Today marks 24 years since members of the Army of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia killed 22 and wounded 7 civilians of Albanian nationality who – during the NATO intervention in 1999 – crossed over to Montenegro from war-torn Kosovo. The crime occurred in the area of Kaludjerski Laz, near Rožaje. Due to the poorly conducted investigation and insufficient evidence, no person has been found responsible for this crime to date. It is also unknown what was done regarding the criminal complaint that was filed 8 years ago by attorney Velija Murić.
The Human Rights Action calls on the Special State Prosecutor’s Office (SSPO) to act in accordance with its strategic obligation and reconsider the case that involved murder and wounding of refugees and locals in Kaludjerski Laz. According to the representative of the victims’ families, attorney Velija Murić, the original indictment did not include all the perpetrators of this crime, nor all the victims. That is why, 8 years ago, on 18 April 2015, he filed a criminal complaint with the Montenegrin Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights. However, the reports of the SSPO do not mention any activities related to said complaint.
The murders of 11 civilians have been prosecuted to date. Six were killed in Kaludjerski Laz, while the rest lost their lives in other locations. Due to the poorly conducted investigation, according to the judgment of the High Court in Bijelo Polje it was not possible to determine during the trial who had shot at civilians; consequently, all the accused members of the FRY Army were acquitted in 2014 due to insufficient evidence. The High Court in Bijelo Polje did not answer the question of whether the event that took place in the area of Kaludjerski Laz even constituted a war crime, thus reducing the possibility of determining the responsibility of the superiors of immediate perpetrators based on command responsibility.
For a more detailed analysis of the decision to acquit, see the report of the Human Rights Action “War-Crime Trials in Montenegro 2009-2015”.
“On that 18 April, I was in my house with the rest of my family members. There were about 15 of us. I heard shots, so I looked from the window in the direction of the bridge, far away, maybe 100-120 metres from my house, and I saw five people getting killed, and two more getting wounded, including my son Musa, who was 15-16 years old at the time… The second wounded person was an older man from Kosovo. I heard that he was later killed in the house of Jašar Ljajić, about 40 metres from the bridge where all these people died.
There was one woman among the dead. However, she was also wearing trousers and had a cap on her head. One of the people who were shot fell into the water, while the other four slumped close to each other. They died immediately next to the bridge over river Crnja. It was daylight and one could see very well. I saw it all perfectly…”.
The testimony of Brahim Ljajić, a witness at the trial of those who were accused for the crime in Kaludjerski Laz. For additional information, see the HRA publication “Against Oblivion”. It contains the statements of local residents, one of the survivors from the refugee column, and two members of the Montenegrin police.