Montenegrin Special State Prosecutor said the office had failed to establish a database of wartime paramilitaries, citing a lack of assistance from other former Yugoslav states.
The plan to establish a wartime paramilitaries database was intended to assist in war crimes prosecutions.
“In the past two years, the prosecution requested help from neighboring countries in order to make a list of Montenegrin citizens who participated in wars on their soil or were members of paramilitary organizations, but there were few responses,” Special State Prosecutor Colan Deretic told attendees at a conference regarding Montenegro’s national strategy for war crimes investigation.
We didn’t manage to complete the list, even though some people were identified through the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals [in The Hague],” she continued.
The Supreme State Prosecution adopted a state strategy on war crimes investigations in May 2015, committing to establishing a database of Montenegrin citizens involved in paramilitary units, as well pledging to reopen archived investigations.
Under this strategy, the Montenegrin prosecution must review old cases and identify individuals with command responsibility for war crimes committed.
Over the past seven years, however, Montenegro courts have heard only two trials of citizens over allegations of war crimes committed while members of the Yugoslav Army or paramilitary units.
In December 2019, former Yugoslav Army soldier Vlado Zmajevic was sentenced to 14 years in prison over the murder of four ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo in 1999.
In September 2022, the trial of former Bosnian Serb Army soldier Slobodan Pekovic began in the Higher Court in Podgorica. Pekovic is accused of murder and rape in the Bosnian town of Foca in 1992.
Human Rights Action organized the conference held last week. The head of the organization, Tea Gorjanc Prelevic, accused the prosecution of failing to proactively investigate war crimes committed by Montenegrin citizens.
Prelevic said that Zmajevic and Pekovic were charged only after their cases were handed over to prosecutors in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“The prosecution failed to file indictments on its own initiative. There were no deadlines for the implementation of the strategy, even though human rights organizations asked for this. The prosecution needs expert help in order to improve the way it deals with the wartime past,” Gorjanc Prelevic told attendees.
Montenegro participated in the 1990s wars as part of Yugoslavia, though no fighting occurred in its own territory. Following Montenegro’s independence in 2006, the country has held only eight trials for war crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. So far, only low-level perpetrators have been charged with any crimes.
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