news 14 Jun 12

Kosovo and Serbia in Joint Search for Missing Persons

Serbia and Kosovo have pledged to cooperate in order to find out the truth about the fate of over 1,700 people still missing from the war in Kosovo.

Fatmir Aliu
BIRN
Vushtrri / Zhilivoda

Both government delegations on missing persons have met on Thursday and paid a visit to a suspected mass grave site in the village of Zhilivoda, where exhumation works have restarted.

The Chairman of Kosovo’s Government Missing Persons Commission, Prenk Gjetaj, told BIRN that the joint inspection of the site was done in a spirit of cooperation.

“We have to cooperate in all aspects, because we owe the truth to the families of missing persons. Today’s visit to Zhilivoda was an informative one, in order to see where the works stand on the exhumation, which we hope will end in a month time,”  said Gjetaj.

The exhumation at Zhilivoda, a small village in the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn has started on August 31st 2010. Since then, the work was interrupted couple of times due to bad weather conditions. The area is one of the biggest potential exhumation sites discovered in Kosovo during the past few years.

Because of the size of the area, EULEX Department of Forensic Medicine is logistically supported by the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, who are using their heavy machinery to reach some 30 meters underground where the alleged mass grave is located.

There are no officially figures about how many bodies are in the mass grave but the Belgrade delegation said that it suspects that the remains of more than 20 Kosovo Serbs from the area may be found there.

Veljko Odalovic, Head of Serbia’s Missing Persons Commission, told briefly   the reporters at the site that he is satisfied with the works done.

“As far as we can see, the works are going well, and are promising,” he said.

The local media report that Odalovic pledged “to be as cooperative as the Pristina delegation” when it comes to the suspected mass graves in Serbia.

EULEX forensic experts plan to assess more than thirty potential sites, suspected to be mass graves this year as part of their continued search for missing people from the Kosovo war and its aftermath.

The plan is to conduct site assessments and exhumations in the regions of Gjakova, Peja, Klina, Prizren, Mitrovica, Skënderaj, and Podujevo.

Thirteen years after the end of the war in Kosovo, out of a total of 6,019 persons reported to the International Red Cross as missing by their families, over 1,700 remain unaccounted for - most are Kosovo Albanians.

 

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