August 1, 2008 / 12:40 PM / 11 years ago

Montenegro charges 8 over murder of 23 Albanians

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Montenegro has charged eight former soldiers over their role in the 1999 killing of 23 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo, a lawyer of the victims’ families said on Friday.

The victims, including a 70 year-old-man and a 13-year-old boy, were killed at the border between Kosovo and Montenegro.

They had fled their homes in Kosovo fearing retaliation from ethnic Serbs during a NATO bombing campaign to oust Serb forces accused of killing Albanian civilians in a counter-insurgency war.

At the time, Montenegro and Serbia were together in the rump Yugoslavia. The chief prosecutor charged the eight suspects, then soldiers of the joint army, with “inhuman treatment against civilians”.

The lawyer representing the victims families’, Velija Muric, said the indictment should have included more suspects.

“A lot more people were involved in organizing this crime, both police and army soldiers,” Muric told Reuters on Friday.

“Montenegrin authorities failed to prosecute this crime for almost 10 years and allowed the perpetrators to walk freely.”

Among the indicted is Predrag Strugar, whose Yugoslav general father has been found guilty of war crimes for the 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik, in the early days of the Croatia war.

Reporting by Dusko Mihailovic. Writing by Ivana Sekularac. Editing by Richard Meares

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