News 21 Jul 16

Kosovo President Lays Wreath at Serbs’ Memorial

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci paid tribute at a memorial to 14 Serbs killed after the war in the village of Staro Gracko/Gracke 17 years ago, but the victims’ families criticised his gesture.

Antigona Shaipi
BIRN
Pristina
Hashim Thaci at the memorial in Staro Gracko/Gracke. Photo: Kosovo Presidency.

Thaci laid a wreath on Wednesday at the memorial to the Serbs who were killed 17 years ago in Staro Gracko/Gracke and said that everyone who committed crimes during the Kosovo war and afterwards should be punished.

“Today I pray in pain and express regret once again about all the victims during and after the war, to all communities. Every crime must be uncovered and punished. Crime is crime, whoever it is committed against or whoever committed it,” Thaci said.

The 14 villagers, all male and aged between 17 and 60, were killed on July 23, 1999, just after the war ended in Kosovo.

Thaci said that the perpetrators must be found and the fate of all missing persons from the war resolved, whether they are Albanian, Serb or from any other community.

“We all have a responsibility to work in this direction. We have responsibilities to their families and to our children’s future. We have to help each other. The pain of every mother over the loss of family members is the same,” he said.

However Thaci’s gesture was not welcomed by the families of victims in Staro Gracko/Gracke.

According to Zoran Cirkovic, the major of Staro Gracko/Gracke, the families didn’t want Thaci to visit until the killers are found.

“We told him it is not the right time until those who ordered this crime have been brought to justice for one of the biggest crimes against Serbs in Kosovo. And until this happens, he is not welcome in our village,” Cirkovic told BETA news agency.

Thaci insisted however that he was working towards reconciliation.

“Only reconciliation and cooperation makes Kosovo and the region really European,” he said.

After the end of the war, numerous crimes against Serbs were committed in retaliation for attacks on Albanians during the conflict.

Most of these crimes remain unresolved despite the attempts of international missions in Kosovo to investigate them.

In 2007, the UN mission in Kosovo arrested a man on suspicion of involvement in the Staro Gracko/Gracke murders, but released him due to lack of evidence.

Both Kosovo’s and Serbia’s prosecutions claim they are investigating the case but do not want to reveal if any progress has been made.

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