Bytyqi family: Serbia failed to bring suspects to justice

The family of Illy, Mehmet and Agron Bytyqi has accused Serbia of "failing to bring the suspects to justice despite repeated pledges to do so."

Source: B92, Tanjug

The Associated Press is reporting that "an open letter to top U.S. and EU officials, signed by U.S. and Balkan intellectuals and human rights activists, expresses regret that Serbia's war crimes prosecutions have failure to resolve the case."

The letter said that "since the position’s inception in 2003 the Serbian war crimes prosecutor has indicted no senior Serbian military or police officials, no government officials, and no persons of any rank involved in the removal from Kosovo and reburial in Serbia of more than 900 Albanian bodies - a deliberate 'cover-up operation. Prosecutors filed only seven indictments in 2014, the majority of which were the result of complete investigatory files transferred from prosecutors in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2015, they only issued two, neither of which was confirmed. This is not a record to be proud of."

The letter continued: "In the Bytyqi case, a Serbian president and the two most recent prime ministers have repeatedly promised resolution since 2006, but have failed to take adequate steps to secure this result. Instead, reports indicate that a primary suspect has intimidated witnesses and remains close to senior members of the current government. International and domestic NGOs, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Commission, have diagnosed numerous problems with Serbia’s war crimes record. Uniformly, each cites a lack of political will and political interference as impeding accountability. Similarly, witnesses will never come forward and cases will not be resolved when government ministers host 'welcome home' parties for returning convicts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and suggest there be a political loyalty test when selecting the chief war crimes prosecutor."

"Though the ICTY is winding down, the hard work for its countries of focus is nowhere near complete. Across the Balkans, tens of thousands of victims and their families deserve closure. Henceforth only domestic prosecutions will have the ability to deliver them justice. To date, Serbia’s record has been a dismal one that is ultimately unacceptable," the signatories said, adding that for this reason, they urged senior U.S. and EU officials "to take constructive steps to ensure better commitment and effort by Serbia’s leaders and institutions to resolve war crimes cases, including the Bytyqi Brothers case.

They also said that "this issue should be raised as part of continuing dialogue with the Serbian government, parliament and civil society leaders."

The three American citizens were "believed killed by Serb troops on July 8, 1999," the AP said, noting in its report that the three had left their New York pizza business "to fight with ethnic Albanian rebels against Serbia's rule in Kosovo."

"They were arrested at the end of the clashes when they strayed into central Serbia. Their bodies were discovered in a mass grave in 2001," the American agency said.

Crime

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