On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Human Rights Action (HRA) reminds that the remains of many victims of war crimes – Deportation of Muslim refugees, abductions in Štrpci and killings in Kaluđerski laz – have still not been found. Bodies of at least ten refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who were illegally arrested in May 1992 in Herceg-Novi and handed over to Republika Srpska armed forces, as well as 14 victims of abduction from a train at Štrpci station and a victim of a crime in Kaluđerski laz, have still not been found. It is unknown whether Montenegrin authorities actively helped in any way to locate the remains of these people. Incomplete and unprofessional prosecution of these crimes in Montenegro led to the conviction of only one person, for the crime committed in Štrpci.
HRA also calls attention to the concluding observations of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances on the first report of Montenegro on the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which were adopted in September 2015, and urges that they be implemented.
The Committee expressed concern “about information from several sources pointing to shortcomings in the proceedings leading to the acquittal of most of the defendants in the (war crimes) cases tried more recently, which may raise questions about the adequacy of measures taken by the State party to fight impunity.” The Committee especially pointed to the absence of investigation into the matter of command responsibility, co-perpetration, aiding and abetting, which led to the impunity of persons at higher levels of the command structure. It was recommended that Montenegro thoroughly and impartially investigate all cases of forced disappearances carried out by civil servants or persons under their control in the context of armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia, without further delay, and that those found to be responsible, including the highest representatives of the military and civilian authorities, be punished in accordance with the gravity of the crime. The Committee urged Montenegro to actively cooperate with the countries in the region to locate missing persons and search for those responsible for war crimes, as well as to ensure that the Special State Prosecutor’s Office be trained and equipped to investigate and prosecute war crimes.
The Committee urged Montenegro to ensure reparations for all victims of war crimes and introduce appropriate amendments to the law to bring it into line with the Convention. These amendments include prescribing enforced disappearance as a separate criminal offense with appropriate punishment, defining a victim and victim’s rights, including that the missing person does not have to be declared dead in order for his/her relatives to exercise property rights and other family relations rights, etc. Montenegro needs to inform the Committee by 18 September 2016 on the actions taken to implement these recommendations.
Concluding observations of the Committee are available at: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CED/Shared%20Documents/MNE/CED_C_MNE_CO_1_21699_E.pdf