news 12 Nov 15

EU Raps Montenegro Over War Crimes Judgments

The latest EU progress report has expressed concern that Montenegro has not yet prosecuted any senior officials for war crimes during the conflicts of the 1990s.

Dusica Tomovic

The European Commission says Montenegro needs to do more to combat impunity over war crimes and effectively investigate, prosecute, try and punish war criminals in line with international standards.

In its latest progress report, published on Tuesday, the Commission said Montenegro’s prosecution service needs to demonstrate a more proactive approach in following up allegations of war crimes.

"The judicial decisions reached so far have contained legal mistakes and shortcomings in the application of international humanitarian law," the report reads.

The report also expressed concerns that no charges of command responsibility, co-perpetration and aiding and abetting war crimes have been brought.

Action for Human Rights, a prominent watchdog dealing with war crimes, said that the Commission had made it clear that the Montenegrin judiciary was failing to tackle war crimes.

"If Montenegro wants to continue towards the EU, state prosecutors will have to show a more proactive, more courageous and more professional attitude. The courts will have to show more knowledge and willingness to tackle war criminals," the NGO's director, Tea Gorjanc Prelevic, told BIRN on Wednesday.

In its report, she added, the EU had emphasized the need to determine who was responsible for "unprofessional work within the judiciary".

In May, the Supreme State Prosecutor's Office adopted a strategy that outlines measures to identify possible Montenegrin perpetrators of war crimes and open new cases.

The report raised concerns about the fact that the implementation the prosecution strategy has not started.

Last December, the Appellate Court confirmed the decision of the High Court in Bijelo Polje, acquitting all eight defendants accused of having committed war crimes in Kaludjerski Laz in 1999.

In March, the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office filed an application with the Supreme Court concerning the final verdict in the "Deportation of Refugees" case, pointing to errors in the application of the law in this case. The application for protection of legality was dismissed by the Supreme Court in June.

"It is irreparable that those freed in the Bukovica, Kaludjerski laz and Deportation cases cannot be accused of the same offence but can be tried for offences that were left out of the previous indictments," Gorjanc Prelevic said.

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