The US embassy in Belgrade repeated Washington’s call for a full investigation into the killings of three Bytyqi brothers, allegedly by Serbian police, ahead of the 22nd anniversary of their deaths.
By Milica Stojanovic-*/
Memorial service for the three Bytyqi brothers in Pristina in February 2002. Photo: EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ.
The US embassy in Belgrade on Thursday said that Washington “cannot and will not forget” the killings of Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi, three US citizens of Albanian origin, on July 9, 1999, and urged a “full investigation”.
“Delivering justice for the Bytyqi brothers and their family and holding accountable those who committed and covered up their murders remains a priority in our bilateral relationship with Serbia,” the US embassy said in a statement.
“The United States government again calls on Serbian authorities, who have promised to assist in this case over years, for a full investigation. This case, and many others, illustrate the urgent need for Serbia to resolve outstanding war crimes investigations and focus on strengthening the rule of law,” it added.
The Bytyqi brothers went to fight for the Kosovo Liberation Army against Belgrade’s forces in 1999.
After the war ended, they were arrested by Serbian police and jailed for illegal border crossing, but then re-arrested as they were leaving prison and detained in a warehouse at a police training centre in Petrovo Selo in southern Serbia.
They were then driven to a garbage disposal pit, where they were executed with shots to the back of the neck.
At the time of the murders, Goran Radosavljevic, alias Guri, was commander of a special police unit and of the Petrovo Selo training centre. The Bytyqi family believe he is the main suspect in the case and the US has imposed sanctions on him over the killings.
Radosavljevic, who now runs several security companies in Belgrade, was briefly investigated over the killings by the Serbian prosecution, but never indicted. He has denied any involvement.
On June 30, at a celebration of Gendarmerie Day, Dejan Lukovic, the commander of the Serbian Gendarmerie, awarded Radosavljevic an honour for being its first commander in 2001.
Radosavljevic (left) receiving the Gendarmerie award on June 30 in Novi Sad, Serbia. Photo: mup.gov.rs
The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, Agnes Callamard, said in March 2020 that Serbia is obliged under international humanitarian law to investigate police officials over the killing of the Bytyqi brothers.
In October 2019, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Serbian authorities to investigate and prosecute as soon as possible “those current or former officials believed to be responsible” for the killings.
There has been one court case in Serbia related to the Bytyqi murders – special police unit members Sreten Popovic and Milos Stojanovic were accused of killing them, but were acquitted in January 2013.*Kortezi-BIRN