28 years since the crime in Strpci – the new governing structure must provide justice

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) reminds that today is 28 years since the crime in Strpci, and that still families of the victims still do not know the truth about the destiny of their relatives, circumstances of their murder or where their remains are.

Crime in Strpci has occurred on the railway station of Strpci, on 27 February 1993, when members of the Army of Republic Srpska (VRS), have taken out, abducted and later murdered 19 passengers from the train which operated on the section of the Belgrade-Bar railway. Out of that number of 18 were Bosniaks and one Croatian – Esad Kapetanovic, Ilijaz Licina, Fehim Bakija, Seco Softic, Rifet Husovic, Sead Djecevic, Ismet Babacic, Halil Zupcevic, Adem Alomerovic, Rasim Coric, Fikret Memetovic, Favzija Zekovic, Nijazim Kajevic, Muhedin Hanic, Safet Preljevic, Dzafer Topuzovic, Jusuf Rastoder, Zvezdan Zulicic and Tomo Buzov. To date, the remains of only four victims have been found, while others are still being sought.

Only Nebojsa Ranisavljevic and Mico Jovicic have been legally convicted for the crime in Strpci so far. Ranisavljevic was sentenced to 15 years in prison, in proceeding conducted before the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje, where it was determined that crime was planned and conducted by members of the Army of Republic Srpska (VRS) from Visegrad, under the command of Milan Lukic, but with the knowledge of representatives of state organs of FRY. During the execution of the abducted passengers, Ranisavljevic has kept watch, and wounded one person when he tried to escape. Jovicic admitted before a court in Bosnia and Herzegovina that he participated in beatings of civilians and keeping watch during their abduction from the train and liquidation and concluded a plea bargain agreement with the Prosecution of BIH in 2016, based on which he was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Trial for ten accused persons is currently ongoing in B&H, among whom are some of the commanders.

Processing the crime in Strpci is an obligation of both judicial institutions and institutions responsible for improving the socio-economic status of the families of war victims during the 1990s. Non-recognition of the status of civilian victims of war to all those who lost their loved ones during the armed conflict or their family members are still missing, represents additional victimization, which is contrary to the principle of humanity bound by international documents ratified by Montenegro.

CCE reminds that although this crime has been executed outside of borders of Montenegro and by persons who are not nationals of Montenegro, ten abducted persons were from Montenegro, which indisputably creates an obligation of relevant institutions in Montenegro to actively involve and give their full contribution in the process of criminal prosecution of perpetrators and the persons who gave the order for that, as well as to search for remains of the killed passengers.

It is especially important that the new governing structure, if it wants to demonstrate the discontinuity with bad practices, previously demonstrates by this example the understanding of the importance of establishing transitional justice and restoring the dignity of victims. In that context, CCE calls on the Government to adopt as soon as possible a comprehensive reparations programme for all victims of the 1990s war and to define enforced disappearance as a separate criminal offense accompanied by adequate  sanction for murders committed against the citizens of Montenegro or by the citizens of Montenegro.

CCE urges educational institutions to stop the oblivion practice and to include the issues of the recent history of Montenegro, with a focus on the war crimes, in teaching curriculum at all educational levels, to prevent numerous manipulations and revisionist approaches in history teaching, and thus crimes, so that those would never happen again.

Tamara Milas, Human Rights Programme Coordinator