Today marks 28 years since the murder of Hasan, Ferida and Sena Klapuh from Foča (Bosnia & Herzegovina), who were shot in Plužine on 6th of July 1992 by members of Republic of Srpska Military (VRS) from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Five members of the VRS detachment “Dragan Nikolić’’ were legally convicted in Montenegro for this crime. As the direct perpetrators of a war crime against civilian populace, Janko Janjić, Radomir Kovač, Zoran Simović and Zoran Vuković were convicted to up to 20 years in prison each, while their associate from Montenegro, Vidoje Golubić, was given a sentence of eight months in jail due to failure to report a criminal act and perpetrators. Only Golubović attended the trial, while the others were tried in absentia due to them being at large from authorities. Based on a Montenegrin arrest warrant, Zoran Vuković was arrested in Serbia on 25th December 2015 but has to this day not been extradited to Montenegro despite the fact that Montenegro has requested his extradition.
Human Rights Action (HRA) reminds of this war crime and appeals to the Ministry of Justice to explain to the public why the extradition of Zoran Vuković has not been made from the beginning of 2016 until today, a man who was sentenced to 20 years in jail in Montenegro for his crime against the Klapuh family. We also appeal to the ministry to publish what has been done until today in order for the rest of the perpetrators to be brought to justice. The second convict, Radomir Kovač, has been free since July of 2013, because he served a sentence brought by Hague Tribunal for War Crimes in Foča. HRA has notified the minister of justice of Montenegro Zoran Pažin with a letter regarding that information in January of 2017, and has suggested that Montenegro should notify B&H on the final judgement that he has been convicted to in Montenegro (in attachment). We have not received a response. The third convict, Janko Janjić, known as ,,Tuta’’, committed suicide in 2000 when SFOR made an attempt to arrest him based on the arrest warrant from the Hague Tribunal. It is not known where the fourth convict, Zoran Simović, is today.
Suppression of impunity for war crimes is a moral, legal and political obligation of Montenegro on its path to join the European Union. Punishment of crimes against the Klapuh family, also as punishment of all other war crimes perpetrated on Montenegrin soil or by its citizens must be one of the basic tests for assessing the adherence to the rule of law by public authorities. Facing war crimes must become a part of state policy and formal culture of remembrance in order to secure justice for the victims and to prevent the crimes from happening again.
The High Court in Podgorica arrived at a final judgement in December 16th 1996 regarding the murders of members of the Klapuh family, and has convicted four above-mentioned members of VRS for war crimes against the civilian populace, while the fifth member of VRS from Montenegro was convicted to eight months in prison for the crime of failure to report a criminal act and perpetrators. In this case, the Basic Court had initially qualified the crime as murder out of greed, but then the Supreme Court of Montenegro, in council presided by judge Stevan Damjanović in 1994 found that in this case there was a war crime against the civilian populace, finding the crime committed “in regards to armed conflict on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina’’. It was one of our first judgements for war crimes of the 90’s on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. The final judgement has established that on 6th of July 1992 the convicts took money from the Klapuh family to drive them from Foča to Montenegro. When they arrived near the Mratinje dam, they stopped at the bridge, brought the father, mother and daughter out of the vehicle, shot them and pushed them down the cliff. A coroner’s report found that the mother and daughter only died several hours later.
When one of the convicts, Zoran Vuković, was arrested in Serbia near the end of 2015, based on the international arrest warrant for him issued by Montenegro, his extradition was requested in January of 2016 by Montenegro. However, the process of extradition has not been completed to this day. HRA has in the last few months unsuccessfully tried to gather information on that extradition process from authorities in Montenegro and Serbia. In the case that Vuković is extradited, he has the right to be tried again because he was tried in absentia (Article 431, Code of Criminal Procedure).