibility of accession negotiation process with the EU, but either to process of establishing of reconciliation upon which insists also the new EC Enlargement Strategy for Western Balkans.

Also, this approach is entirely contrary also to continuing warnings of the EC, which are repeated also in this year’s Montenegro 2018 Report, which notes that ‘Montenegro needs to further step up its efforts to fight impunity for war crimes. It needs to apply a more proactive approach in order to effectively investigate, prosecute, try and punish war crimes in line with international standards, and also to prioritise such cases. The judicial decisions reached so far have contained legal mistakes and shortcomings in the application of international humanitarian law. Charges of command responsibility, co-perpetration and aiding and abetting have so far not been brought.’

CCE appeals again on authorised institutions to reconsider the so far decisions, that were resolved by rejection, and to in a legally proper manner process all cases of war crimes that were perpetrated in Montenegro or cases of war crimes in which citizens of Montenegro have participated in any manner, in order to finally have results in this area. CCE invites also MPs of Parliament of Montenegro to especially reflect upon this part during discussion on adoption of Report on work of State Prosecution, both due to importance for Montenegrin dealing with the past, and for our obligations on the path towards the EU and manner in which authorised organs in this area follow EC recommendations.

Tamara Milas, CCE Programme associate