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NO 121-122

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INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 121-122 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 121-122

July - August 2008


A Letter from Montenegro


By Igor Peric

Referring to those who have emerged from the transitional mud over the past twenty years with visibly improved financial blood count the people in Montenegro say, "They knew their way about." In the newly composed perception of the realities the phrase "knowing one's way about" has been raised to the level of virtue and attributed to criminals, politicians and war criminals alike.

When the most wanted fugitive from The Hague justice was arrested in Belgrade in the flesh and in the 3D format of a mystic and eccentric the mainstream circles glorified his years-long hiding from Sheveningen as an admiration inspiring, epic enterprise of "a Serb Don Quichotte."

Indeed, Radovan has perfectly "known his way about" for 13 years and kept several million people hostage to his skill.

Whereas the "believer" was seen off to The Hague as a holy warrior and with the blessing of Montenegrin Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic in person, "ordinary citizens" remained in the same dark about knowing one's way about as they have been in the past fifteen years and helpless to cope with all those Radovans who had wagged wars, bloodier and bloodier as the state on behalf of which they wagged them turned smaller and smaller, poorer and poorer.

Montenegro and Radovan are not only connected by his Petnjica and family in Podgorica and Niksic. At the time Radovan emerged as a factor of Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina more than one hundred citizens of that former Yugoslav republic, newly internationally recognized, sought refuge in Montenegro. The group included runaway Serbs escaping the draft in Republika Srpska, runaway criminals and, most of all, Bosnian refugees - Muslim (83) running for their life and trying to find their way about as they could.

Following the police action in Montenegrin municipalities they are all brought to Herceg Novi and in May 1992 deported. As it turned out they were delivered right under the knife of Radovan's followers!

The investigation in the deportation case - some politicians call "Montenegrin Hague" - against five citizens of Montenegro is over. The ball is in the Prosecution's courtyard now but the Prosecution still keeps silent. According to the media, the indictment against the five will be extended.

The suspects in the investigation of the war crime against civilians were ex-deputy of the police minister, Milisav Markovic, ex-chief of the state security center in Herceg Novi, Milorad Ivanovic, state agent Dusko Barac, police commander Milorad Sljivancanin, as well as ex-chief of the Bar state security center, Branko Bujic, who will go down in history as a referee of the last, anthological football match between Red Star and Dinamo.

Over the investigation all the suspects denied the counts of the indictment and pleaded not guilty.

The Higher Court in Podgorica opened the investigation on February 23, 2006 after all the suspects have been questioned in security centers in Herceg Novi and Bar.

In February 2006 the families of the killed Bosnian Muslims had claimed millions dinars as compensation but the court decided to compensate each with 25,000 Euros on average.

GOVERNMENT WAS UNINFORMED: According to Montenegrin Premier Milo Djukanovic, who took the stand in the Higher Court in Podgorica in late June 2008, it was incapability to "find one's way about" that brought about the catastrophe.

No one was authorized by the government or himself in his capacity as the Premier to take action against refugees, Djukanovic told the court, adding that deportations had been stopped once the top authorities learned about them.

"It was from Risto Vukcevic, the then parliamentary speaker, that I learned about the arrests made at the coast, that some people had been interrogated and that not only Muslims but also Serb had been deported by some lists provided by the state authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Vukcevic himself learned that from Asim Dizdarevic, deputy parliamentary speaker. I cannot tell who informed Dizdarevic in the first place. Then we decided to stop deportation immediately. I remember well that President Momir Bulatovic took upon himself to immediately call the police minister and order him to end the deportation unconditionally. I don't remember the exact date. I was even unaware of the number of deported people. That was for the first time ever that I learned about it," Djukanovic told the investigative judge.

From the historical distance of 16 years Djukanovic asserted that deportation of refugees was contrary to the international law given that Bosnia-Herzegovina had been internationally recognized in the meantime.

He was convinced, he added, that all the persons involved in the action this way or another had done nothing with premeditation and couldn't have known what would be the fate of the deported persons, particularly those of Muslim nationality.

"I believe that in this particular case the group of people in high offices in the Montenegrin Ministry of the Police was at a loss to act properly because of the change in the centralized security system of the SFRY," Djukanovic told the judge.

Namely, the Montenegrin police was legally bound at the time to extradite wanted persons to other ex-Yugoslav republics.

Inspector at the Herceg Novi Security Center, Slobodan Pejovic, who has testified several times of deportations so far, was twice physically assaulted apart from verbal assaults. As it seems, the police has not yet managed to connect his straightforwardness about the time of terror and the fact that he was ambushed with metal rods...

