A Letter from Montenegro
KNOWING ONE'S WAY ABOUT
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.