Montenegro’s Special State Prosecutor’s Office has opened a war crimes probe case against retired admiral Dragan Samardzic, the former Chief of the Army General Staff, over allegations he took part in war crimes committed against civilians in November 1991 in the area near the Croatian city of Split.
The Supreme State Prosecution Office told Podgorica-based newspaper Vijesti that the war crimes probe had been opened “in order to establish the existence of grounds for suspicion that criminal acts of war crimes had been committed,” after Vijesti published a story under the headline “Split shelling and the role of Dragan Samardzic.”
Following the publishing of the story, journalist Sinisa Lukovic received anonymous threats and insults via social media. The Basic Protection Office in Kotor has opened an investigation to identify the perpetrators of the threats.
At the time of the outbreak of war in Croatia in 1991, Samardzic was a missile boat commander in the Yugoslav Navy. As per the Vijesti report, he was part of a tactical group called Kastela, and in command of the missile boat RTOP406 Ante Banina.
According to the report, Samardzic’s boat was involved in the shelling of Split and nearby islands on November 15, 1991. The attack was purportedly in retaliation for the deaths of three Yugoslav Navy sailors the day previous; the men were killed in a torpedo attack by Croatian forces.
Civilian and cultural objects were among those hit in the attack on November 15, killing two civilians and wounding five. The report found that 31 members of the Yugoslav Navy were convicted over the assault in Croatia in 1993. Most of those convicted were found guilty in absentia, but Samardzic was not listed among the convicted men.
Instead, Samardzic advanced in rank to eventually become chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Montenegro in December 2008. His ascension came two years after Montenegro voted in a referendum to end nearly a century of state union with Serbia. Samardzic held the post until 2017; in 2020, he was appointed Montenegro’s military representative to NATO and the European Union.
Responding to the report, Samardzic said he was “calmly” waiting for a call from the special prosecutor.
“[I know] that I have never done anything contrary to the law and the Geneva Conventions,” he tweeted.
“From the Croatian side, it was received in writing that no criminal proceedings are being conducted against me, nor have they ever been conducted,” he said.
The Montenegrin government has declined to comment on the case.
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