news 21 Jul 17

Montenegro Urged to Challenge Killer’s Statue in Croatia

Activists in Montenegro accused the government of not doing enough to pressurise Croatia to remove a monument to a Croat who killed a Montenegrin ambassador in 1971.

Dusica Tomovic
The statue of Miro Baresic in Drage, Croatia, was partly painted red in an act of protest last August. Photo: Facebook.

A group of prominent Montenegrin cultural and public figures and human rights activists are to send an open letter to the government in Podgorica demanding that it explain what it is doing to ensure the removal of the statue in Croatia of Miro Baresic, the killer of Montenegrin ambassador Vladimir Rolovic.

The move came after Podgorica reacted promptly to a protest note from Zagreb calling for the removal of a monument to Punis Racic, who assassinated Croatian leader Stjepan Radic in the Yugoslav parliament in 1928.

After the protest note from Croatia and reactions from the Croatian minority in Montenegro, the monument of Racic in his hometown Andrijevica, in the north of the country, was removed on Tuesday.

The open letter obtained by BIRN, which is to be sent to the Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and Foreign Minister Srdajn Darmanovic, has been already signed by hundreds of civil society activists, journalists and cultural figures.

The letter describes Baresic as a “Croatian terrorist” and expresses dissatisfaction with the Montenegrin Foreign Ministry, which for almost a year has not made any new statement about a protest note sent by Montenegro to Croatia on August 1, 2016, after the statue was unveiled.

“Regardless of the fact that we, the signatories of this petition, have various political views and ideological profiles, we want to put forward our united commitment in view of the negligible protection of Montenegro’s state dignity and commitment to the process of dealing with the past,” the letter says.

Last July, Croatia inaugurated the statue of Baresic, who killed Rolovic in 1971 and died fighting in the Croatian war for independence 20 years later. It was erected in his home village of Drage.

Baresic was sentenced to life in prison by the Swedish authorities for the murder of Rolovic, then Yugoslav ambassador in Stockholm in 1971.

The monument sparked controversy in the former Yugoslav region with Serbia and Montenegro reacted angrily to the decision to erect the monument to a man they also dubbed a “terrorist”.

The activists’ letter urges the government and the Foreign Ministry to explain what has been done about the matter since last August.

It argues that Croatia has done nothing about the Baresic statue since receiving the protest note from Montenegro last year, while Podgorica immediately acted to remove the Racic monument after Zagreb sent its protest note.

“We get the impression that the Croatian authorities reacted diametrically oppositely on the same issue which is quite worrying because it is about cases that are inevitable in relations between the two countries,” the letter says.

It argues that Montenegrin state authorities must pursue a principled foreign policy that respects the interests of the country’s citizens.

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