Kosovo: Murder of journalist uninivestigated for 19 years
UNMIK police received a call that something was happening in Djura Jaksic Street 15 in Pristina.Source: UNS, Jelena L. Petkovic
On the evening of September 21, 1999, they responded to the call. A side door was opened, on a bedroom floor they found killed Momir Stokuca, a photo reporter and an associate of Politika (daily newspaper).
Since then, the police have not dealt with this murder. There was never any investigation launched.
An investigation by the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS) also reveals that this report of the UNMIK police "disappeared" from their archives, which is justified by "change of duty and dislocation”. There is no information about this murder in EULEX either, nor in the Special Prosecutor's Office of Kosovo, or in the Serbian Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor. Despite the UNS reminiscent of this crime for years, any investigative judge has never called the closest relative, Momir’s sister Branka Damnjanovic, for 19 years since her brother was killed.
"You journalists are the only ones to remember him,” she says in a testimony for UNS.
Time of death
- Moma was 50 years old, he was not married and he lived with our mother in the neighborhood called Peyton Place. I was living in the pedestrian zone of Pristina. Upon the arrival of international forces, in June 1999, we remained in the city because we did not do anything wrong to anyone. We did not go out, but our neighbors helped us. When people with rifles would break out in front of the entrance yelling: Are there Serbian pigs in the building? They would answer, no, pass on. However, at the end of August my mother got sick and we had to leave Pristina. Moma did not want to go. No one will expel me, I will not leave, the international community has arrived and it will all be solved, he repeated continuously. We called him from Nis every day, but he did not talk about problems. I remember clearly when we finally settled down in a village nearby Nis, he asked my husband Slavko - how about if I would come?
It was a few days before the murder.
- It was September 21st. Moma did not answer the phone. I asked my colleague to visit him, now when I think of it, I believe he already knew what had happened to Moma. That evening, we got a phone call from our godfather from Belgrade, he asked quietly - did you watch B92? If not, go buy newspapers. There was just a short news that Stokuca was killed in Djura Jaksic Street in Pristina. The pain was indescribable, shock, and disbelief. A colleague from Pristina immediately told me that he would help me, and also - your husband and son should not came with you. And do not wear mourning clothes until you cross the Merdare checkpoint. In Pristina, I went straight to the Center for Peace and Tolerance. There was a girl, last name Stokuca as well, who helped me.
Bullet as a proof
From the Center for Peace and Tolerance, Branka Damnjanović remembers, she was taken to the hospital with escort.
- Moma was covered. As soon as I picked up that shroud, I recognized him. They told me we got to go to the police. In the office there was a foreigner and a girl, an interpreter. He took the bullet out of the drawer and showed it to me. This bullet killed him, he told me. I asked if it was a bullet from my father's gun? He said no. We found that gun in your house. He was shot from another one.
Branka testifies that she was, at her request, driven to the family house, to the place where her brother was killed.
- Our house had two entrances, from the front and back. When we got in from the back one, everything in the kitchen and in the lobby was moved, as though they was a scuffle. On the floor of Moma's room were his sweater and pants. Only later I realized they covered the blood stain. I did not notice that anything else was overturned, stolen. They told me this was a crime scene; that I should not touch much, but that I coul take some of Moma's belongings. Under this stress, I took some clothes and journalists accreditation of Politika, which he always carried with him. I could not bury him in Pristina. Bishop Atanasije Jevtic told me that I could bury him in Gracanica and gave me a white shirt to put on Moma.
Even after a year, she did not get any information from the police about the murder of her brother.. She started investigating on her own.
- I immediately asked if they knew who did this? Did they know who had reported what was happening in Moma's house? But there was no answer. The UNMIK police gave me the paper I had to leave at the hospital when I took over the body. Then, I returned home with one document, with the death certificate. Next year, with my Albanian neighbor, I went to the police to ask about the investigation, to ask for an answer. First, they said the documentation was relocated, and I should go to the archive at the former Vladimir Nazor Primary School building. Then they told me: no, not with us, go to another place. No one wanted to help me out, until I received the final answer - we do not have any documentation. Just like that – they do not have it!
photo: Jelena L. Petković photo: Jelena L. Petković
At the very mentioning of the name, in Momir Stokuca’s family, everyone is tearing. To this day, they say, they cannot accept his violent and unexplained death. Material memories of him are few. Diploma of the Yugoslav Institute of Journalism in Belgrade, one photo of a young man gazing into some photographs, excerpts from Knjizevna rec and a plastic covered legitimation of the newspaper Politika, as Branka Damnjanovic picked it up from the family house floor.
- He always carried his camera with him. It was his love. He had a small lab in which he developed photographs. He loved people. He was taking photos of them as they were sitting, deep in their thoughts, or in motion. He loved hiking and crossed all of Kosovo on his feet, he took pictures of beautiful landscapes. He loved to read. The books were always mailed to our house. He adored and wrote for the Knjizevna rec magazine. And for such an educated man, to be so naive. To stay behind...
To be continued