Minister’s Sarajevo genocide denial creates new rift in Montenegro’s ruling coalition

Minister’s Sarajevo genocide denial creates new rift in Montenegro’s ruling coalition
Tensions have been growing between the coalition of numerous small parties that back Zdravko Krivokapic's government.
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia April 6, 2021

Montenegro’s Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic said he is demanding the dismissal of Justice, Human and Minority Rights Minister Vladimir Leposavic over his denial of the Srebrenica genocide, and the procedure for his removal by parliament was initiated on April 6.

Krivokapic’s decision to replace Leposvic is putting more pressure on the already highly unstable ruling coalition as he is from the quota of the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian Democratic Front.

In March, Leposavic said he would recognise that the massacre in Srebrenica where over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 was genocide only after it is "proven undoubtedly". Moreover, he also claimed that the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which classified the massacres of Bosniaks from Srebrenica as genocide, had no legitimacy. Leposavic claimed that the court lost its legitimacy after destroying evidence about the trafficking of the organs of Serb civilians in Kosovo.

In a video statement Krivokapic said he has decided to seek Leposavic’s removal after the justice minister declined to resign.

“The positions of Leposavic and the government are completely opposite,” Krivokapic said.

He added that it was unacceptable for Leposavic to announce private opinions considering his high level of knowledge of the law.

“Nobody’s biography cannot be an excuse for any activity. Only deeds can testify for us,” Krivokapic said.

He added that the government must prove its EU orientation.

Meanwhile, public broadcaster RTCG reported that the European Commission condemns any denial of the Srebrenica genocide and that respect for human rights will define the speed of Montenegro’s accession to the EU.

On the other hand, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic commented on the planned replacement of pro-Serbian Leposavic with accusations that Podgorica does not care enough for the good relations with Serbia.

“I am not surprised, I am not excited by all activities of the new Montenegrin government. The excitement in the [US] State Department or in Brussels is more important to them than in that in Belgrade. This is their choice, I shall not intervene in their internal affairs,” Vucic said as quoted by RTCG.

He added that Serbia will continue helping Serbs in Montenegro. “[W]e shall do that do that even more and no one can prevent or ban it,” Vucic said.

The Democratic Front said that it will not support Leposavic’s removal, indicating that his dismissal might cause a loss of support for the government. One of its leaders, Andrija Mandic, also said that Krivokapic has not coordinated his decision with the DF.

The Socialist People’s Party, another member of the ruling coalition, will also vote against Leposavic’s dismissal.

On the other hand, the opposition hailed the decision and is likely to back it.

Relations between Krivokapic and the Democratic Front were already strained by the prime minister’s decision to withdraw proposed changes to the criminal code that would scrap the special prosecution and pave the way for the dismissal of its head, Milivoje Katnic.

Katnic led the investigation into the failed 2016 coup attempt that resulted in Democratic Front leaders Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic being sentenced, though the verdicts were later overturned. 

Nebojsa Medojevic, one of the leaders of the Democratic Front, said at the end of March he would propose to the other two leaders of the formation to give Krivokapic’s government three more months of support. The government, backed by numerous small parties, came to power in December after the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which had ruled Montenegro for three decades, was ousted in the August general election.