Vulin visits the SAJ in Batajnica, the YIHR reacts, the US ambassadors call for the prosecution of all war crimes

FOTO: MUP Srbije

The Serbian Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SAJ) commemorated the anniversary of its establishment today. The Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs, Aleksandar Vulin boasted that this unit „left a mark in time and the continuous struggle of the Serb people for freedom and the right to make our own decisions.“ „Parts of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, as well as the SAJ, whose Day of the Unit you attended today, participated in the state operation of covering up the bodies of war crimes victims in Kosovo (1999-2001) at the SAJ Training Center in Batajnica,“ the Youth Initiative for Human Rights from Belgrade wrote in an open letter to the Serbian Minister of Interior.

„The Serb people are writing their history through a constant struggle for freedom. Through endless, countless wars and battles, the Serb people fought for their right, through all hope, to make their own decisions,“ Vulin said today at the celebration of the SAJ anniversary.

According to the Serbian Minister of Interior, Aleksandar Vucic is a contemporary who guaranteed this right. Vulin also noted that the Serb people were usually threatened by someone bigger, more numerous, wealthier and more powerful than them.

„In this generation, the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic fought for the right to make our own decisions, and we will certainly not give that right to anyone,“ Vulin emphasized.

While pointing out that the deployment of the SAJ is not “undertaken lightly” and that the orders given to this unit are never accidental or given for no reason, Vulin stressed that this unit, while executing its tasks, „never turns back, withdraws, surrenders, or fails“.

The Special Anti-Terrorist Unit paid special tribute to its fallen comrades-in-arms – 16 of whom lost their lives in the line of duty.

YIHR: Minister, after the discovery of the mass grave, arrests should follow, not recognitions

„During the celebration of the Unit, you paid tribute to 16 members of the SAJ who died while protecting the citizens of Serbia. However, you are also obliged to pay tribute to the 744 civilians whose bodies were concealed at the shooting range of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior for two years,“ the Youth Initiative for Human Rights from Belgrade wrote in a statement.

The YIHR recalled that 744 sets of remains of Albanian civilians from Kosovo were found at the SAJ training ground in Batajnica in 2000.

„In addition to the tomb in Batajnica, mass graves containing the remains of Kosovo Albanians were also found in Petrovo selo (61 sets of remains), near Lake Perucac (84), as well as in the mass grave Rudnica (52). In mid-November this year, 15 to 17 sets of remains of people killed during the Kosovo war and then secretly buried were found at the Kizevak mine near Raska,“ the YIHR said in a statement, recalling the Humanitarian Law Center document entitled:  “The cover-up of evidence of crimes during the war in Kosovo: THE CONCEALMENT OF BODIES OPERATION.”

The document alleged that more than 100 high-ranking Serbian Interior Ministry officials reportedly took part in the concealment of bodies operation. It also notes that the operation was planned by the then Serb state leadership, while “former high-ranking Ministry of Interior officials, and today men of standing in Serbian society” allegedly participated in the execution of the body concealment order. – Obrad Stevanovic, Petar Zekovic, Dragan Ilic, Vladimir Aleksic, Desimir Radic, Goran Radosavljevic Guri, as well as many other heads of police.

Although almost 20 years have passed since the investigation and discovery of the mass graves in Batajnica, no one except Vlastimir Djordjevic as the head of the Public Security Department of the Ministry of the Interior has been prosecuted, the YIHR underlined.

„Minister Vulin, after the discovery of the mass grave, arrests should follow, not recognitions for the units that participated in concealing the bodies,“ the organization said in a statement.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights also admonished Vulin for continuously using the derogatory term „Shiptars“ while referring to Albanians:

„In your public speech, you continue to call the Albanian people – Shiptars, which has been established as hate speech via several court cases in Serbia. As the Minister of the Interior of Serbia, you are obliged to show respect for all casualties, and especially for civilians who were killed and secretly buried only because they were of the wrong ethnic background.“

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights called on Vulin to apologize to the families of the victims and take responsibility for the crimes and the concealment of bodies operation.

Godfrey: Serbia must prosecute those responsible for war crimes

The US ambassador to Serbia, Anthony Godfrey also commented on war crimes today in a similar vein. After the meeting, accompanied by a representative of the State Department’s Global Criminal Justice Office, with the Humanitarian Law Center, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the transitional justice prosecutor from Belgrade, Godfrey sent the following message:

„Serbia must prosecute those responsible for war crimes for justice to be served for the victims and to break the growing impression of impunity for perpetrators in the country and the region.“

Kosnett: Americans committed to bringing Kosovo war crimes prosecution to completion

Previously, US Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett sent a similar message from Pristina:

“Ambassador Morse Tan and I met with CSP Lumezi and the SPRK to discuss the challenges of bringing domestic war crimes prosecution to completion.  The State Department’s Global Criminal Justice Office and the U.S. Embassy are committed to supporting this important work,” Kosnett tweeted.

One of the points of the Washington agreement, as well as the new phase of negotiations in Brussels, launched this summer, includes the issue of resolving the fate of missing persons. As Miroslav Lajcak, the EU special envoy for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, confirmed during his latest official visit to Pristina, the chapter of the future „comprehensive agreement on the normalization of relations“ on the missing has already been concluded.

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