news 23 May 17

Montenegro Activists to Mark Wartime Refugee Deportation

On the 25th anniversary of the deportation of Bosniak refugees - who were later killed - activists again urged the authorities to punish the perpatrators and build a memorial to the victims.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
A placard showing the deported refugees.

Activists from three Montenegrin human rights groups will lay wreaths on May 25 in the town of Herceg Novi in front of the town’s police headquarters, which is widely considered to bear some responsibility for the shameful deportation of Bosniak refugees to their deaths in 1992.

More than 60 Bosniaks and some ethnic Serbs were illegally detained and brought to the police headquarters, from where they were deported on buses to Bosnian Serb-controlled territory on May 25 and 27, 1992.

Following the deportations, most of the Bosniaks were killed; their remains have yet to be found.

Nine former policemen indicted for the deportations were acquitted in November 2012 because the Podgorica superior court ruled that while the arrests were illegal, they did not constitute a war crime and the nine men were not party to any side in the Bosnian war.

Rights groups fiercely criticised the trial, not only because of the acquittals, but also because of the prosecution’s failure to invoke the issue of command responsibility in war crimes cases.

"It's been 25 years since the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, justice has not been served and a projection of forgetfulness remains omnipresent," the NGO Anima, one of the groups commemorating the deportation, said on Monday.

The three NGOs, includiing the Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights Action, repeated their earlier call for a memorial to be built in Herceg Novi and to declare a day of remembrance.

“We warn once again against the policy of impunity for war crimes and the failure to determine the responsibility," Anima said.

The prosecution has so far launched a total of six cases for war crimes against civilians, but there were no new arrests, indictments or verdicts in 2016 relating either to these or to new cases in the country.

Montenegro has been criticised for years for not making serious efforts to deal with war crimes, although the prosecution promised several new investigations in 2017.

The latest EU annual progress report on Montenegro, published in November 2016, said progress in the country on prosecuting war crimes was slow.

Despite some positive developments, the report said, Montenegro’s prosecution service needs to demonstrate a more proactive approach in following up outstanding allegations of war crimes.

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