Acquittals in Montenegro’s Deportation Trial

Nine former police officers were once again found not guilty for committing a war crime against civilians from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.The presiding judge, Milanka Zizic, said while explaining the verdict that the defendants had arrested civilians unlawfully but that they cannot be held liable for committing a war crime.

The nine former policemen were charged with the unlawful arrest and deportation of Bosniak and Bosnian Serb refugees from Montenegro to the wartime Bosnian Serb entity in May 1992.

After their deportation, most of Bosniaks were executed.

The Trial Chamber found that the prosecution did not successfully argue the case that the victims were refugees, since the law on citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina entered into force only in 1998.

The Trial Chamber also ruled that the defendants did not take part in the Bosnian war nor put themselves at the disposal of any of the sides in the conflict and therefore they could not have committed a war crime.

During the trial the prosecution argued that nine former policemen, by fulfilling the request of the Bosnian Serb authorities to deport the refugees, openly sided themselves with the Bosnian Serb side in the war.

The nine men were already once acquitted in March 2011, but the Appeals Court overturned the first instance verdict in March this year and sent a case for a retrial.

No new evidence was introduced during the retrial but the original indictment was revised to change the description of the way the nine former policemen allegedly committed war crimes against civilians.

The revised indictment stated that they also committed a war crime by harming the dignity of civilians who were not direct participants in the hostilities, and who had the right not to take part in the conflict and to be treated humanely and without discrimination.

The defence lawyers were pleased with the acquittal, especially with its statements of reasons, expressing expectations that the appeals court will upheld the Thursday’s decision and end the trial, which begun in 2009.

The prosecution and victims’ families have the right to appeal the verdict at Podgorica’s Superior Court within 15 days of delivery of the written copy of the verdict.

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