Tomorrow marks three decades since the shameful deportation of Bosnian refugees by Montenegrin police to the Army of Republika Srpska, then led by Radovan Karadžić. Most of them were murdered, while 12 refugees managed to survive the torture in the concentration camps. Among them were Serb refugees.
Tomorrow, on 25 May, representatives of the Civic Alliance will attend the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the war crime “Deportation” in Herceg Novi and pay tribute to all the innocent victims of this tragic event.
Deportation of Bosnian refugees from Herceg Novi to the Foča camp was also determined in the verdict of the Hague Tribunal against Milorad Krnojelac, who was the camp warden. However, the verdicts in the cases of Bukovica, Deportation, Kaluđerski Laz, Morinj and the failure to prosecute those responsible for the attack on Dubrovnik indicate that Montenegro is not ready to face the past and the crimes committed during the war in the former SFRY. The reasons for unwillingness lie in the inadequate application of domestic and international criminal law, which was binding on Montenegro at the time of the commission of these crimes.
Since 2014, the European Commission has been reiterating in its reports on Montenegro that the verdicts in war crimes cases contained legal errors and misapplication of international humanitarian law. Nine officials from the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior have been charged with deporting Bosnian refugees from Montenegro in 1992. The verdict of 29 March 2011 acquitted all the accused because, as stated in the verdict, they could not have committed a war crime against the civilian population, because the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina was not of an international character. The verdict in this case had its contradictions, in the sense that the FRY was in an armed conflict with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Government forces at the time of the deportation of refugees, and yet it states that this conflict was not of an international character. Due to this, it is especially important to review previously adopted decisions, all the more so because those who were involved in the prosecution of the said crimes are currently under investigation for corruption.
The then President of Montenegro, Momir Bulatović, who was also awarded the Order of Radovan Karadžić, testified at the trial of the accused and said that the deportation of refugees is a mistake of the state and not a mistake of any particular individual. He pointed out that all state bodies were acquainted with all police activities, especially the then state prosecutor Vladimir Šušović, who had been consulted.
Individual and objective responsibility has not been determined in the case of “Deportation”, although the state directly accepted responsibility for this war crime and in December 2008 made a decision on a court settlement and paid the victims a total compensation of 4.13 million euros. However, true political will to adequately address and prosecute this war crime is still lacking, and this is a limiting factor in delivering justice to victims.
One of the obligations of the Special State Prosecutor’s Office, based on the War Crimes Investigation Strategy, was to see if it was possible to identify any other suspects, taking into account all models of criminal responsibility and criminal acts. However, from its adoption until today, no steps have been taken regarding this war crime.
This year the Minister of the Interior, Filip Adžić, will attend the commemoration of the Day of Remembrance for the victims of Deportations, which is a significant shift compared to the practices of previous state officials. In addition to this case, we welcome last year’s visit of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Đorđe Radulović, when, for the first time in 30 years, the Croatian and Montenegrin delegations laid a wreath at the entrance to the Morinj Camp. Such activities should become the practice of our officials, as this will contribute to reconciliation, dealing with the past, freeing the burden of the past and building a civil and European Montenegro.
As a country striving for the European Union, we must meet this very challenging and important demand before us, which concerns dealing with the war past. Those responsible must be brought to justice, in order to leave a guarantee for our future generations that such crimes will not happen again, and that the victims and their families will finally find justice.