STARO GRACKO – A commemoration was held in the village of Staro Gracko near Lipljan in central Kosovo-Metohija (KiM) for 14 Serb reapers who were murdered by ethnic Albanian terrorists in a wheat field in the village 16 years ago today.
The memorial service was officiated by Serbian Orthodox Church Bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija Teodosije in front of the memorial plate for the memory of the killed ones in the village center.
Delivering a short sermon, Bishop Teodosije reminded those gathered that the local cemetery, where the victims were buried, had been desecrated and mined. Seeing no justice done and no perpetrators being prosecuted for the crimes yet makes our hearts hurt so bad, the bishop said.
Relatives and friends of the reapers paid their tributes to the dead by laying flowers and burning candles.
The commemoration was attended by Director of the Serbian government’s Office for KiM Marko Djuric, Chairman of the Serbian parliament’s Committee on KiM Milovan Drecun, Head of the Kosovo district Srdjan Petkovic and Serb representatives in Kosovo institutions.
The Serb reapers, among them four members of the Janicijevic family, of whom the youngest, Novica, was only 17 years old, were ambushed and killed in the wheat field during harvest on July 23, 1999.
The perpetrators of this crime have not been found. A special UNMIK police unit arrested ethnic Albanian Mazljum Bitici, from the village of Veliki Alas near Lipljan, on suspicion that he was involved in the liquidation of the reapers, in October 2007, but he was soon released for lack of evidence.
Serbian government officials and Serb representatives in the institutions of Kosovo demanded on Thursday that the murderers of 14 Serb civilians be identified and punished.
Speaking at a memorial service for the victims of the terrorist attack by ethnic Albanian extremists, the head of the Serbian government Office for Kosovo-Metohija (KiM), Marko Djuric said that this crime was clearly inspired by politics.
The reapers were killed simply because they were Orthodox Serbs on their own land, Kosovo-Metohija, he stressed.
“We are here today to pay our respects to the victims and also to show that we continue to live and survive in KiM despite the vicious and shameless crimes,” he said.
Djuric noted that it would have been good if some of the Albanian politicians had been present at the memorial service for the reapers, as this would send a message to the Serbs that they do not condone this crime.
“On behalf of the victims’ families, in the name of justice and truth, I demand that those responsible be brought to justice,” said Kosovo’s Minister for Communities and Returns Dalibor Jevtic. “Our common future depends on our readiness to support truth and justice,” he warned.
“We will not stop reminding and warning until those who committed this gruesome crime are punished,” said Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Branimir Stojanovic.