Pejovic came public with the information that its was the then Minister of the Interior, Pavle Bulatovic, who issued the order for deportation.

"All Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina, aged from 18 to 70, who happen to be in the territory of Montenegro should be arrested, taken into custody and extradited to the authorities of Republika Srpska," Pejovic quoted the order handed to him and a number of other policemen. In the meantime, years and people have made tons of relevant documents disappear. All Montenegrin top officials of the time testified before the court. Pavle Bulatovic did not live long enough to testify as a crown witness. He was murdered in 2000 while in the office of Milosevic's minister of defense.

PRISONERS' CAMP: All the Montenegrin "cases" are interconnected given that they all emerged on the wave of the same energy, of the atmosphere in late 1980s that indicated that Montenegro would become an (in) voluntary accomplice of the applied Memorandum-centered xenophobia and nationalism.

Twenty years have elapsed since the meeting of solidarity with Kosovo Serbs in Titograd. A scorching August day of 1988 was a prelude to "the happening of the people."

Montenegrin political landscape has radically changed since. It took 15 years for Montenegrins to start facing the crimes that have been committed. Under the pressure from the international public and The Hague, Montenegro has opened the trials individualizing the crimes in Bukovica, Morinj, Kaludzerski Laz, etc.

Officially, Montenegro has never been at war. How come then that a prisoners' camp, the one in Boka Kotorska, has been established in its territory? How come that wardens in this camp are nowadays indicted of crimes against civilians and war prisoners? Who ordered the establishment of the camp and were his superiors aware of the wardens' inhuman treatment of prisoners?

Six soldiers and reservists of the former Yugoslav People's Army are indicted of inhuman treatment and torture of 169 war prisoners brought in from the area of Dubrovnik. From October 3, 1991 till August 18, 1992, quotes the indictment, at the time of the war in Croatia they violated the international law, issued orders and engaged in torture, inhuman treatment and violation of physical integrity of 169 war prisoners and civilians, who have been brought in from the area of Dubrovnik.

CRIMES IN THE MONTENEGRIN TERRITORY: Despite the fact that they took place within the period of six years, the serious crimes in Bukovica and Kaludjerski Jaz are connected with the same "handwriting" and the fact that Montenegrin citizens have been accused of them. The crime in Bukovica was committed against Montenegrin citizens of other ethnicity whereas Kaludjerski Jaz has become synonymous for slaughter of Kosovo refugees.

According to the indictment, on April 18, 1999 in Kaludjerski Jaz Predrag Strugar, Momcilo Barjaktarevic, Petar Labudovic, Aco Knezevic, Branislav Radnic, Boro Novakovic, Miro Bojovic and Radomir Djuraskovic breached the rules of the international law by "treating inhumanly civilians of Albanian ethnic origin."

Strugar is accused of ordering killings of 23 civilians of Albanian ethnic origin, not directly involved in hostilities, from April 18 till May 21, 1999 in the region of Rozaje.

All the accused have been detained except for Strugar who, to all appearances, lives in Belgrade.

Unlike the Kaludjerski Jaz case, the investigation into the Bukovica case is slow-paced. Not long ago, the Podgorica seated NGO Nansen Dialogue appealed for speeding up the investigation, issuing an indictment and individualizing the responsibility for war crimes. The organizations calls for investigation into command responsibility in the army and the police, as well as for the arrest of all the persons reasonably suspected of having participated in the Bukovica crimes.

The organization also takes that speculation about the crimes committed by relatives of the victims should be investigated and all facts thus collected publicized.

Namely, the word has it in Montenegro that the crime was actually a response to the crime some Bukovica residents have committed against Serbs in the vicinity of Cajnic. The public has raised hue and cry about this rumor.

It goes without saying that judiciary should tackle the issue. However, when it comes to war crime retaliation can only be aggravating circumstance. It targets innocent people who have anyway suffered under nationalists, war profiteers and arsonists. While drawing new borderlines they have erased people, villages and towns.

Montenegro was a part of that horror. It was a fertile soil for recruitment of volunteers, various hawks and other birds of prey the warring cries of which has, unfortunately, choked the voices of reason. For the sake of those who opposed this horror and for the sake of its own reputation, Montenegro needs to bring to the public eye all the ghosts of the past. I am afraid that some culprits, instead of looking through bars, would only suffer from pangs of consciousness. If they have any. Be it as it may, Montenegro will have to shoulder their burden.


NO 121-122

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