News 27 Sep 16

Kosovo Prosecution Admits Not Investigating Village Killings

Kosovo’s Special Prosecution has admitted that it is not investigating the killings and disappearances of Albanians and Serbs in the village of Mushtisht/Mustiste during and after the war in 1999.

Qazim Hasanaj
BIRN
Pristina
Protesters in Mushtisht/Mustiste demand a new probe. Photo: KALLXO.com

A Kosovo Special Prosecution spokesperson has told BIRN that only two cases were ever opened into the deadly violence in the village of Mushtisht/Mustiste in 1999, and both of them are now closed after the criminal charges were dismissed.

The admission came after villagers in Mushtisht/Mustiste blocked a road on Sunday in a protest urging the Special Prosecution, which took over investigations of war crimes in Kosovo in 2014, to launch a new probe.

“We urge the state prosecution to come and investigate in Mushtisht. There are factual arguments and pictures that we possess. Then they can start an investigation. After that we can see if it’s relevant for them to come back or not,” said one of the villagers, Bislim Ibrahimi.

Seventeen Kosovo Albanians and two Serbs from the village were killed and 16 Serbs and 12 Albanians disappeared during and after the war, it is believed.

Villager Xhemajl Muharremi, whose parents have been missing since 1999, said an investigation would help to establish their whereabouts.

“Where are my parents? Where did the [Serbian] army leave them? They can tell us where they left them,” said Muharremi.

Bekim Blakaj from the Pristina-based Humanitarian Law Centre NGO said he supported the villagers’ protest.

“Their anger is reasonable, because it has been 17 years since the war, and according to the data we possess, in Mushtisht alone, 16 Albanians were killed or are still missing. There were terrible murders and there is still no justice for these families,” Blakaj told BIRN.

Mushtisht/Mustiste was also the scene of a protest last month when several hundred Albanians prevented some 150 Kosovo Serb pilgrims the visiting the Orthodox church in the village.

Protesters threw rocks and bottles at the police and chanted the name of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

After the peace agreement which ended the Kosovo war in 1999, the remaining Serbs in the village were expelled or fled in fear of retaliation.

Since then, they have not been able to return to the village to visit the church and their relatives’ graves.

But Albanian villagers say the Serbs should not be allowed to return until the wartime crimes are properly investigated and the perpetrators punished.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci condemned the violence at the protest, saying it was “neither in the interest of Kosovo, nor in the interest of its citizens”.

A week before the protest, a local youth organisation from Mushtisht/Mustiste put up a billboard with the names of the Albanians who were killed and pictures of houses that were burned down by Serbian forces.

The Serbian government office for Kosovo condemned the move, saying that it was intended to spread hatred.

Ten Serb families have asked to come back to Mushtisht/Mustiste under a plan made by the Kosovo ministry for returns, but so far it has not been implemented.

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