An insult to the victims and legitimization of crimes at the highest state level
Speaking on N1 TV station in January 2018, Milovan Drecun, the President of the Serbian Parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, referred to the Bytyqi brothers, killed by the Serbian police in July 1999, as „terrorists“. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers such a description of these victims, whose family has been waiting for justice for more than 18 years, unacceptable, especially bearing in mind that it comes from a person highly placeed within the power structures of the Republic of Serbia.
The brothers Mehmet (21), Agron (23) and Ylli (25) Bytyqi were arrested at the administrative border between Kosovo and Serbia near the village of Rudare on June 26 1999, when they mistakenly crossed the border into the territory of Serbia in an attempt to help a Roma family escape from Kosovo. The police took them to the Prokuplje police station, where they spent the night, and the next day the judge at the Misdemeanour Court in Kuršumlija sentenced them to 15 days in prison for illegally crossing the border, and for non-possession of identity documents.
They served their sentence in the Prokuplje district prison. When they were released from the prison on July 8 1999 (four days before the expiry of their 15-day sentence), they were again arrested by Miloš Stojanović and Sreten Popović, members of the Serbian Police, who drove them in official police vehicles to the Training Centre of the Special Police Units in Petrovo Selo, 250 km away from Prokuplje. The following day, unknown members of the police took the three Bytyqi brothers, blindfolded and their hands tied with wire, to a location with an existing mass grave containing the bodies of Albanian civilians from Kosovo. There, the brothers were executed with gun shots to the back of the head, and buried in the mass grave.
During the conflicts in Kosovo, Mehmet, Agron and Ylli Bytyqi were members of the Atlantic Brigade of the Kosovo Liberation Army that they had joined as American citizens. At the time of their arrest, however, they were unarmed and in civilian clothes, which were found on them in 2001 when the mass grave in Petrovo Selo was exhumated.
Only the police officers Miloš Stojanović and Sreten Popović were tried before the War Crimes Chamber of the District Court in Belgrade for the crimes against the Bytyqi brothers. They were acquitted. During the proceedings, there was evidence that the order for the brothers’ execution was issued by the then minister of the Ministry of the Interior Vlajko Stojiljković, and was carried to the executioner through the chain of command that included the Chief of the Public Security Department of the Ministry of the Interior, Vlastimir Đorđević, and the Head of the Training Centre in Petrovo Selo, Goran Radosavljević Guri. Despite promises from the top of the government, which have coincided with the visits by US government officials to Serbia, none of those mentioned here, nor any other mid- or high-ranking police officials, have been charged so far.
When he was asked to give his opinion on the matter during his appearance on TV N1, Milovan Drecun avoided a direct answer, but added that he could not agree with “the characterization“ of the case: „You talk about the brothers Bytyqi, and I talk about the terrorists Bytyqi“. The HLC believes that this is a completely inappropriate qualification, the aim of which can only be the legitimization of the crimes against the Bytyqi brothers and justification of the judiciary passivity in this case.
We would like to remind the public of the fact that Milovan Drecun is an MP in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia from the list of the ruling Srpska napredna stranka (Serbian Progressive Party). Drecun is also a member of the Main Committee of the party, and on behalf of that party he was elected President of the Parliamentary Committee for Kosovo and Metohija.
Considering the fact that Milovan Drecun is a government official occupying a high-ranking state position, the HLC calls upon the representatives of the Serbian authorities to distance themselves from the words of Milovan Drecun and, unlike him, to pay their respects to the victims, especially those for whose fate the security bodies of the Republic of Serbia have been responsible. The HLC also calls on the highest state officials to fulfill their promises and contribute to exposing those responsible and prosecuting them. Otherwise, it will have become clear that the statements made in the company of the American officials are insincere, and that what Milovan Drecun said is what the government really thinks.