News 29 Sep 16

BIRN’s Kosovo War Film Gets Budapest Premiere

BIRN’s documentary ‘The Unidentified’, about the men responsible for some of the most brutal atrocities of the Kosovo war in 1999, had its Hungarian premiere at the Budapest International Documentary Festival.

BIRN
Budapest
The audience at the Budapest International Documentary Festival.

BIRN’s latest documentary ‘The Unidentified’, naming the Serbian officers who ordered attacks on Kosovo villages around the town of Pec/Peja in 1999 and those involved in the cover-up operation to hide the victims’ bodies, was screened in the Hungarian capital for the first time on Wednesday as part of the Budapest International Documentary Festival.

In a question-and-answer session after the screening, the director of the film, Marija Ristic, said ‘The Unidentified’ was the result of a two-year investigation, during which one of the biggest challenges was to get witnesses to speak out about what they saw.

“The Kosovo war and the crimes committed there are still a sort of taboo in Serbia and because of that it was very hard to find everyone involved in these events, and to urge them to appear in the film which includes both victims and perpetrators,” Ristic said.

‘The Unidentified’ takes viewers back to 1999, to the villages of Ljubenic, Cuska, Pavljan and Zahac near Pec/Peja in Kosovo, where Serbian fighters killed more than 118 Albanian civilians. Their bodies were either burned or removed, and some of them were later found in mass graves at the Batajnica police training centre near Belgrade in 2001.

The trial of the fighters alleged to have been involved in the killings - ten of them accused of being direct perpetrators - is still ongoing in Belgrade, but the police and army generals who gave the orders have never been prosecuted in Serbia.

Ristic, who followed the trial for three years, said she didn’t just want to make a film about the Serbian fighters on trial, but about all those responsible for the attacks and those who ordered the subsequent cover-up attempt.

“People who gave orders left documents behind them. And we were also interested to reveal who were those who were responsible for the removal of the bodies, because the cover-up is not in the indictment [of the ten ex-fighters],” she said.

In February 2014, nine of them were sentenced to a total of 106 years in jail but an appeals court annulled the verdict in March, calling it “incomprehensible and contradictory”.

The case is now being retried, but proceedings have been marked by delays and legal issues.

‘The Unidentified’ will have one more additional screening at the Budapest International Documentary Festival on Thursday.

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