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Attack on Dubrovnik: 30 000 JNA soldier vs 700 CRO soldiers

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Published on May 31, 2007

Films Stir Memories of Montenegro's Wartime Guilt
28 05 2007 Montenegro's leaders may have forgotten their craven support for Serbia's wars in Croatia and Bosnia but some filmmakers won't let them off the hook

By Paul Hockenos and Jenni Winterhagen in Podgorica



One year after declaring independence, a controversial film is forcing a visibly reluctant Montenegro to wrestle with the legacy of its role in the bloody conflicts of the early 1990s.

In 1991, as part of Serbia's war against Croatia, Yugoslav Army units led by Montenegrin officers and full of Montenegrin reservists ravaged many of the villages in the southernmost tip of Croatian Dalmatia and shelled the historic port city of Dubrovnik, causing millions of euros in damage and hundreds of civilian deaths. Throughout the duration of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, Montenegro remained in a federal state with Serbia until 2003 when the two countries formed a loose state union.

In 1997, Montenegro expressed regret for its part in the wars and the consequent atrocities. However, the process of coming to terms with the past has been selective and superficial, say opposition critics.

"Rat za mir", which in Serbian means "war for peace", was the cynical slogan under which Montenegrin politicians backed the Yugoslav Army's campaign in southern Croatia.

It is also the name of Montenegrin filmmaker Koca Pavlovic's controversial film about those events, which is only today, four years after its production, showing in state -- administered locations, such as universities, in the country.

Formally, the Montenegrin government, which is led by the same party that ran the republic in the 1990s, has taken important steps to right the wrongs committed during the period.

As well as expressing regret for its role in 1997, it has -- in stark contrast to Serbia - co-operated fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague.

In 2004-05, the court found former Montenegrin admiral Miodrag Jokic and General Pavle Sturgar guilty of war crimes and sentenced each of them to eight years' imprisonment.

Pavlovic, who is an opposition politician as well as a filmmaker, says Montenegro's gestures have not addressed the fundamental issue of responsibility for the war and the atrocities.

"Now everything is fine and wonderful between Zagreb and Podgorica but things between the people of Herceg Novi and Niksic [Montenegrin border towns] and Dubrovnik aren't fine," he says. "A real process of reconciliation hasn't even started. The politicians are just saying that it's happened."

Pavlovic added: "Our politicians, like [former president and prime minister Milo] Djukanovic still haven't visited Dubrovnik. They don't have the courage to try to walk down the streets in Dubrovnik because they can't, yet."

In a surprise move, shortly after the independence referendum last year, Djukanovic stepped down as prime minister, a post he had held almost uninterrupted since 1991. From 1998-2002 he served as President. He remains head of the ruling Party of Democratic Socialists.

There was much speculation at the time of his resignation from the government that the international community had put pressure on him to quit because of his involvement in the conflicts of the 1990s and in various blackmarket activities.

In Pavlovic's film, Djukanovic admits his actions and statements at the time were wrong but maintains he acted in good faith, as he had been under the impression that Montenegro was threatened.



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