Confidence building: EU support to NGOs in Montenegro for transitional justice

Five projects of non-governmental organizations from Montenegro, with a total value of 375,362 euros, supported within the framework of the regional project "EU Support to Confidence Building in the Western Balkans" funded by the EU and implemented by the UNDP

January 17, 2024


The Western Balkans still bear the burden of the conflicts of the 1990s, with a significant number of unsolved cases of war crimes, traumatized victims denied justice, as well as growing divisions and historical revisionism. The regional initiative "EU Support to Confidence Building in the Western Balkans" provides professional support to judicial and law enforcement authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, and Serbia in processing war crimes cases at the national level, and improves the quality of support for victims and witnesses. Over the next three years, the project will also empower local actors to raise public awareness of past crimes, including dialogue and exchange of opinions, especially among young people. Non-governmental organizations, which play a key role in that process and contribute to overall social cohesion, were given the opportunity to have their projects funded in the area of transitional justice promotion.

Gianandrea Villa, Rule of Law Program Manager in the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, emphasizes that a broad dialogue on the conflicts is a prerequisite for the improvement of effective prosecution of war crimes while respecting human rights and the needs of victims. "Although it is a regional project, the activities are adapted to national needs, which the European Union strongly welcomes," Villa said.

He reminded that the latest progress report of the European Commission emphasizes that Montenegro must be more proactive in its investigation of war crimes in accordance with international law. "The first step is to raise awareness and knowledge about the conflicts through dialogue," he told the representatives of the civil sector at the initial project event in the European House.

Two public calls for civil society organizations registered in Montenegro were open from June 12 to July 10, 2023, and from July 3 to July 31, 2023, and five projects with a total value of 375,362 euros were approved for funding.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) project "Transitional Justice Initiative through Education and Art" will use creative workshops, exhibitions, educational camps, study visits, documentaries, and promotional campaigns to raise awareness among citizens about the past, while strengthening the capacities of the prosecution, the judiciary, civil society and the media on the investigation of war crimes. "Through the activities, we will shed light on the perspective of the female victims," the representatives of the Initiative, Vaskrsija Klačar and Marko Vukčević explained.


The goal of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE)'s project "Education for the Future - Transitional Justice for Reconciliation" is to provide young people with a better understanding of war crimes committed in and on behalf of Montenegro, as well as to strengthen the capacities of history teachers. Damir Suljević from the CCE pointed out that all analyses and research indicate that young citizens have insufficient knowledge about the conflicts. Some of the key activities are the organization of the School of Transitional Justice for young people, study visits to locations of war crimes, and the publishing of reports and documents from war crimes trials.

The project "The Siege of Dubrovnik 1991-1992: Memories of the War so that the Evil Does Not Happen Again" will be implemented by the Human Rights Action (HRA) in partnership with the Empty Space drama studio. The focus is on strengthening the cooperation with the Republic of Croatia in terms of transitional justice, establishing and documenting war crimes in Dubrovnik, as well as honoring the victims. "Besides the academic and journalistic research work, the backbone of the project is the production of a theatre play about the attack on Dubrovnik, which will certainly be interesting to the general public." The piece will contain real motives, and will be based on collected testimonies", Martina Mrkolović from the Human Rights Action announced.

Two projects were supported within the second Public Call, which focused on supporting the victims and witnesses.

Through the "Culture of Remembrance for a Brighter Future" initiative, the Civic Alliance will research, map, and collect data on the victims of war crimes, as well as their needs, especially women victims. "Our main goal is to start a public debate and advocate processes of dealing with the past among various actors", Ljubica Smolović and Jelena Ristić said, while presenting the activities. The project also includes strengthening the public dialogue on the culture of memory through research stories, documentaries, forums, and the organization of commemorations for the crimes of Bukovica, Kaluđerski laz, Morinj, Deportacija, Štrpci, and Klapuh.

The key goals of the project "Together towards justice – legal, psychological and social support for victims of war crimes" which will be implemented by the Human Rights Action (HRA) include achieving justice for victims of war crimes through free legal aid in criminal proceedings and reparations proceedings, and creating better conditions for regional cooperation in solving the crimes. Elizabeta Mrnjačević from HRA presented the planned activities, including the drafting of a memorial policy, the creation of a manual on the rights of victims of sexual violence, and a campaign on the importance of memorializing war crimes sites.

In addition to grants for non-governmental organizations, the key component of the project "European Union Support to Confidence Building in the Western Balkans" is strengthening the capacities of judicial authorities and improving the strategic and legal framework for processing war crimes, Jelena Mrdak, Programme Manager from UNDP, said. "Our focus is also on supporting victims and witnesses of war crimes, as well as public opinion research, and work with young people," Mrdak added. The fourth important segment is regional cooperation, and this year, regional conferences will be organized in Montenegro with representatives of the prosecutor's offices, courts, and special police departments.

Additional information about the project is available here.


*For the European Union, this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 (1999) and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For UNDP, all references to Kosovo shall be understood in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).