Death of the Bytyqi brothers

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The Bytyqi brothers were three American-Kosovo Albanians killed by Serb police shortly after the end of the war in Kosovo, while they were in custody in Petrovo Selo, Serbia. The bodies of the three brothers were discovered in July 2001 in a mass grave containing 70 Albanians in rural Petrovo Selo, Serbia, near a Serbian police facility. The bodies were found with their hands bound and with gunshot wounds to their heads. The indictment against the alleged perpetrators says the brothers were brought to the edge of the pit and shot in the head, causing them to slump into a mass grave atop 70 corpses dumped there earlier.[1]

Agron (23), Mehmet (21) and Ylli (25) were American citizens of Kosovo Albanian origin born near Chicago, Illinois and living in New York.[2] After the war started in Kosovo they decided to go to Kosovo and fight in KLA's “Atlantic Brigade”.

In July 1999, and immediately after the NATO campaign in the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ended and the Kumanovo Agreement was signed, they helped their neighbors - а Roma family from Prizren (Kosovo) - to return to Kraljevo, from where they escaped during the war. Due to a violation of the Law on Movement and Residence of Foreigners, they were arrested along the transit between Kosovo and Serbia. They were sentenced to 15 days in prison. Twelve days later after appealing, they were released. Their neighbour Miroslav waited to collect them, but the brothers were instead collected by two men driving a white car with no license plates. They were taken to the MUP Special anti-terrorism unit (SAJ) base. Two days later, they were killed with bullets fired to the back of their heads and buried in a mass grave which already contained the bodies of the massacred Kosovo Albanians.[3]

The investigation[edit]

Serbian authorities showed little interest to investigate cases where Serbian police has acted during the war in Kosovo, but since the brothers were American citizens and due to the pressure from US authorities, an investigation was launched. The United States saw the murder of the Bytyqi brothers as a premeditated crime committed against its citizens; the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) started an investigation while the US Embassy in Belgrade monitored the case carefully.

The main suspect was Vlastimir Đordević, head of MUP’s Public Security and Serbia's assistant minister for internal affairs during the Kosovo war. Đordevic was the commander of the MUP forces in Kosovo in the early 1980s, and one of the most trusted men of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević. In July 1999, Miloševic awarded Đordevic the Medal of the Yugoslav Flag of the First Degree. He was forced into retirement in May 2001, when the cold storage truck[clarification needed] containing the bodies of Kosovo Albanians was discovered in the Danube. Đordevic is also wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Before the investigation started, Đordevic relocated to Moscow, Russia and since refuses to return. Then Yugoslav Minister of Internal Affairs, Vlajko Stojiljković, allegedly originated the orders.[4]

The killing of Bytyqi brothers is still being investigated by Serbia's War Crimes Court. Two low-ranking police figures who may have marginally abetted the crimes, Milos Stojanović and Sreten Popović, were acquitted of all charges of aiding war crimes in March 2013 because of their marginal involvement in the Bytyqi murders.[5]

In mid-February 2007, the police issued the warrant for Goran Radosavljević, known by his nom de guerre "Guri", after he failed to show up at a trial of Milos Stojanović and Sreten Popović. According to the Serbian media, Radosavljevic left Serbia in 2006.[6] Radosavljević was in charge of the police training facility where the brothers were illegally detained, executed, and dumped into a mass grave. Radosavljević eventually returned to Serbia and testified in the trial, claiming that he was away on vacation at the time of the Bytyqi brothers' detainment and murders.[4]

Four more officers were detained in late February as the investigation about who exactly ordered and carried out the executions continues.[1][3][7] Milenko Arsenijevic, commander of an elite special police unit and three police officers.[8] None were ever charged.

In March 2007, the US Embassy in Belgrade said the U.S. Department of Justice will continue to conduct its own investigation pursuant to U.S. law.[9]

Trial of Sreten Popovic and Milos Stojanovic[edit]

In a 2012 trial in Serbia two men were found not guilty in aiding in the death of the brothers, in part because of their marginal involvement in the crimes.[10]

In a 2013 prosecutor appeal of the not guilty verdict the acquittals were upheld.[11]

As of May 2014, there are no pending charges in the case and no high-ranking official has been seriously investigated for his or her involvement.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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