After two years of work on a suspected mass grave in Zhilivoda, no human remains of missing Kosovo Serbs have been recovered, EULEX says.
EU’s rule of law mission to Kosovo, EULEX, concluded its assessment of the site at Zhilivoda on Thursday by saying that they could not find any evidence to support the claims that Kosovo Serb victims had been buried there.
“No human remains were found,” said Krassimir Nikolov, the acting Co-Head of Kosovo’s Department of Forensic Medicine.
The exhumation at Zhilivoda, a small village in the municipality of Vushtrri/Vucitrn began on August 31, 2010, after Serbia’s Missing Persons delegation raised concerns that the remains of more than 20 Kosovo Serbs might be buried there.
Since then, work has twice been interrupted by bad weather. Two weeks ago, digging was suspended after a fire broke out at the site damaging the walls of the excavation works.
In a press release issued on Thursday, EULEX said that the recent fire at the exhumation site could not have destroyed any potential evidence, as the burning was only superficial.
The area was the largest exhumation site, due to its size of seven thousand square meters, to be marked as area of interest in the original court order. It also included twelve coal mines, connected by underground tunnels.
Because of the size of the area, the EULEX Department of Forensic Medicine was logistically supported by the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, which used heavy machinery to dig some 30 metres underground where the alleged mass grave was suspected of being located.
“The underground excavations meant twenty-four weeks of work in 2011 and 2012. The nature of the location required that the whole area be examined,” Nikolov said.
EULEX forensic experts plan to assess more than thirty suspected sites of mass graves this year, as part of their ongoing 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, 1,700 of the 6,019 people who were reported missing to the International Red Cross by their families are still unaccounted for. The majority of the missing are Kosovo Albanians.