Thursday, June 07, 2012

Freedom House Criticizes Montenegro's War Trials

The Montenegrin judiciary is reluctant to objectively process war crimes and top officials are not investigated, according to a Freedom House report.

Milena Milosevic

The report on Montenegro for 2011 is part of a wider comparative study conducted on “nations in transit” and was issued on Wednesday by Freedom House, a US based NGO.
Overall, Montenegro is classified as a semi-consolidated democracy.  The report cites corruption, lack of media independence and national democratic governance as the most troubled areas.
Montenegrin judiciary also got the low grade, because there is no clear evidence that new judicial reforms are effectively implemented.
Although it notes some progress in judicial independence, the report is critical of the war crime trials in the country.
It emphasized that in every case tried in 2010 and early 2011, subordinates, not commanders, were indicted.
“Furthermore, the state prosecution office failed to investigate and prosecute the chain of command,” read the report.
Freedom House also provided a brief overview of four war crime trials that were ongoing when the report was prepared, noting that more than 20 years after some of the war crimes occurred, there is no final verdict.
In the meantime, however, the Appellate Court confirmed in April the acquittal of seven former police and Yugoslav army officers charged with inhumane treatment and torture of ethnic Bosniaks and Muslims in Bukovica, Montenegro during the Bosnian war.
The indictees were acquitted because the “inhumane treatment” was criminalized in Montenegrin law in 2003, ten years after the alleged events in Bukovica. There is no right to appeal the court's decision.
The report also considers it unlikely that that top officials will ever be charged or indicted for war crimes.  According to Freedom House, this reflects the reluctance of the Montenegrin judiciary to process war crimes cases objectively.
Freedom House is a US-based non-governmental organization, which monitors governments around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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