16 Apr 15
NATO Victims’ Families to Sue Montenegro in Europe
The families of those killed in a NATO air strike plan further legal action after the Montenegrin supreme court rejected their bid for compensation for the deaths in 1999.
Murino after the NATO air strikes in 1999.
Lawyers for relatives of six civilians including three children killed in a NATO air strike on Montenegro in 1999 have told BIRN that they plan to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights after their compensation claims were thrown out by their own country’s courts.
Relatives of 69-year-old Manojlo Komatina, one of those killed in an air strike on a bridge in the village of Murino on April 30, 1999, were ordered by the supreme court last week to pay back 80,000 euros in compensation they were awarded in 2012 for mental anguish.
The basic court in Podgorica also rejected five other families’ cases for compensation, ruling that “the claims are out of date”.
The families sued the state in 2007 because the Montenegrin authorities failed to issue an emergency alert in Murino ahead of the bombing of the bridge, although sirens were sounded in the nearby town of Plav.
As well as Komatina, Julija Brudar (aged 10) and her sister Olivera Maksimovic (13), Miroslav Knezevic (13), Milka Kocanovic (69) and Vukic Vuletic (40) were killed when ten missiles hit the bridge on the River Lim in Murino near the border with Kosovo.
The lawyer for all six families, Velija Muric, said that the decision to reject the claims had no basis in Montenegrin or international law.
He said that there was no basis for the court to demand the money back.
“In the case of the civilian victims of NATO, justice in Montenegro is degraded and devastated. Especially bearing in mind that this is a textbook example of a war crime,” Muric told BIRN.
Muric has submitted a complaint to the Montenegrin constitutional court over the appeals court ruling, but said he was not optimistic that it would succeed, so the families are planning to filing a suit at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
“Six civilians from Murino and their families were not only victims of NATO strikes, they were also the victims of destructive politics, and the state should act responsibly in all those cases,” Muric said.
The NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia were launched in a bid to end Belgrade’s military campaign in Kosovo – the first time that the Western alliance used force without UN Security Council backing.
Around 500 civilians were killed during the 78 days of bombing, according to Human Rights Watch estimates.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)