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Montenegro: Secret Dossiers Revealed

Montenegrin secret service dossiers are being opened, but those showing what the current government has been up to remain under wraps.

It looked good at first. The government of Montenegro announced it would open up the dossiers of its State Security Service, SDB, just as the opposition had been demanding. The move was proclaimed as a first step towards reform of the authoritarian Ministry of Internal Affairs, MUP.

A second glance revealed the order was not quite so promising. Only those secret files compiled between 1945 and 1990, the years of communist rule, would be opened by internal affairs minister, Andrija Jovicevic. Those from the past decade, in which the country has mostly been ruled by President Milo Djukanovic, would remain tightly closed.

Jovicevic also promised to depoliticise the police and remove the SDB from its control. Montenegro is one of the few Balkan countries which did not set about reforming its police and secret service after the fall of communism.

Milan Popovic, an independent analyst and professor of law at Podgorica

University, told IWPR, "It seems the political leadership is finally becoming aware that the SDB must be put under political control.

"The move was long overdue. Other Eastern European countries started destroying dossiers immediately after communism collapsed. Now, 12 years later, a similar process is under way in Montenegro."

The professor added, "The government's decree provides for those citizens classified as internal enemies or extremists to see what the SDB said about them from 1945 until a multi-party system was introduced."

Jovicevic said the government's aim was to break with the old communist policy of restricting human rights and freedom. Independent analysts claim, however, that breaches of human rights and freedom were continued after communism, especially during the first half of the Nineties when Montenegro followed the policies of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Then, those who opposed the Yugoslav wars and Serbian nationalism were publicly labelled as enemies of the state, traitors, even as foreign intelligence agents. One former member of the SDB, who wished to remain anonymous, told IWPR that the intelligence service has considerable documentation on many opposition leaders, independent intellectuals and other political opponents of the current government.

"Now, with talk about the reform of the police, secret dossiers and other documents are being stored away, since the government does not wish to leave compromising traces behind it," the former agent said.

There is increasing suspicion that the authorities are seeking to buy time so as to smother evidence of latter-day police control. The opposition accused the current regime that it neither intended to reform the police nor deal with its own non-democratic past.

Dossiers created up to 1989 can be seen only by those to whom they relate and then only within the SDB premises. "Dossiers must not be photocopied or taken out of SDB premises," Jovicevic said.

Jovicevic tried to explain that the old communist system with its secret dossiers was quite different from current government practices.

Popovic, however, challenged the minister's account. "Jovicevic's statement that the dossier process until 1989 was different from today's police procedures is not at all convincing," he said. "They are just trying to throw dust in people's eyes. They are not seeking to establish full democratic and parliamentary control over the SDB."

Such control has been demanded for years by the opposition Liberal Party. Since the present minority government depends on support from the party, it was able to request two months ago a parliamentary commission into the SDB.

Liberals' leader Miodrag Zivkovic was placed at the head of the committee. He suggested removing dossiers from the police and placing them under parliament's control. The suggestion was quietly brushed aside.

Liberals claim that the situation within the police remains the same as it always was. The force is still beholden to president Djukanovic. As evidence, they point out that secret information from MUP is handed to the Montenegro leadership on a daily basis.

Marijana Kadic is a journalist with Podgorica daily Monitor