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Dossier: “The cover-up of evidence of crimes during the war in Kosovo: THE CONCEALMENT OF BODIES OPERATION”

31.01.2017

Since 2001, mass graves containing the bodies of 941 Kosovo Albanians, mainly civilians killed outside combat situations in Kosovo during 1999, have been found on four locations in Serbia. 744 bodies of Kosovo Albanians have been discovered in Batajnica, on the outskirts of Belgrade, at least 61 in Petrovo Selo, and 84 at Lake Perućac. At least 52 bodies have been subsequently found in the mass grave at Rudnica.

The bodies found in mass graves belonged not only to males, but also to females and children. The cause of their deaths, in most cases, was a gunshot wound, mainly to the head, suggesting that the victims did not die in combat but as a result of execution-style killings outside situations of combat.

The analysed testimonies and witness statements could be divided into two groups: the first group comprises statements given by eyewitnesses and survivors of crimes; the second group, more numerous, comprises statements of insiders, mostly members of the police and workers of utility companies, who took part in the transportation and burial of the bodies. In addition to these, numerous police and military documents were also analysed, primarily those available through the ICTY database, but also some documents the Humanitarian Law Center acquired on its own, independently of the courts.

The evidence corroborated that the decision to conceal evidence of crimes committed was planned as early as March 1999 at the highest level of the government, and indicated that members of both departments of the Serbian MUP (State Security Department and Public Security Department) and the Yugoslav Army’s departments in charge of “clearing up the terrain” were involved in it. Civilians and workers of municipal utility companies also took part in removing the corpses, and the machines and other equipment of these companies were also used for this purpose.

Now, sixteen years after the discovery of the mass graves in Batajnica, Petrovo Selo and at Lake Perućac, and more than three years after the discovery of the mass grave at Rudnica, all these locations remain unmarked, without any sign to indicate that hundreds of bodies of men, women and children who had been killed in numerous mass crimes in Kosovo were buried in Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center has launched an initiative to establish a memorial site at the Batajnica mass grave site. At the time of the publication of this Dossier, the online petition in support of the initiative has been signed by several hundred people.

No one has ever been held accountable before courts in Serbia for the large-scale operation of concealment of bodies of Kosovo Albanian victims in mass graves.

Dossier: “The cover-up of evidence of crimes during the war in Kosovo: THE CONCEALMENT OF BODIES OPERATION”