These days we are commemorating 24 years since since a war crime was committed in Montenegro against Bosnian-Herzegovian Muslim refugees, so called “Deportation of refugees”.
On Friday, 27 May 2016, at noon, in front of the Security Center Herceg-Novi, where the majority of refugees in May 1992 illegally arrested were deported to death, the NGO Human Rights Action, Center for Civic Education and the Center for Women and Peace Education ANIMA will lay flowers and pay homage to the victims.
We invite the citizens of Herceg Novi and media to join us in commemorating this sad anniversary. We have also invited all local assembly members of the municipality of Herceg-Novi.
Please come to remember the victims and their families who sought refuge in Montenegro, join us in condemning this terrible crime. Let us advocate again for a monument to the victims and punishment of those responsible.
In May 1992 the Montenegrin police illegally detained at least 66 civilians, aged 18 to 66 years, fleeing to Montenegro from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and handed them over as hostages to the Bosnian Serbs Army for the exchange of prisoners of war. All transported on 27 May 1992 were immediately killed, while others were killed in the camps, and a few survived torture. Bodies of some of the victims deported from Herceg-Novi on the 27th of May are not found still, nor know exactly where they were killed.
The victims of this crime are undisputable. After four years of trials on the basis of court settlement Montenegro paid compensation to their families for unlawful actions of the Montenegrin police which led to tragic consequences. The fact that they were illegally arrested and extradited as hostages can be found in the final criminal judgment of the Montenegrin court, as well as in the ICTY judgment in the case against Krnojelac (warden of the detention camp in Foča).
However, unfortunately the courts in Montenegro in all of this could not muster the strength to recognize the war crime and punish it. The Higher Court in Podgorica in its judgment that became final on 17 May 2013 acquitted all persons indicted for this crime finding that they allegedly did not have the status of “members of the party to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, i.e. those “who were in service of the party to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, which was allegedly necessary to have in order to commit a war crime. Meanwhile, the expert of the European Union, Maurizio Salustro, in his report on the prosecution of war crimes in Montenegro pointed out that the requirement for criminal responsibility for war crimes established by the court was incorrect and unknown to international humanitarian law and practice, where the responsibility does not entail any formal status of a perpetrator, but the context of an armed conflict that has affected him to commit the crime. The Supreme State Prosecutor of Montenegro on 25 March 2015 filed a request for protection of legality by requiring from the Supreme Court to establish that the verdict violated the law in favor of the defendants, but the Supreme Court refused that request in October that year. The mothers and spouses of the victims filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court of Montenegro because Montenegro did not provide criminal justice in this case and respect the human right to life, in the form of effective investigation and punishment of murder.
Non-governmental organizations (HRA, CCE and Anima) and President of the Council for Civilian Control of Police Operations, Aleksandar Saša Zeković, filed three initiatives several years ago:
Not one initiative has been accepted to date.
The former President of the Municipal Assembly of Herceg Novi, Dejan Mandić, said that the city of Herceg Novi was not ready to support the initiative for the erection of a memorial. Last year, the initiatives was proposed and bring forth to the vote, but did not receive the required majority because the majority of members of Municipal Assembly abstained (DPS, Izbor, Novska list) or absent (SNP, Klub Demokrata). Then we have expressed disappointment and regret, and concluded that the abstention or absence of MPs in honoring innocent victims measure of their humanity and the will of Montenegro in the small to look truth in the eye and prevent the similarly repeated. We welcomed the decision of Dragana Šimrak and Milica Berberović from the SDP and Jovana Šijačić from Izbor to vote for this initiative.
Tea Gorjanc Prelević. HRA executive director
Daliborka Uljarević, CCE executive director
Ljupka Kovačević, ANIMA coordinator