While exhumation of a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of Kosovo Albanians is expected to start soon in Serbia, the Association of Families of Missing Serbs from Kosovo has announced that it will try to block the move unless certain conditions are met.
In an interview with Tanjug news agency, the coordinator of the association, Milos Trifunovic, said that the group will attempt to block the excavation of the grave near Raska if authorities don't simultaneously exhume mass graves in Kosovo where the group believes Serbs have been buried.
"We have been waiting for four years for exhumations to begin at [gravesites] at Livacka Lake, Kosare and Belacevac... If exhumation at the three locations does not start at the same time, we'll try to block them from doing anything [at Raska] before the exhumation of Serb victims at the three locations is launched," the agency quoted him as saying.
Last Monday Serbia announced that with the help of the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, it had uncovered a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of 250 ethnic Albanian victims from the 1998-99 conflict. The grave is located in the southwestern Serbian town of Raska.
It has not been determined who killed the people buried there but the bodies are believed to have been unearthed and then re-buried in order to hide evidence of war crimes committed during the rule of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Bruno Vekaric, spokesperson for Serbia's war crimes prosecutor's office, told Balkan Insight last week that the exhumation of the bodies would begin shortly.
Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic called the exhumation Serbia's obligation to the victims and their families. "I remind you that our goal is justice for the victims and ensuring that their families have the right to at least bury their loved ones," the prosecutor said at a press conference in Belgrade last Monday.
"We also think that this is the best way to move towards reconciliation in the region. As the war crimes prosecutor I also expect to get an answer to the question of what happened to close to 500 missing Serbs," he added.
According to data which has recently been published in a report by the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre on the number of killed and missing persons from the Kosovo conflict in the period from January 1, 1998 until December 31, 2000, the total number stands at 13,421.
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