Hon. Joseph J. DioGuardi For Immediate Release
President (914) 671-8583
Shirley A. Cloyes
Balkan Affairs Adviser
THE ALBANIAN AMERICAN CIVIC CONDEMNS THE ILLEGAL
ARREST AND TORTURE OF 14 ALBANIANS, THREE OF THEM U.S. CITIZENS, IN MONTENEGRO
CALLS ON THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO PREVENT A COVER-UP
NEW YORK, OCTOBER 9, 2006— The Albanian American Civic League has learned that the Prelevic law firm in Montenegro has filed criminal charges against the police involved in the illegal arrest, illegal obtaining of evidence, and torture of fourteen Albanians, three of whom are U.S. citizens, in Tuzi on September 9. The Prelevic firm represents two of the American citizens, Kola Dedvukaj and Rrok Dedvukaj (who were on vacation in Montenegro), and four of the Albanians who live in the Albanian-majority region of Malsia. The Helsinki Federation has confirmed the use of torture.
According to official statements made by the fourteen (who remain in jail pending the results of an investigation by the Montenegrin prosecutor’s office), they were seized from their beds in the early hours of September 9 by a SWAT team fully equipped with face masks and automatic weapons. The police traumatized the men and their families by aiming their rifles at the men, humiliating and threatening them, and beating and kicking them. They hurled racist insults at them, screaming “We shall send you all to Albania.” “We shall kill you all; this is our country.”
The men were handcuffed, thrown into police vehicles, and driven to the police department. Throughout they were threatened with death, beaten with fists, batons, and rifle butts, and then forced to stay for hours at attention or on their knees until some lost consciousness. Some of the prisoners were beaten around the clock; none of them received food or water for three days; and Kola Dedvukaj’s blood pressure medications were taken from him. The torture continued after they were brought before the municipal court and then before Montenegro’s higher court. It did not cease until the men were transferred to the federal prison in Spuz on the afternoon of September 12—under mounting pressure from the Albanian government and international human rights organizations, all of which were contacted by the Albanian American Civic League at the request of family members of the imprisoned men. The U.S. Office in Podgorica has also made their concerns known to the Montenegrin government and visited the American citizens.
Upon arrival in the police department in Podgorica, Rrok Dedvukaj was beaten as one of his interrogators called him an “American terrorist” who wants to “kill our children” and then demanded that he “tell us all you know.” “If you do not tell us, we will torture you with electricity.” Until they appeared before the higher court, Rrok and the other prisoners did not know why they had been arrested and abused. According to the Montenegrin media, citing government sources, the fourteen were rounded up and jailed as a group of “Albanian terrorists” who had been foiled in the process of plotting a violent attack against the state. Photographs were printed in the Montenegrin media of a cache of weapons uncovered by the government—all of which appeared to be of World War II vintage.
As Katrina Dedvukaj, Rrok’s sister who resides in Utica, Michigan, said today, “Rrok has worked all his life for human rights. All that he and the rest of my family have ever wanted is justice for our people. We are insulted by the accusations made against Rrok and our cousins.”
Marash Nuculaj, the head of the Civic League’s Michigan chapter who was born and raised in Tuzi, said that, “The arrest and torture of these men is unacceptable in the 21 st century in a country calling itself a democracy. This is a wake-up call for both Albanians and the international community. For sixteen years, the government of Milo Djukanovic has trained the Montenegrin police to intimidate, beat, and torture Albanians. It happened in Tuzi last month, but tomorrow it could happen in Ulqin, Ana e Malit, Kraja, and Plave-Guci if the racist mindset of so many Montenegrins is not changed.”
Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League, agrees with Nuculaj, adding that “The burden of proof remains on the Montenegrin government to demonstrate that these fourteen Albanian men, or for that matter, any Albanians in Montenegro, have any interest in engaging in violent acts against the state. Meanwhile the government will have to explain to the international community why this ethnically motivated act of violence against Albanians in Montenegro could take place in a newly independent country seeking the full rights and privileges of membership in the European Union.”
Today, thirty days after their arrest, the Montenegrin prosecutor’s office must decide whether to prolong the detention of the fourteen Albanians or release them. If they do not release them, Cloyes and Civic League founder, former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, are concerned that Montenegro, in the absence of any real evidence, may try to railroad the men into a long prison sentence on the basis of phony charges in order to cover up the use of torture. Earlier DioGuardi voiced his skepticism about the timing of the arrests on the morning of the municipal elections that were important for Albanian self-determination in Tuzi.
The Civic League, which engaged in fact-finding missions to the Albanian communities in Montenegro with Congressman Tom Lantos in 2003 and Congressman Dana
Rohrabacher in 2005, is appealing to foreign policy leaders in the U.S. Congress to condemn the torture of the fourteen men, demand their release, and call for an independent investigation by the Council of Europe to determine the circumstances and motives of the police action taken on September 9.