news 08 Sep 17

Montenegro Offers Compensation to War Crime Victims

Montenegro will pay around 1.35 million euros in compensation to victims of war crimes committed on its territory in the 1990s as it continues efforts to satisfy EU accession requirements on justice.

Dusica Tomovic

A new government report on the progress of Montenegro’s negotiations with the EU, which BIRN has obtained, says the country will pay a total of around 1.35 million euros in compensation to victims of war crimes.

The sum will be increased by 128,530 euros if the eight compensation claims cases currently before the courts are concluded this year, says the report, which deals with negotiations on Chapter 23 of the European legislation that Montenegro needs to adopt – the section on justice and fundamental rights.

The report says that compensation has already been approved in 145 cases brought before the courts in Montenegro over the past few years.

The compensation claims were filed in several Montenegrin towns, by victims or their families in war crimes cases which involved the torture and killing of civilians, both Muslims and Croats, in the early nineties.

In all these cases, the accused were acquitted in the courts’ final judgments, apart from four former Yugoslav People’s Army reservists who were sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison for abusing Croatian prisoners in the Morinj detention camp, near Kotor - although the convicted men were at the lowest level in the chain of command.

In the Morinj case, the compensation was claimed by 250 former camp prisoners from Croatia, who will be paid almost a million euros.

Lawyer Velija Muric, who represented most of the families of victims in a case involving the deportations of Muslims, as well as in the Bukovica and Kalidjerski Laz cases, told BIRN that the compensation announcement cannot change the impression that the Montenegrin authorities did not do enough to tackle war crimes.

Muric said that although final verdicts have been handed down, none of these cases will ever be complete until those who ordered and organised the crimes are found and punished.

“All these cases have to be considered as still ongoing because those who were brought before the court were just the executors [of the crimes],” Muric said.

In 2008, the government of Montenegro signed a court settlement with the families of Bosnians who were deported and killed in 1992.

The 247 victims of the crime or their relatives received a total of about five million euros.

In 2010, Montenegro began to pay off part of the reparations for the damage caused by Yugoslav People’s Army reservists to citizens of Croatia during the 1991 attack on Dubrovnik.

In one case alone, Montenegro paid 30,000 euros in compensation to a man from Dubrovnik for his boat which was stolen in 1991.

Montenegro has often been criticised for not making serious efforts to deal with war crimes cases, although the prosecution said it had launched several new investigations in 2016.

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

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

“The judicial decisions reached so far have contained legal mistakes and shortcomings in the application of international humanitarian law,” it said.

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