The head of Montenegrin police, Zoran Brdjanin, on Wednesday apologized to families of victims on the 30th anniversary of the deportation of at least 66 Bosniak refugees and some ethnic Serbs from the town of Herceg Novi.
On May 25 and 27, 1992, the Bosniaks and Serbs were illegally detained and brought to the police headquarters in Herceg Novi, near the border with Bosnia, from where they were deported on buses to Bosnian Serb-controlled territory. They were sent to a detention camp in Foca in eastern Bosnia. Only a few survived, and the remains of most of the dead have never been found.
“I am aware there are no words to make up for the loss of your loved ones. However, I take this opportunity to extend my sincere apologies in the name of the Police Directorate,” Brdjanin told the media.
“With this apology, we are making a step forward to assure you that we will defend the security of citizens,” he added.
The Centre for Civic Education, Human Rights Action and Anima NGOs held a commemoration in front of the police station in Herceg Novi, calling again on the authorities to allow the building of a permanent memorial to the victims.
The head of the Police Directorate, Interior Minister Filip Adzic, Minister of Justice Marko Kovac, Minister of Social Care Admir Adrovic, Minister without portfolio Adrian Vuksanovic and the head of the Islamic Community in Montenegro, Rifat Fejzic, were all present at the ceremony.
“I support the erection of a memorial at this site. It’s our human and moral obligation,” Minister Adzic told the media.
Nine former policemen indicted for the deportations were acquitted in November 2012 because the court ruled that while the arrests were illegal, they did not constitute a war crime and the nine men were not a party to any side in the Bosnian war.
The former government led by Milo Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists DPS never responded to rights groups’ call for a memorial to be installed in Herceg Novi.
The DPS held power in Montenegro from 1990 until last year, and Djukanovic was prime minister at the time of the deportations in 1992. He is now president of Montenegro.
In December 2008. a court settlement with 200 relatives of the victims and several survivors was reached, after nearly four years of litigation. Montenegro paid a total of 4,135,000 euros in compensation to the families for the illegal actions of the police.
In 2013, families of the victims sued Montenegro at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming that the investigation was not conducted vigorously and did not probe all of those who were responsible for the crime, including top officials.
In its progress report on Montenegro for 2021, the European Commission repeated its demand that war crimes should be a priority for prosecutors if the country wants to make progress in EU accession talks.
As part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro took part directly in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia under the leadership of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic.