Memorial service for Serb farmers gunned down in Kosovo

A meorial service has been held for 14 Serbian farmers shot and killed while harvesting their fields on July 23, 1999 in the village of Staro Gracko in Kosovo.

Source: Tanjug

Director of the Serbian Government's Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric addressed those gathered on Thursday and pointed out to the question of why no one has been brought to justice yet in this case.

"Is it possible there is no political courage and responsibility of politicians in Pristina to bring those responsible for this crime to justice - and not in order to humiliate, insult and wrong anyone, but precisely to avoid a situation where those that sowed death reap life in freedom, life without the mark of being murderers, life in which they did not reap what they sowed in these fields,'' said Djuric.

He added he wished the memorial was also attended by "at least some politicians from Pristina who belong to the nation from which the criminals came'' - since he believes that would have sent a message they disagreed what was done - "because it was not done without a serious political inspiration."

Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Branimir Stojanovic said that crime Staro Gracko is "spoken about everywhere and every day except on the day when 16 years ago 14 reapers were killed here."

"It's hard to speak in Staro Gracko about what happened 16 years ago. Today is a day for silence and sadness and it will last. Let everyone, and our colleagues in the government and the international community think about why we remain silent on this day," said Stojanovic.

According to him, "the sorrow and the pain that exist, not only in this place, and not only on this day will not go away by themselves."

He added that "our reminders and memories will last until those who did this have been punished," and added, "no matter how long it takes, those who committed this horrific crime must be punished and we will persevere in that."

Another Serb in the Pristina government, Minister for Communities and Returns Dalibor Jevtic, was also present and said he would "continue to seek the answer to the question he has been asking for 16 years: who killed the 14 reapers in Staro Gracko."

"We will seek the answer and will continue until we receive one," said Jevtic.

During the Kosovo government session on Wednesday, he added, "on behalf of the victims' families but also in the name of truth and justice, I once again and from that place posed this question and asked the institutions to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice and punish them."

Jevtic "believes that the future can be better only in this way," Tanjug reported. "We will continue to demand and ask today and every day, and help the residents of Staro Gracko so they don't leave as has happened in the past. We will help so these people live better than they used to and that is our obligation,"said Jevtic.

Serbian Orthodox Church Bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo and Metohija Teodosije pointed out that the local cemetery where the victims lay buried has been desecrated and mined, also pointing out that none of the perpetrators of the crime have been brought to justice.

"That's what pains us all and indeed there is no justice here on earth, we'll wait for justice that God will give to everyone, but it would be easier for us if this earthly justice were to be satisfied as well, easier for us and our compatriots," said the bishop.

The youngest of the farmers gunned down 16 years ago was a 17-year-old. The victims included Milovan Jovanovic, Jovica and Rade Zivic, Andrija Odalovic, Slobodan, Mile, Novica, and Momir Janicijevic, Stanimir and Bosko Dekic, Sasa and Ljubisa Cvejic, Nikola Stojanovic, and Miodrag Tepsic.

An ethnic Albanian man, Mazlum Bytyqi from the village of Veliki Alas, was arrested by the UNMIK police in connection to this case in 2007, but was set free two months later for lack of evidence.

Veliki Alas is the village that Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa this year chose to declare harvest season ceremonially open.

The massacre is one of the most serious incidents targeting Serbs in the province after the arrival of international missions there, and remains unsolved. Other crimes committed against Serbs where the perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice include the bombing of the Nis Express bus near Podujevo, the murder of teenagers at the Bistrica River, and the murder of the Stolic family in Obilic.

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