news 13 Sep 16

Montenegrins Campaign to Revoke Karadzic’s Poetry Award

A petition has been launched in Montenegro urging the authorities to revoke a literary award given to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in 1993.

Dusica Tomovic
Radovan Karadzic in court in The Hague. Photo: ICTY.

A group of activists led by Montenegrin writer Ibrahim Cikic, a Bosniak former political prisoner, has launched a petition to revoke a literary award that was given to war crimes convict Radovan Karadzic in Montenegro in 1993.

The activists said that Karadzic’s life and work do not correspond with the artistic and humanistic aims of the award.

Karadzic received the Risto Ratkovic award, one of Montenegro’s most important poetry prizes, for his book The Slav Guest.

This award was given by the jury of the annual ‘Ratkovic’s Evenings of Poetry’ event in August 1993, held in the honour of Montenegrin poet Risto Ratkovic in the town of Bijelo Polje.

Karadzic was found guilty in March this year of committing genocide against Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995, terrorising the civilian population of Sarajevo, persecuting Bosniaks and Croats across the country and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In an open letter to the Bijelo Polje’s Mayor Aleksandar Zruic on Monday, Cikic called on the municipality’s parliament to revoke the award and abolish what it called a ‘shameful’ decision on the grounds of inter-religious tolerance, coexistence and peace in Montenegro.

He said that the petition has already been signed hundreds of citizens of different cultural and religious backgrounds from Bijelo Polje, Montenegro, the wider Balkan region and the rest of Europe.

“Although your signature is not on it [the petition], we believe that you will recognise our good intentions and use the power of your authority to help to erase the name of a proven criminal from the list of laureates of Ratkovic's award,” Cikic said in the letter to Bijelo Polje’s mayor.

Responding to the letter, mayor Zuric told local media that “granting or revoking literary awards" wasn’t in his jurisdiction, but said he would consider the initiative.

Cikic was one of 20 leading members of the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action of Montenegro who was sent to prison in 1994 after being convicted of plotting an armed conflict in the northern Sandzak region. He insisted however that the charge was politically motivated.

The decision to award Karadzic was criticised at the time, when some activists and poets said that it was given to “the president of an ethnically-cleansed state”.

Famous Montenegrin poet Jevrem Brkovic also said at the time that Karadzic was a “minor poet”, and called on other laureates to return their prizes to the municipality of Bijelo Polje.

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