After the rest from the winter break, Serbia continues with its regular tasks – one of them is dealing with the issue of missing persons during Kosovo war, which is a euphemism for searching for secondary mass graves of Albanian civilians.
The issue of Rudnica, a village on the very border with Kosovo, has officially been opened since 2007, when the first field trips started after the indications were reported to Belgrade by the international administration in Pristina. Until then, this village was known only as a control and customs point on the Serbian side, with Kosovo’s Jarinje across the border, toponym of patriotic-criminal route for transfer of heroine, broken gold, unlabeled meat, cigarettes and other interesting goods.
After Milosevic defeated the NATO in 1999 and the military and the police started the strategic withdrawal from Kosovo, this was the road that home appliances and thousands of heads of livestock stolen from abandoned Albanian households took. Decomposing bodies of murdered Albanians, collected in order to hide the magnitude of the crimes in Kosovo, were also transferred by this road to one of the locations in Serbia, all the way to Belgrade and even further north. Cruel executions were performed by members of the military, police and various illegal militias.
According to the unofficial findings of the investigation, members of the military participated in the transport of remains from the primary grave near Drenica in May or early June 1999.
Exploitation of the stone from the mine near Rudnica ceased back in early eighties and the pits became small lakes filled with rain water and underground rivers in which the local residents used to swim. During the bombing, the whole area was closed and the night watchman was suddenly in charge of the empty mine and abandoned rusting machines. The first building was built between 1999 and 2000 for “Kosmet-put”, stock company or some similar limited liability company for building and maintenance of roads.
“Kosmet-put” would become one of the local partners of the public company “Putevi Srbije” in the late 2000s, and spend significant sums of government money to pay not only for maintenance of traffic signs in the area, but also for building of so-called alternative roads during the years when Kosovo decided to participate in the control of border crossings to Serbia.
The company was registered in Serbia Business Registers Agency, its headquarters is in the Kosovan village of Lesak, near Leposavic – with the company in Rudnica which was registered as a branch of the parent company under its current name in February.
The war crimes prosecutor announced the first search of the locality in 2007, just before the visit of the Hague prosecutor Serge Brammertz, which was proclaimed by Belgrade media as an example of shameful adulation and false accusation of our war heroes. The Humanitarian Law Center warned that the digging was done at the wrong place – Rudnica mine is not a small space – that eyewitness testimonies were pointing to a completely different part of the site, but the prosecutor’s office had its own agenda.
After the failure, there were rumors that pieces of old clothes and shoes were found in the search, but “it wasn’t known” whether the clothes were random waste or if they belonged to murdered civilians. It won’t be known in 2010 either, when the prosecutor’s office started investigating Rudnica again, this time at a better place – near the headquarters building of “Kosmet-put” and the nearby parking lot. Official doubts that the secondary grave in Rudnica, filled with dirt and concrete, is actually comprised of several separate pits which could contain up to 300 victims, were announced back them. One of those pits is almost certainly below the building, claimed at the prosecutor’s office.
The association of the families of missing Serbs announced a protest gathering in order to prevent the investigation of Rudnica mine, unless the investigation of locations that are suspected to be mass grave of Serbs was simultaneously started in Kosovo. As it turned out, there was no need for the protest.
Although there were rumors that the mass grave in Rudnica was an “open secret” in the Municipality of Raska, that there were potential Serbian witnesses, that the search was done by special probes and the field carefully recorded from the air and from the ground – “only mass lies were dug out”, reported the Belgrade media triumphantly after another failure. A 50-page study done by the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Belgrade after the analysis of soil which allegedly proved beyond any doubt that there are no bodies on that location, was used as the key evidence.
In March 2012, after the meeting of working groups of Pristina and Belgrade, it was announced that the annual plan for searching for the missing persons on 36 locations – including Rudnica, was set.
Serious preparations for digging finally began in October 2013. Mixed commissions, representatives of working groups, forensic experts from all over the world, members of families of missing persons associations from Kosovo were all on site. The media, however, were banned – official statements are good enough for them, anyway. The news of the first findings came last December, when it was reported that the remains of two bodies were found at the locality – their origin and even from which period they date, can’t be determined before the DNA analysis is done in Tuzla.
Later, the international parts of the investigation will specify that many more bones were found, parts of probably five or six bodies, but that only two skeletons were completed. The confirmation that the remains belonged to Kosovo Albanians who were considered missing since 1999 came only last month. At the same time, one of the scheduled meetings of working groups of Pristina and Belgrade that are, according to the agenda of Brussels agreement, trying to determine the fate of over 1700 persons from Kosovo that are still considered missing, was canceled. More than 1000 of those persons, since they are Albanians, are suspected to be at one of 26 secret locations in Serbia and North Kosovo.
Among other things, the budget and the phases of the Rudnica investigation were supposed to be discussed at the March meeting, but it is unclear why it was canceled. Belgrade was silent, Pristina just said that Serbia is returning to the period of boycott and obstruction and announced an appeal. Now it turns out that Serbia asked Kosovo for EUR 300,000 for “financial coverage” of the investigation under Belgrade’s jurisdiction, including the funds for demolition of the building built above the potential mass grave.
It seems that the money is secured, since Belgrade is once again doing its “responsible and professional” work. The meeting of working groups was held, the preparations for demolition of the building, scheduled for the end of April, were started and the “details on identity of the victims” were delivered to families of missing persons associations from Kosovo.
Just like in 2007, the issue of missing persons who were “killed during the war” in Kosovo, which is a euphemism for executions of civilians used by Belgrade media, is presented as a technical issue of funds and reliable operational findings. The head of the working group within Brussels negotiations is in charge of technical issues – he is also a president of the government’s commission for missing persons which, among other things, conducted successful investigations of crimes against innocent chetniks during World War II.
The issue of “political will” to end the vow of silence surrounding the crimes committed by the state against Kosovo civilians remains unanswered even in 2014. As do the questions of whereabouts of the hands that carried decomposing bodies of civilians, what happened to drivers of trucks and refrigerator vans, the quality of sleep of the residents from the neighborhoods where the victims were buried. And the question of how the media will cover this issue now.
Translated by Marijana Simic