Resolving crimes in Kaludjerski laz is the obligation of the new Government

On the occasion of 18 April, the day when in Kaludjerski laz in 1999, in the first wave, six people were killed, five wounded, and later 11 more people were killed, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) pays tribute to all victims of that crime and calls on the new ruling majority to contribute to the termination of inadequate war crimes processing and to encourage constructive dealing with the past.

We remind that during the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in 1999, about 100,000 refugees from the territory of the then Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija entered the territory of the Republic of Montenegro. Most of these refugees entered Montenegro safely. However, in several cases Yugoslav Army, within the Podgorica Corps area of responsibility, has been firing on refugees and this activity resulted with several dead people. In its indictment, submitted on 30 July 2008, the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office stated that in one of those incidents that occurred on 18 April 1999, six persons were killed and five were wounded and that in other cases that took place from 18 April to 21 May 1999, at several locations, 11 other persons were killed. The whole case will be named after village Kaludjerski Laz, where the most tragic event took place, although all the crimes, even on that day, were not committed at that location. The “Kaludjerski Laz” process began with the indictment against eight members of the Yugoslav army, submitted on 30 July 2008, and it was ended with the verdict of the Appellate court on 8 December 2014. After seven years of this process and dismissal of the part of the indictment, all the accused persons were acquitted.

Montenegrin judiciary system must seriously reconsider this case, especially as different data on a number of victims, the time of the killings, but also the unlawful conduct of evidence emerged during and after the proceedings. It is concerning that the case is closed without determining responsibility for the terrible suffering of the innocent population who sought shelter in Montenegro which directed a welcome invitation to them.

It is inadmissible to manipulate with the victims, refugees, families of the missing persons to gain political points, instead of recognizing the status of civilian victims of the war, adopting a comprehensive and rational reparation programme, preserving remembrance through monuments to such events, to which also insist the relevant non-governmental organizations.

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) appeals to the Government of Montenegro to work committedly on resolving war crimes cases and establishing justice for the victims of this, but also any other, armed action that took innocent victims and caused unstable relations in the region, instead of relativizing some of the most vicious crimes. In that context, certain attitudes of individuals in the Government of Montenegro, such as the one of the Ministry of Justice are concerning and inadmissible, because they deteriorate the already burdensome process of establishing justice for victims, cultures of remembrance and Europeanization of Montenegro.

Tamara Milaš, Human Rights programme coordinator