Montenegro”s parliament has dismissed the country’s justice minister for expressing doubts about the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica.
Lawmakers voted 43 to 27 on Thursday to replace minister Vladimir Leposavic for his comments.
The country also passed a resolution condemning the massacre and banning public denials of the genocide, although without legal consequences.
55 MPs approved the resolution, while 19 were against it in the 81-member Montenegrin assembly, in a vote that has shaken the new government and exposed a rift within the ruling coalition.
Leposavic was ousted after disputing recently that the killing of around 8,000 Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces amounted to genocide.
The former minister, who is close to the Serbian Orthodox Church and considered pro-Serbian, had said he would recognise the massacre as genocide “when it is established unequivocally”.
He later stated that his comments had been taken out of context, and received support from pro-Serb groups within Montenegro’s governing alliance.
But Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic had demanded Leposavic’s dismissal, after the comments on Srebrenica sparked international criticism of Montenegro, as it seeks EU membership.
Leposavic refused to resign, leading PM Krivokapic to ask lawmakers to vote on his dismissal, a move that had led to strong criticism from some in Montenegro’s ruling coalition.
“By proposing the dismissal, I took the risk of being accused again of being an enemy and a traitor just for being on the side of justice and truth,” Krivokapic told parliament.
The massacre in July 1995 in Srebrenica culminated at the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian War and is considered to be one of the worst atrocities in Europe since the Second World War.
The killings have been classified as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
But many Serbs in the region reject the term and believe that Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, who was sentenced to life in prison for Srebrenica and other crimes, was merely defending his people.