Why is the status of civilian war victims still unregulated?!

Five non-governmental organizations sent a request yesterday to the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Naida Nišić, to inform the public about the reasons for her department’s already three-month delay in the preparation of the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Veterans and Disability Protection. Prime Minister Milojko Spajić and Deputy Prime Minister for Labour, Education, Health and Social Affairs Dr. Srđan Pavićević were informed about the contents of the letter.

An earlier draft of the lawby which only the victims of the armed conflict with NATO in Montenegro were considered civilian victims of the war, and not those from Montenegro who suffered from armed conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Kosovowas criticized by the European Parliament as selective.

After the protest organized by the Human Rights Action (HRA) and the Association “Štrpci – Against Oblivion” on 29 December 2023, supported also by other non-governmental organizations and individuals, the draft law was withdrawn from the procedure, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was tasked with drafting a new text proposal that would include all civilian victims by 1 March 2024 at the latest.

The new solution should regulate the status and compensation of family members of all Montenegrin citizens who died as civilian victims during the wars of the 1990s, if they did not exercise that right in other countries, as well as those who were wounded in armed conflicts, for example, NATO bombing in 1999. In addition, it was planned to increase the income of existing beneficiaries of veteran and disability protection.

At the session of the Second Regular Sitting of the Parliament of Montenegro in 2023, held on 29 December, it was announced that in the case that such a Proposal is absent, the representatives of all parliamentary clubs will jointly propose and adopt their own Proposal for the Law no later than 1 June.

Both set deadlines have passed. The Ministry is already three months late with drafting the Proposal, despite working on it for over five months. This causes particular concern, because proposals for regulating the status of civilian victims of war have been made a long time ago – the Bosniak Party offered the proposal to the Parliament of Montenegro in December 2023, and the HRA to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in January of this year.

We requested Minister Nišić to inform the public about the reasons for such a delay in proposing the law and when the proposal can be expected. We also emphasize that NGOs were not involved in the work of the working group for drafting the Draft Law.

We believe that regulating the status of civilian victims of wars is one of the key issues for dealing with the past, and we will continue to advocate for this issue to be resolved in a way that does not discriminate against anyone.

Tea Gorjanc Prelević, Human Rights Action (HRA)
Demir Ličina, Association “Štrpci – Against Oblivion”
Daliborka Uljarević, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Ervina Dabižinović, Center for Women’s and Peace Education ANIMA
Velija Murić, Montenegrin Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights