News 13 Aug 15

Kosovo Serb Teenagers’ Killings Commemorated

Twelve years after two Serb teenagers were shot dead and several others wounded in the Kosovo village of Gorazdevac, their families called on the authorities to finally prosecute the killers.

Ivana Nikolic

Commemoration in Gorazdevac.

Photo: Armenija Zajmi Besevic.

A memorial service to commemorate Ivan Jovovic and Pantelija Dakic, the teenagers who were shot dead while they were swimming in the River Bistrica on August 13, 2003, was held at the local church in Gorazdevac on Thursday.

Families of the dead teenagers expressed bitterness that the killers have never been found.

“Panto was 13 years old, and it’s been 12 years and the criminals have not been found. And not just Panto’s killer, but the killers of 1,300 Serbs in the last war,” said Pantelija’s father Milisav Dakic.

As well as relatives and friends, representatives of the Serbian government and Kosovo Serb officials attended the service and once again urged the Pristina authorities to prosecute those responsible.

Zeljko Jovic, the deputy director of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, said that 12 years ago, those responsible were the ones who organised the killings and fired the gunshots. But today, he said, “the guilt lies with those who do nothing or do everything not to find and punish the executioners”.

“We will be patient and we will insist on talking [about the killings] in the coming years, we will not forget and we will insist that the justice is done,” Jovic added.

The relatives said they gave police the names of the alleged killers, but EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, which was investigating the incident, closed the case in 2010, saying it did not have enough evidence to prosecute anyone.

The gunshots, which wounded four other youngsters, are suspected to have come from the nearby Albanian village of Zahac.

According to police, right after the shooting, about 100 houses were searched and over 75 people questioned, but despite the offer of a large reward for information, the killers were not found, and EULEX said that it had no choice but to shut down the case.

EULEX has however promised to reopen it if fresh leads emerge. BIRN did not receive an immediate response to its request for an update from the EU mission.

The killings of the teenagers were also marked in Belgrade on Thursday. An association representing families whose relatives were killed in Kosovo held a protest during which they read out a letter addressed EULEX and the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, as well as to Serbian officials and institutions, asking them to make more efforts to find the killers.

“The instigators, organisers and perpetrators of this, as well as of other mass and individual crimes against Kosovo Serbs and non-Albanians, have never received well-deserved punishment,” the letter said.

“Once again we ask ourselves how is it possible that human lives, and especially children’s lives, are worth that little, or worth nothing at all,” it added.

Following the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s, the majority of Serbs fled Gorazdevac, a Serb enclave near the town of Pec/Peja in western Kosovo.

Last month, there were a series of violent incidents in the area that left the remaining Serbs feeling uneasy.

These included two shooting incidents in Gorazdevac which saw police officers and a car with Belgrade licence plates fired upon.

There were also attempts to desecrate local monuments, including one dedicated to the teenage Serb boys who were killed in 2003 and one commemorating NATO bombing victims.

Graffiti reading “Revenge” was also daubed in Albanian on the wall of a building close to the local church and cemetery.

Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said that Serbs who returned to Kosovo after the war should be allowed to live in peace.

“We condemn every attack on the Serbian citizens of Kosovo,” Mustafa said.

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