The Honorable President Milo Djukanovic/
President of the Republic of Montenegro/
Dear Mr. President:/
We are writing to express our grave concern about the actions of the Montenegrin Police directed against citizens of Albanian descent from Montenegro, the Republic of Albania and other countries. Most notably, the Montenegrin Police have been bringing unprecedented criminal charges and levying fines against any individual or entity displaying the Albanian national flag. Thereby, raising major concerns of a possible pattern of discrimination and harassment against people of Albanian origin.
Most recently, the Montenegrin Police arrested and expelled Mr. Irfan Domnori, a citizen of the Republic of Albania, for displaying the Albanian national flag at the annual Chestnut Festival in the region of Kraja, a municipality of Ulcinj. The mere act of displaying the Albanian flag at a cultural event resulted in Mr. Domnori being expelled, was levied a fine of 300 Euros and received an order that bans his re-entry into Montenegro for a period of 30 days. According to the Montenegrin Police, Mr. Domnori “disrupted public order and breached the peace.” Many witnesses accounts, however, unequivocally contradict the Montenegrin Police’s statement, and have denied any “disruption of public order” or “breaching of the peace”.
This incident coupled with other incidents that show bias against Albanians are deeply concerning. This is not the first time that the Montenegrin Police have targeted Montenegrin citizens of Albanian descent and Albanians from other countries for displaying the Albanian national flag. Such actions by the police cause us to ask a number of questions: (1) How many arrests and summonses have the Montenegrin Police issued for the display of national symbols? (2) How many of those arrests and summonses have been issued specifically for the display of Albanian symbols as opposed to symbols of other nations? (3) Who in the chain of command is responsible for the directives to issue summonses and arrests of individuals who are displaying a national flag other than the Montenegrin flag?
Mr. President, we request you and the Montenegrin Parliament to launch a full investigation and take the appropriate actions against the responsible individuals and/or departments. The behavior of the Montenegrin Police in Mr. Domnori’s case and previous cases is unbecoming of a democratic state, a member of NATO and a country aspiring to become a member of the European Union (EU). In fact, such actions violate numerous international laws, agreements, and conventions concerning human and national rights of minorities, as well as the Constitution of Montenegro. We respectfully remind you, Mr. President, that the Republic of Montenegro is a signatory of the aforementioned agreements and conventions.
The actions of the Montenegrin Police have been damaging to the relations between the Montenegrin government and its own citizens of Albanian descent as well as the citizens of the Republic of Albania, who warmly welcomed Montenegrin (former Yugoslav) citizens to their country during World War II.
We respectfully and urgently request that the Republic of Montenegro take all the necessary steps to adopt and genuinely integrate a policy of inclusion. We firmly believe that the first step in repairing this damaged relationship is for the Government of Montenegro to issue a public apology for the discriminatory actions targeted towards individuals of Albanian descent. The second step is to relieve of their duties the individuals, whatever their role in the government of Montenegro, who are perpetrating these discriminatory actions. We cannot imagine a higher moral duty than asserting that intolerance shall and will not be tolerated.
In addition, we also implore you to facilitate the process of dismissing all charges against Mr. Domnori and others who are similarly situated. Expunging their criminal and infraction records, refunding the fines paid and immediately end the practice of arrests and fines for displaying national symbols.
This issue is especially pressing in the wake of the 107th year of Albanian Independence which will be celebrated on November 28, 2019. Albanian descendants from all around the world, including in Montenegro, will proudly display the Albanian national flag. It is a celebration of freedom after 497 years of occupation by the Ottoman Empire. The mere fact that Albanian descendants find themselves a part of another country’s territory, through no fault of their own, does not entitle your government or any government to suppress their identity or violate their basic human rights. In order to avoid an international incident, we hope that in your capacity as President and leader of a free nation will ensure that such freedoms are afforded to all of your citizens and its visitors during the Albanian Independence celebrations. We pray that the Montenegrin Police will reconsider its tactics and that your country will embrace and protect the Albanian minority through law and practice.
We, the Albanian American community, believe that diversity is a core value of the Republic of Montenegro, and respect for all ethnic groups is a key principle towards a prosperous future. Thus, we will not close our eyes to actions that undermine these principles.
We remain hopeful in reaching an amicable solution to the existing issues and that you will take our suggestions seriously and afford them the time and consideration they deserve.
We wish Montenegrin citizens of Albanian descent and all around the world a happy and peaceful flag day.
We the undersigned, look forward to your response.
Mark Gjonaj, Member, City Council of New York
|Albanian American Association Ana e Malit|
|Albanian American Community Association|
|Albanian American Council|
|Albanian American Cultural Found.AACF|
|Albanian American Educators Association|
|Albanian American National Association|
|Albanian American Open Hand Association|
|Albanian American Puka Community Association|
|Albanian American Women’s Organization “Motrat Qiriazi”|
|Albanian American Writers Association|
|Albanian Business Network|
|Albanian Professional Entrepreneur Network – APEN|
|Association Malesia e Madhe NY|
|Bijte e Shqipes|
|Dibra Community organization|
|Dom Simon Filipaj Foundation|
|Hasan Prishtina Waterbury Organization|
|Illyria Business Organization|
|Kosova Lindore Association|
|Kraja Patriotic Association|
|Marigona-Albanian Women Org|
|Masbesa Boston Germin|
|Pan-Albanian Federation of America VATRA (THE HEARTH)|
|Shpresa Cultural Association|
|Sons of Illyria|
cc: The Honorable Prime Minister Dusko Markovic firstname.lastname@example.org
The Honorable Ambassador Srdjan Darmanovic email@example.com
The Honorable Ambassador Judy Reinke podgoricaACS@state.gov
The Honorable Ambassador Zeljko Stamatovic firstname.lastname@example.org
Milan Rocen Advisor to President email@example.com