New Beginnings in US-Serbia Relations

We recently received the following submission about the 1999 triple murder of the Bytyqi brothers.  The piece was co-authored by surviving brother Fatose Bytyqi and retired US Ambassador Robert Barry, who has many years of service in the Balkan region. In the interest of bringing some measure of justice and peace to the families of all those murdered during the Kosovo War –regardless of nationality, passport possession, or citizenship status — we are publishing the op-ed in its entirety.

By Fatose Bytyqi and Robert Barry

Americans welcome the formation of a new Serbian government led by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. At the same time we believe the time has come to remove long standing obstacles to the improvement of bilateral relations.

Fifteen years ago the US citizens Agron, Ylli and Mehmet Bytqyi were summarily assassinated by Serbian special forces near Petrovo Selo and their bodies were cast into a mass grave. Since then there has been no serious effort to prosecute those who ordered and carried out the murders. The US government has raised this issue countless times at the highest level, including with now Prime Minister Vucic. The US Congress has introduced a resolution which links significant progress in US-Serbian relations to a resolution of this case. Fatose Bytyqi, a surviving brother, has made frequent trips to Belgrade seeking progress in the war crimes investigation, supported by the US Embassy and the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have supported these goals in discussions with the US government and the Congress.

People gather to pay their respects to the Bytqyi brothers at St. Mary's Cemetery in Yonkers, New York. (Photo credit: Nicole Tung)
People gather to pay their respects to the Bytqyi brothers at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Yonkers, New York. (Photo credit: Nicole Tung)

Officials connected with the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutors Office have publicly stated that the perpetrators of this crime have been protected by a political wall of silence. Now is the time to break down that wall, and the newly formed government has the tools in hand to do so.

As the new government in Belgrade prepares for accession to the European Union, a goal which the US supports, it is time to resolve this and other outstanding war crimes cases from the turn of the last century, many of which involved the same individuals who murdered the Bytyqi brothers.

Fatose Bytqyi, a US citizen, lives in Hampton Bay, New York

Robert Barry, a retired US Ambassador with long service in the Balkans, lives in Washington DC




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