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Montenegro Government Teeters After Minister Dismissed Over Srebrenica Comments

Gravestones at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari.
Gravestones at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari.

Montenegro’s parliament has dismissed the pro-Serb justice minister who had cast doubt on the genocidal nature of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in a move that threatens the fragile coalition government ruling the small Balkan nation.

A majority of lawmakers on June 17 also passed a resolution condemning the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and banning public denial of the atrocity, with the pro-Serb Democratic Front (DF) that dominates Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic's government voting against both measures.

Krivokapic had called on Justice Minister Vladimir Leposavic to step down in April after he questioned the Srebrenica genocide and denied the legitimacy of the UN war crimes tribunal.

Leposavic refused to quit and gained support from DF deputies, which were angered with Krivokapic when he asked lawmakers to dismiss the minister without consulting.

But the prime minister was then able to get support from opposition lawmakers of President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and other smaller parties.

“By proposing the dismissal of the minister, I took the risk of being marked once again as an enemy and a traitor only for the sake of justice and truth," Krivokapic told parliament.

Krivokapic stressed that Leposavic’s statements were "in complete contradiction with government policy," which includes the goal of EU integration.

It was not immediately clear if the political crisis will lead to the collapse of the government or a cabinet reshuffle.

One DF leader, Slaven Radunovic, told parliament that Krivokapic could no longer be prime minister.

“Now we are resetting the situation to zero and we are looking for a new agreement,” Radunovic said, slamming the prime minister for cooperating with the opposition.

Krivokapic became prime minister in December 2020 at the head of a unruly alliance of pro-Serb and liberal pro-Western forces following an election last August that removed from power Djukanovic's DPS party after three decades.

Djukanovic led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and defied pro-Russian voices to guide the country into NATO in 2017.

Montenegro was part of the same country as Serbia throughout the Bosnia war, toward the end of which Serbian paramilitary forces killed some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the vicinity of Srebrenica in July 1995.

The UN war crimes tribunal and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have classified the Srebrenica massacre as genocide.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and RFE/RL's Balkan Service
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