Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Paramilitaries From Kosovo Move Into Montenegro

Paramilitaries forced out of Kosovo have moved into neighbouring Montenegro, some to find a hiding place and some to join the police.
By Milka Tadic

Recent research by the Fund for Humanitarian Law points to an alarming development in Montenegro - large numbers of paramilitaries have moved into the province following the arrival of KFOR troops in Kosovo.


Members of groups like the Frenkijevci (named after their leader Frenki), Arkan's Tigers and the Munja ("Lightening") force moved into Montenegro with Kosovar refugees.


Recruited before the NATO bombing campaign these men are responsible for burning Kosovar Albanian villages, forcing ethnic Albanians from their homes, robbery, rape and murder.


Many have criminal backgrounds and some recruits allegedly bought their freedom from prison by enlisting for the Kosovo front. Men with fighting experience gained during the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia were especially welcomed into the ranks.


What is difficult to ascertain is the extent of their current links with the Serbian authorities. It is assumed the paramilitaries are still in contact with their headquarters and remain ready for their next assignment.


"People with combat experience, criminals, cohesive and disciplined groups were recruited into paramilitary formations that remain closely controlled by the authorities. After they accomplish one task they are often assigned new duties and sent to new crisis spots," says Natasa Kandic, director of the Fund for Humanitarian Law, based on the research findings from Kosovo.


The data that the Fund has collected in the field, both from Albanians and Serbs, indicates that a large number of those who took part in most brutal atrocities in Kosovo have moved to Montenegro.


"They are usually involved in crime. However, such activities are almost invisible. Criminal activity often, unfortunately, is not easy to spot in a society like we have here in Montenegro," Kandic points out.


Kandic adds that some sources, well informed on the situation in Pec, town in western Kosovo, claim those responsible for expelling civilians from the area are now living in Montenegro. Some witnesses cite cases of robbery and murder.


Evidence collected by the Fund from witnesses in Kosovo suggests Milo Misljanin, from the village of Krusevac near Pec, is currently in Montenegro. The witnesses claim he was one of the principal executioners and participants in the expulsion of people from Pec and the surrounding area.


Neno Milacic, a former traffic police officer and deputy commander of Serbian police forces in Pec, is also in Montenegro. Several witnesses claim Milacic was an instigator of forced expulsions, robbery and violence in the town.


Serb witnesses from Kosovo claim that the two men have amassed considerable fortunes by robbing ethnic Albanian victims.


"According to these testimonies, Misljanin and Milacic are occasionally staying in Podgorica, and occasionally in Berane, where they trade in cars," Kandic says.


Perhaps most disturbing of all, however, are reports that the Montenegrin police may have enlisted the services of such paramilitary groups.


It is an unhappy fact that some of the paramilitaries are Montenegrin, or had permanent residency in the province. In Kosovo they operated under the control of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP). Now back home in Montenegro they have secured employment with the Montenegrin MUP.


Michael Montgomery, a journalist with National Public Radio, has conducted a series of interviews with members of Kosovo's paramilitary units, police and secret police.


These men have spoken about crimes they committed in Kosovo - ethnic cleansing, the killing of civilians, the links between paramilitary formations and the army and the police headquarters in Belgrade. All the interviews were conducted in Montenegro.


The Montenegrin police refuse to release data on how many of these people are in Montenegro.


But as Kandic points out it is imperative that the Montenegrin authorities know who these people are, where they are, how many are now in the Montenegrin police and what covert activities they are involved in.


For the first time in 10 years Montenegro officially took no part in a Serbian conflict. Montenegro cannot be accused of committing any crimes in Kosovo. But the Montenegrin authorities must pursue and prosecute those suspected war criminals on its territory and not only in the name of justice.


Any indication that the province's people may desire some form of independence from Serbia raises the spectre of a Serbian backlash. And who could be better qualified for that role than the paramilitary veterans of Kosovo?


The NPR reports can be heard on (http://www.americanradioworks.org/features/kosovo/index.htm)


Milka Tadic is editor of the independent magazine Monitor in Podgorica.