Sunday, March 01, 2009

State Department 2008 Human Rights Reports: Montenegro

WASHINGTON, DC, FEBRUARY 25, 2009 -- The State Department released its annual Human Rights Report on Montenegro. You can read the entire Report by following the link below. We have highlighted incidents involving Albanians below:

Authorities pursued four cases of alleged war crimes during the year. In July the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor indicted eight officers and soldiers of the Podgorica Corps of the former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) suspected of killing 23 Albanian civilians in Kaludjerski Laz near Rozaje during the 1999 NATO intervention. The Albanians were trying to escape from the war in Kosovo. The Higher Court of Bijelo Polje detained seven of those charged, and an international arrest warrant was issued for the eighth. In December the detainees went on a hunger strike to protest delays in commencing the trial.

During the year the Basic Court in Berane opened an investigation of police officers Ivan Bojovic, Nebojsa Veljic, and Zeljko Devic, accused of abusing four Kosovo Albanians during their detention in July 2007. The trial had not begun at year's end.

On August 5, Podgorica Higher Court convicted 17 persons, including four U.S. citizens, of planning a rebellion against the country with a view to creating an autonomous region for ethnic Albanians. They were arrested in a 2006 raid in Tuzi on the eve of parliamentary elections. Police reportedly found a large stash of weapons and plans to attack government buildings, and authorities asserted that police had foiled a terrorist plot. Most of the accused were released briefly following their conviction, but the court decided to rearrest them pending appeals. The defendants claimed that they were physically abused during their initial arrest and were forced to make statements under duress.

The country was host to refugees and displaced persons from several of the other former republics of what was once Yugoslavia who entered the country when it was also part of Yugoslavia. Their juridical status differed. They included approximately 16,0000 persons registered as IDPs from Kosovo (mainly ethnic Montenegrins, Serbs, Roma, Ashkali, Balkan Egyptians, Bosniaks, and Albanians), plus an estimated 1,500 who had also filed claims for formal IDP status but awaited decisions from the Bureau for the Care of Refugees and Displaced Persons (BCR), the agency responsible for refugees and IDPs. There were also 8,529 "displaced persons" (refugees) from Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina and approximately two thousand persons who fled Albania in 1991, mainly Serbs and Montenegrins, who had applied for resident status but whose applications were not adjudicated by year's end.

There were 16 members of ethnic minorities in the 81‑seat Assembly and three members of ethnic minorities in the cabinet. Five assembly seats were reserved by law for ethnic Albanians. They, along with ethnic Serbs, Muslims, Bosniaks, and Croats participated in the political process, and their parties, candidates, and voters participated in all elections. No Roma ran for or held seats in the Assembly, and Roma were significantly underrepresented in the government; only one person of Romani ethnicity held elective office at any level in the country.

By law education is free, compulsory, and universal through the eighth grade; however, inadequate and poor quality education for Roma remained a problem. Prejudice, both within the Romani communities and against Roma, discouraged some Romani children from attending school. Some ethnic Albanians criticized the government for not providing an opportunity for them to learn about their culture and history. On October 7, the first Muslim religious secondary school opened in Malesija, near Podgorica. The school had 64 students, and lectures were delivered in the Bosnian and Albanian languages. Privately funded, the school was not yet fully accredited by the educational authorities.

The state prosecutor pressed charges against seven persons during the year. In one case charges were brought against three individuals of Albanian ethnicity (one residing in Kosovo and two in Montenegro) for trafficking a minor from Kosovo. In a second case, four Serbian citizens were charged with trafficking two female victims (one from Ukraine and one from Moldova).

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