On April 3rd, the portal borba.me published an article under the headline “Agreement between Pristina and Podgorica: Thaçi’s Tribunal will try soldiers from Montenegro!”, related to the alleged agreement between the Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic and the Kosovo President, Hashim Thaçi, on the extradition of the Montenegrin members of the Yugoslav Army who defended people during the 1999 NATO intervention.
As this portal finds out from the unknown source, it is allegedly about a list of people which will be delivered to the Montenegrin authorities, eventually resulting in a series of arrests and extradition of the Montenegrin nationals.
The same news was reported on the same day and the days that followed by an already known group of media portals, such as alo.rs, espreso.rs, in4s.net, informer.rs, kurir.rs, novosti.rs, pravda.rs, skandalozno.rs, srbijadanas.rs, volimpodgoricu.me. As usual, this news was present only for several days, and in the end, it was neither confirmed nor verified, but completely forgotten.
Here is what it is about.
The EURLEX Kosovo Mission was launched as early as 2008 as the greatest civil mission under the Common Security and Defense Policy of the European Union, working within the framework of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The Mission’s aim is to assist the Kosovo authorities to establish the sustainable and independent rule of law institution, particularly through two pillars: Monitoring Pillar and Operations Pillar. The Mission has been prolonged through several mandates, with the latest extended till June 14th, 2020.
In December 2018, EULEX has decided to handover the police, prosecutorial and judicial case files to the Kosovo authorities. It is about 495 organized crime police case files and 434 war crime police case files, missing persons’ case files, judicial case files handled only by EULEX, and more than 1.400 prosecutorial case files. Most of these case files are related to war crimes, organized crime, corruption and other serious crimes.
In accordance with this, EULEX will no longer have its prosecutors and judges embedded in the Kosovo judicial system, but it will continue to cooperate with the Kosovo institutions, by monitoring the further developments with the selected case files.
In Montenegro however, nobody from the Ministry of Justice nor from any other institution has reacted or gave an official statement related to this news.
What may be concluded from the Montenegrin Law on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro, No. 04/2008 and 36/2013, particularly form Article 10 is that “the extradition of the accused or sentenced persons shall be requested and enforced in accordance with this Law unless otherwise has been provided for under an international agreement”. The same Law, in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 11, stipulates that “the conditions for the extradition upon the request of the Requesting State shall be: 1) that the person claimed is not a national of Montenegro; and 2) that the offence for which extradition is requested was not committed in the territory of Montenegro, against Montenegro or its national”.
Hence, in order for the extradition to be possible at all, there has to exist an international document, treaty or agreement. The example of such a document is the one between Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia – The Ratification Law on Treaty between Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia on the Amendments to the Extradition Treaty between Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia, published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro – International treaties, No. 4/2011 done on 1.4.2011., or the one between Montenegro and the Republic of Croatia – The Ratification Law on the Extradition Treaty between Montenegro and the Republic of Croatia, published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro – International treaties, No. 1/2011 done on 10.1.2011.; while such a document does not exist between Montenegro and the Republic of Kosovo.
However, if there would exist such a document, presuming done and based on similar documents signed with the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia, the extradition would not be possible by means of a tacit agreement between the two Presidents, as portal borba.me reported, but through specific manners of communication as follows: through the Ministries of Justice of the Contracting States, through diplomatic communication channel only if justified reasons exist and through INTERPOL in emergency cases.
Concerning Kosovo, the former Head of the EULEX Mission, Bernd Borchardt stated in his statement on the official website eulex-kosovo.eu that the majority of war crime suspects against Kosovo Albanians are Kosovar Serbs or Serbian nationals, but they are no longer in the territory of Kosovo. Hence, the judiciary of Kosovo (including EULEX) may conduct an investigation against alleged war crime perpetrators but has only the jurisdiction in Kosovo. Borchardt stated further that the similar thing was going on in the neighboring countries, thus the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor tries Serbs in Serbia, the Bosnian Special Chamber on War Crimes tries Bosnians in Bosnia, and the Croatian War Crimes Prosecution tries Croats in Croatia.
In Montenegro though, according to the data of the Third periodical report of Montenegro to the Committee Against Torture in May 2018, there are currently five cases in Montenegro initiated „for the reason of war crimes“. Four out of five cases referring to the war crimes committed on the territory of Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina are still in the process of investigation, while the trial takes place in the Zmajevic case.
According to the indictment, Vlada Zmajevic is charged for murdering several civilians of Albanian nationality on March 30th in 1999 in village Zegra in Kosovo, as a military volunteer of the Yugoslav Army. Zmajevic was arrested in 2016, while the case against him came to the court in September 2017.
Finally, returning to the article of borba.me and the provided data in this text, it is evident that so far there will be no extraditions to the Kosovo tribunal referring to the war crimes during 1999, as well as is evident the purpose wanted to achieve through such media writing and reporting – panic and fear in the public, following the accent to a citizen’s inability to influence any decision allegedly adopted at the closed-door talks.