News 25 Oct 12

Verdict in Montenegro Deportation Retrial Due in November

Following the presentation of closing arguments at the retrial of nine ex-policemen, all of whom are charged with the unlawful deportation of civilians in 1992, a court in Montenegro has set November 22 as the date for the verdict.

Milena Milosevic
BIRN
Podgorica

The deputy special prosecutor, Lidija Vukcevic, has asked the Trial Chamber of Podgorica’s Superior Court to find all nine ex-policemen guilty.

The nine men are charged with the unlawful arrest and deportation of Bosniak and Bosnian Serb refugees from Montenegro to the wartime Bosnian Serb entity in May 1992.

After their deportation, most of Bosniaks were executed.

Vukcevic said that by abiding by the request of the wartime Republika Srpska authorities, the policemen put themselves at the service of one of the parties involved in the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"The crime was committed on a discriminatory basis, since Muslims [Bosniaks] were deported to be exchanged [for Serbs], while Serb refugees were deported to be mobilized," she added.

Vukcevic further argued that, since the alleged crimes were connected to the armed conflict and since the victims had the status of refugees, the indictees should be held liable for war crime against civilians despite the fact that they did not belong to the armed forces.

The original indictment was revised in mid-September, prior to the presentation of closing arguments and the description of the way the nine former policemen allegedly committed war crimes against civilians was changed.

The indictment now states that they also committed a war crime by harming the dignity of civilians who were not direct participants in the hostilities, and who had the right not to take part in the conflict and to be treated humanely and without discrimination.

The defence said that the prosecution had come up with a lot of new accusations at the last minute.

All the changes were aimed at “saving the indictment” which was, however, doomed to failure from the very beginning, they argued.

The indictees and their lawyers both said that they expected the Trial Chamber to acquit them again, recalling the fact that the former police officers had already been acquitted in March 2011, after the first trial.

The appeals court overturned the first instance verdict in March this year, stating that the court had contradicted itself, since it had stated in two different places that the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina was both internal and international.

The pronouncement of the new verdict is scheduled for November 22.

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Background

Timeline – Cuska Case

Timeline of events in the case against 13 former Serb fighters charged with committing war crimes in the villages of Cuska, Zahac, Ljubenic and Pavlac in Kosovo in 1999.

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