04 Mar 15
US Pushes Montenegro to Punish Fighting Abroad
The US embassy has expressed disappointment after Montenegro’s parliament failed to back plans to jail Montenegrins who go off to fight in foreign wars.
The US ambassador in Podgorica, Margaret Ann Uyehara, on Monday praised the efforts of Montenegro to curb violent extremists but urged MPs to speedily adopt amendments to the criminal code, penalising participation in foreign battles.
She said she was disappointed that parliament failed to back a proposed bill on the topic, saying that although “Montenegro is small, there is room for concern.
“I call on them [MPs] to do so at the next session,” Uyehara said, adding that she could not emphasize enough the importance of the adoption of such regulations.
Last week, parliament refused to back a government motion to criminalise Montenegrins who take part in armed conflicts outside the country.
After a number of Montenegrin Muslims were reported to be fighting in Syria, the government proposed an amendment to the criminal code requiring “anyone who participates in paramilitary and terrorist organizations’ training, as well as in military conflicts outside of the country, to be punished by up to five years in prison”.
Opposition and ethnic minority parties voted against it, 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, claimed the Montenegrin security agencies were monitoring over 300 people for suspected links to terrorists.
The government denied this, however, 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.
Until now, fighting in foreign conflicts has not been considered a crime in law in Montenegro.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)