19 Mar 15
Montenegro MPs making Fighting Abroad a Crime
After refusing to adopt a law penalising fighting in foreign conflicts earlier this year, Montenegrin legislators overwhelmingly backed the law on Wednesday.
Montenegro’s parliament on Wednesday adopted a law punishing participation in foreign conflicts with up to 10 years in jail – part of the government’s measures aimed at tackling the issue of Montenegrins heading to the Middle East and fighting for Islamist extremists.
The amendments to the Criminal Code, passed by 57 votes in the 81-member parliament, makes it a criminal offence to join or participate in “armed conflicts outside of the territory of the Montenegro”.
The law criminalises persons who “organize, recruit, finance, encourage, lead or train people or groups of people” with the goal of joining or participating in foreign conflict. Those found guilty face a jail term of up to 10 years.
Until now, fighting in foreign conflicts has not been considered a crime in law in Montenegro.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Security, Mevludin Nuhodzic, said that the law penalising fighting on foreign battlefields formed part of the “strategic orientation of Montenegro towards Euro-Atlantic integration.
“However, the goal is to have a preventive effect, to stop citizens to losing their lives,” he said.
In the first vote in February, parliament refused to back a government motion to criminalise taking part in armed conflicts outside the country. Opposition and ethnic minority parties voted against the plan after the government sought a joint vote on a package of amendments to the criminal code, some of which concern prison sentences for people who do not pay their taxes.
Latest data released by the National Security Agency in October 2014 said 13 citizens from Montenegro had gone to fight alongside radical Muslim forces in Syria.
Ten have since returned, one has been killed and two others are still on the battlefield, it is believed.
In December, the European Parliament Rapporteur for Montenegro, Charles Tannock, said Montenegrin security agencies were monitoring over 300 people suspected of links to terrorists. The government denied this, saying the intelligence agencies were monitoring an “insignificant number”.
Muslims make up about 19 per cent of the population of Montenegro. Most are Bosniaks and ethnic Albanians. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania are the main recruiting grounds in the Balkans for radical Islamists.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)