Serbia PM Promises Justice for Slain US Albanians

Serbia PM Promises Justice for Slain US Albanians

BalkanInsight_logoDuring his visit to Washington, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic promised that Belgrade will solve the 1999 murders of three American-Albanian brothers who fought for the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Vucic, who has been under pressure from the US to bring the brothers’ murderers to justice, said on Thursday that Belgrade would “deliver on that issue”.

“Don’t worry, we’ll resolve it, and I think that it’s our job, it’s our duty to do it,” he said in a speech in Washington during his US visit.

Vucic also promised that there would be progress in the case “very soon, or much sooner than anybody might expect”.

Brothers Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi, all US citizens of Albanian origin, travelled to Kosovo from the US in 1999 to join the fight against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces and became part of a volunteer branch of the Kosovo Liberation Army called the Atlantic Brigade.

After the June 1999 peace agreement that ended the Kosovo war, they agreed to escort several Roma neighbours to Serbia.

But when they strayed over an unmarked boundary line between Serbia and Kosovo, they were arrested by Serbian police for illegally entering what was then Yugoslavia.

After serving their sentences, they were re-arrested, taken to a police training centre in Petrovo Selo in southern Serbia, and then executed with shots to the back of the neck. Their bodies were later found in a mass grave.

US officials have continued to exert pressure on Serbia to prosecute the perpetrators.

Last month a resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives calling for those responsible for the “execution-style murders” to be brought to justice, and for the Bytyqi brothers’ murders to “remain a significant factor” in Washington’s relations with Belgrade.

Eliot Engel, who sits on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, met Vucic in Washington during his visit to raise concerns about the case.

“I look forward to seeing justice for this American family that’s waited nearly two decades for closure,” Engel told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after meeting Vucic.

Ahead of Vucic’s visit, Serbian police claimed to have new evidence that could finally bring the killers of the three brothers to justice.

Last week it was also announced that a new special commission that will be formed to resolve the murder, led by the prominent Serbian editor and journalist Veran Matic.

But the family of the slain brothers have remained sceptical about the Belgrade authorities’ intentions.

“Yesterday a commission, today new evidence, what distraction will come tomorrow? Prime Minister Vucic cannot evade his central and active role in preventing a credible investigation,” Praveen Madhiraju, an attorney and pro bono advisor to the Bytyqi family, told BIRN.

Madhiraju alleged all the evidence so far points to the involvement of a top special police general, Goran Radosavljevic, also known by the nickname Guri.

Radosavljevic, now retired, is a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, and Madhiraju alleges that he is being protected by Vucic, who is from the same party.

When asked about the allegations by BIRN last year, Radosavljevic denied any involvement.

“I trust Serbian institutions. If they want to prosecute me, they can,” he said.