PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegrin lawmakers on Thursday ousted a pro-Serb government minister who has denied the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica and passed a resolution condemning the massacre, in a vote that has shaken the new government and exposed a rift within the Balkan country’s ruling coalition.
Parliament voted 43 to 27 to replace the Human and Minority Rights Minister Vladimir Leposavic for disputing recently that the killing of some 8,000 Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces amounted to genocide. Lawmakers later approved the Srebrenica resolution with 55 votes in favor and 19 against in the 81-member assembly.
Minister Leposavic was backed by pro-Serb groups that are part of the governing alliance. Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic demanded the minister’s ouster after his comments on Srebrenica sparked international criticism of Montenegro, a Balkan nation that is a member of NATO and which is seeking European Union entry.
The resolution on Srebrenica strongly condemns the genocide, banning its denial and introducing a commemoration day for the massacre. The pro-Serb lawmakers of the ruling majority were opposed, but both proposals passed in parliament thanks to the opposition lawmakers of President Milo Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists.
It was not immediately clear if the votes could trigger the breakup of the ruling coalition which won a slight majority at the election last August, removing from power Djukanovic’s DPS party after three decades.
Djukanovic, who remains the country’s president, led Montenegro to independence from much larger Serbia in 2006 and defied Russia to steer the country into NATO in 2017 but has faced accusations of links to crime and corruption. The new government has pledged to pursue Montenegro’s bid to join the EU but cracks have since emerged with the pro-Serb parties in the ruling coalition that also have close Russia ties.
The massacre in Srebrenica, when Bosnian Serbs rounded up almost all of the town’s Bosniak Muslim men and boys late in the 1992-95 Bosnian War, executed them and buried their bodies in mass graves in the area, was Europe’s worst carnage since World War II declared as genocide by U.N. courts.