Serbia plans to open mass grave believed to contain up to 350 bodies of Kosovo Albanians

By Dusan Stojanovic, AP
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Serbia plans to open mass grave

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian investigators will open a mass grave that could contain up to 350 bodies of Albanians who were killed during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, then secretly buried in Serbia to hide the atrocities, an official said Thursday.

Serbia’s deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said an investigating judge will start a legal procedure that will lead to the unearthing of the grave, which recently was located beneath a building and newly built parking lot in southern Serbia near the border with Kosovo.

Vekaric said the grave could contain between 150 and 350 bodies, and that the judge will file war crimes charges against “unknown persons” who committed the atrocity.

“Serbia is for the first time openly facing its bad past,” Vekaric said, adding that if the bodies are discovered in the mass grave, they will certainly be those of Kosovo Albanians.

The visiting chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said he does not have detailed information about the new mass grave, but still hailed the discovery.

“It is important that this work is continuous,” Brammertz told reporters in Belgrade. “I think it is important that it shows that regional cooperation is extremely important.”

About 10,000 people were killed and nearly a million displaced during the Serb crackdown in Kosovo, prompting NATO to bomb the country in 1999 and forcing then-President Slobodan Milosevic to pull out his troops.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade refuses to recognize it.

Since Milosevic lost power in a popular revolt in 2000, and his death during his war crimes trial at a U.N. tribunal in 2006, Serbia’s new pro-democracy authorities have tried to deal with the nation’s wartime past as they seek European Union membership. That requires the prosecution of those who committed atrocities during the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.

will not be displayed