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09. 11. 2017.

???source???: UNS

Insensible investigations and silence in international and Kosovo institutions about crimes against journalists

The murder of a journalist and translator Aleksandar Simovic Sime, is the only one out of 14 cases of killed and kidnapped journalists and media workers in Kosovo, which EULEX investigated as a war crime, learns the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS).

"This is certainly a war crime," EULEX chief Alexandra Papadopoulos said, but she has no answer to the question whether this crime will be found before the Special Court for War Crimes of the KLA in The Hague.

Otherwise, none out of 14 cases of murder and kidnapping of journalists and media workers during and after the conflict in Kosovo, as determined by the UNS, has been resolved.

EULEX, upon UNS insisting, admitted it had data

For years, EULEX has been shifting the responsibility to UNMIK for a series of failures in the investigation, and even for not having the most basic knowledge that some of these crimes have occurred at all. 

In this manner, EULEX initially answered to the UNS that there was no information about the abductions of Pristina's "Jedinstvo" and "Politika" correspondents Ljubomir Knezevic and the employee of RTV Pristina, Milo Buljevic.

But when the UNS proved that it had knowledge that EULEX was informed, the rule of law mission first recognized that it had information about the abductions of the two colleagues. Therefore, only 18 years after the crimes occurred.

They now say that both cases were received in 2014, and then forwarded to the Special Prosecution of Kosovo, which for months refused to officially answer the UNS questions in which stage is the investigation of these kidnappings.

Out of 11 cases of the killings and kidnappings of journalists, for which EULEX acknowledges they have information, investigations were opened for only two: the disappearance of the journalist of the Radio Kosovo redaction in Serbian Marjan Melonasi, before the Pristina Basic Prosecution Office, and the murder of the "Bota Sot" newspapers journalist Xhemail Mustafa, investigated by the Special Prosecution of Kosovo (SPRK).

EULEX states the other nine cases are closed, but that they can be reopened if there is new evidence.

However, even if such evidence transpire, the killings and kidnappings of journalists and media workers, in accordance with the narrowing of the EULEX mandate, will no longer be investigated by the international prosecutors. After 18, even 19 years, this should be dealt by the local Kosovo prosecution offices instead of EULEX and UNMIK.

DNA as the new excuse?

EULEX chief Alexandra Papadopoulos says for the UNS, that the major problem for further investigations is that some families of the missing have not provided samples for DNA analysis and invites them to do so.

The families of missing journalists, however, deny these allegations. They claim and state to the UNS, that they gave samples for DNA testing, shortly after the abduction of Mile Buljevic, Ranko Perenic, Djura Slavuj and Marjan Melonasi.

The reporter of Media Action International and translator Aleksandar Simovic was kidnapped on August 21, 1999, exactly one year after the abduction of Perenić and Slavuj. Some of his remains were found in the village of Obrinje near Glogovac, and the family did not receive any official information about the investigation. UNMIK conducted the investigation under the number: PPP 283/09, but the Special Prosecution of Kosovo (SPRK) terminated it on July 22, 2009. due to "lack of evidence."

Jedinstvo’s journalist and Politika’s correspondent Ljubomir Knezevic was kidnapped on May 6,1999.

"The case of Knezevic's kidnapping was indeed transferred from UNMIK to EULEX on April 24, 2014, and forwarded to the Special Prosecutor's Office of Kosovo on May 6, the same year," EULEX confirms now.

And for Mile Buljevic, a media employee of RTV Pristina abducted on June 25, 1999, EULEX also said the data about the case was received from UNMIK on April 24, 2014, and seven days later by the Special Prosecution of Kosovo (SPRK).

"Since then, it seems that the case has been transferred to the Pristina Basic Prosecution Office," said EULEX. 

The EULEX mission, which until then insisted there was no information about these two cases, committed itself to "check again" after we pointed out to the head of EULEX Alexandra Papadopoulos that we have reliable knowledge that the documents were received. Then the UNS received a different answer with an explanation that at the moment when EULEX found out about the kidnappings of Knezevic and Buljevic, they no longer had the mandate to investigate them. 

"Following the opinion* of the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Kosovo, decisions relating to Buljevic and Knezevic cases were forwarded to EULEX and other relevant authorities in 2014 with the request to undertake all possible steps to ensure the continuation of the investigation. UNMIK never officially handed over these cases to the EULEX prosecutors. We only have a copy of the HRAP's decision. The change in the EULEX’s jurisdictions did not allow new cases, and the cases are in the process of transfer to the local prosecution, " said EULEX.

KFOR claims that there are no information about the murders and kidnappings of journalists

The UNS requested data from KFOR mission on murders and kidnappings of 14 journalists since victims' families mostly addressed the representatives of the mission first. However, in KFOR they say they do not have any information. 

"I cannot find any information regarding your request. KFOR is not (and was not) an investigative authority, it may have received information or received requests or complaints from victims' families, but such information would have been forwarded to competent authorities. The information related to these cases (if any) would long ago be handed over to EULEX investigators and prosecutors," was officially declared to the UNS by US Army Major Mark Nee, a legal adviser to the commander of the international military forces under the command of NATO in Kosovo.

However, the case of a crime against journalist Krist Gegaj (September 12, 1999), confirms that KFOR and EULEX either hide data or do not do their job. Earlier this year, the UNS reported that Gegaj's family and friends reported the disappearance the same day to the nearest KFOR checkpoint. The next day, soldiers went on the search, and Gegaj's body was found two kilometers from the house. 

If KFOR says they handed over all data to EULEX, how does the EU mission still have no information about the murder of Krist Gegaj? Where did the KFOR reports get lost? 

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office recorded 6 cases 

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office recorded 6 out of 14 cases of killed and kidnapped journalists during and after the war in Kosovo (from 1998 to 2005).

"Checking the records of the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Serbia it has been established that, in relation to the events of 1998-2000, on the territory of the AP KiM, the following persons were registered as victims: Buljevic Mile, Slavuj Djuro, Perenić Ranko, Simović Aleksandar, Knežević Ljubomir and Melanosi Marjan, " reads the reply from the cabinet of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia. 

From August 4, we continuously request an answer from the Special Prosecutor's Office of Kosovo to the question about the status of the investigation of the kidnapped and killed journalists, but no answer was provided to our nine emails.

* The Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) is the UNMIK body that responded to complaints from the families who considered that UNMIK had done nothing to investigate murders and abductions of their loved ones. In most cases, HRAP estimated that this was indeed the case and requested from the head of the UNMIK mission to publicly apologize to the families, and from the mission itself to take all necessary steps to ensure that the investigation continues under the auspices of EULEX. 

Three murders are still unknown to investigative authorities 

Twelve years after the latest murder of journalists, out of a total of 14 murders, EULEX has information on the killings and disappearances of 11 journalists and media workers, while about the three of them have no information.

They have no information about the killing of a photo reporter and associate of Politika Momir Stokuca, and about Kristo Gegaj, a commentator and editor in RTV program in Albanian language, which occurred in Pristina and Istok in September 1999 at a time when responsibility for security was assumed by the international community, as well as about the "Bujku" newspaper journalist Afrim Maliqi, who was killed in 1998, shows the data obtained by the UNS.

* Reprinting, republishing or usage parts or the entire article is permitted with mandatory source guidance

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