news 25 Jul 12

Suspected Mass Grave in Kosovo Draws Blank

An official from the Kosovo Missing Persons Commission says no evidence has been found at Zhilivoda to support Serbian claims of a mass grave.

Fatmir Aliu

Digs at a suspected mass grave site in Zhilivoda, where Serbia suspects Kosovo Serbs are buried, have shown no results to date and the final results of the findings should be announced in couple of days, a Kosovo official said.

The chair of Kosovo's Missing Persons Commission, Prenk Gjetaj, on Tuesday said work has finished at five out of six holes at the site, and forensics teams had found no evidence of human remains.

“We are now excavating the last hole. The results should be made public in a week,” Gjetaj said, presenting his report to the Missing Persons Commission.

Work at the largest suspected mass grave to be found in Kosovo for years was suspended last week after a fire broke out at the site.

The EU’s rule of law mission to Kosovo, EULEX, has launched an investigation into the fire that started over the weekend.

EULEX said that the fire had caused “extensive damage” to the site, at the exact location where exhumation work was taking place.

The exhumation at Zhilivoda, a small village in the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn began on August 31, 2010.

Since then, work has twice been interrupted by bad weather. The area is one of the biggest potential exhumation sites to have been discovered in the past few years.

Because of the size of the area, the EULEX Department of Forensic Medicine is logistically supported by the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, which is using heavy machinery to dig some 30 metres underground where the alleged mass grave is located.

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There are no official figures concerning the number of suspected bodies in the mass grave but a Serbian delegation recently said that it suspected that the remains of more than 20 Kosovo Serbs lay there.

EULEX forensic experts plan to assess more than 30 suspected sites of mass graves this year as part of their search for missing people from the Kosovo war and its aftermath.

Thirteen years after the end of the war in Kosovo, according to Gjetaj 1,772 of the 6,019 people reported missing to the International Red Cross by their families are still unaccounted for. The majority of the missing are Kosovo Albanians.

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