Montenegrin President Jakov Milatovic speaks in Podgorica. Photo: President of Montenegro

Montenegrin President Asks for Justice for 1999 Killings of Kosovo Albanians

Exactly 25 years after Yugoslav Army troops killed six Kosovo Albanians, including two children, in a border village, President says the quest for justice and truth about the crime must continue – and a memorial should be put up to the victims.

Victims of the crime in Kaludjerski Laz, committed exactly 25 years ago in 1999 in Montenegro, deserve justice, and the authorities must not give up on establishing the truth and the responsibility of the perpetrators, President Jakov Milatovi said on Wednesday.

At Kaludjerski laz, a village near the border with Kosovo, members of the Yugoslav Army, JNA, killed six Kosovo Albanian civilians, including two children, on April 18, 1999.

Five others were injured in the attack, which took place during NATO’s 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia, aimed at forcing President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo.

According to prosecution data, from April to May 1999, 11 more ethnic Albanians were also killed in nearby areas while they were fleeing Kosovo during the NATO bombing.

The crimes have gone unpunished.

Milatovic said the events represented a dark chapter in Montenegrin history, marked by the loss of lives of innocent people who had sought refuge in the country.

“The victims deserve justice, and that’s why I appeal to the competent authorities not to give up on establishing the complete truth and the responsibility of the perpetrators. Also, I call for the erection of a dignified memorial that will permanently honour the victims but also serve as a place of instruction for future generations,” Milatovic said.

This year, NGOs also called on the Special State Prosecutor’s Office to reconsider the case. Action for Human Rights said punishing war crimes is important for victims and their families, but also for the entire society, as it would help prevent such crimes from being repeated.

The Center for Civic Education said justice for all victims and their families is an obligation. “All those killed were of Albanian nationality, and they came to Montenegro fleeing war, violence and persecution. This indicates that the commission of this crime was motivated solely by ethnic reasons,” the NGO said.

In March 2007, the Supreme Prosecution launched an investigation into Yugoslav Army officer Pavle Strugar and 11 former JNA soldiers over their alleged involvement in war crimes near the Kosovo border.

During their trial, the prosecution claimed that JNA troops opened fire at a group of Albanian refugees who were crossing the border from Kosovo. The defence claimed the JNA was protecting the border from potential attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.

In December 2013, the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje acquitted the defendants, arguing that prosecutors didn’t provide enough evidence. A year later, the Appeal Court confirmed the verdict.

18/04/2024 - 16:36

18 April 2024 - 16:36

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