On January 15, 1999, Serbian special forces killed 44 people in the village of Reçak in Kosovo in what sadly went down in history as "the Reçak massacre" and which was denounced by the international community as a crime against humanity.
Today, 21 years after the tragic event, Kosovo and the whole world remember the victims of that massacre that later led to NATO intervention to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from Kosovo and stop the ongoing genocide.
The story of the massacre
Precisely in those tragic moments, the envoy of the French newspaper "Libération", Pierre Hazan, was present in Kosovo, who told (with a series of articles such as this) the violence perpetrated by Serbian forces in the village of Reçak
"Watch out mom, they'll kill you. ”- were the last words of Halim Beqiri, 12 year old hit by a bullet behind the back of the neck right next to his mother who also lost her husband in the massacre.
"The men were divided into several groups. About 29 were sent out of the village, telling us that they would take us to the police station. Screams and screams were heard from all sides. The other part of the group was sent to the stream where Serbian police were waiting to kill them. On Saturday, the bodies of these men were still on top of each other, in the position where they had been killed.
A massacre prepared and performed in cold blood. At 17:00 the Serbs withdrew. The survivors began to move. One of the first houses in the village, near the mosque, was that of 62-year-old Banush Azem Kamberi. Her headless body was positioned near her home. His brother was looking for the head, later found by the villagers. ”- Azemi, a village citizen, told the Libération journalist.
In his articles, moreover, Hazan also reported the direct testimony of an OSCE representative presented under the pseudonym Mike:
"Around 15:45 pm, the Serbian forces moved away from the village and we decided to enter Reçak. A dozen civilians were there in total shock. One of them handed us something: it was a part of a skeleton. Our translator explained that the man had just found his brother's corpse, whose head had been completely fractured. We were told that about 20 men had been arrested, while a woman told us that they were sent to be sentenced."- stated the OSCE representative.
Direct testimony continues with that of the head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, General William Walker:
"I accuse the Serbian police and military forces of being responsible for this massacre. A few days ago, the UCK released eight Serbian military personnel. We expected a mutual measure. And what did we get? The killing of 40 innocent civilians. I wish to know who gave this order. They will have to stand before the law. I am not a lawyer, but in my opinion a crime against humanity has happened. ”- said Walker, who for these words was declared a" non grateful person "by Yugoslavia.
The commemoration of the victims
The Quintet ambassadors for Kosovo (France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States) released a press release to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Reçak massacre.
"Twenty-one years ago, the massacre that took place in Reçak prompted NATO's allies to intervene and end a humanitarian catastrophe.
We honor the memory of those who lost their lives in Reçak and all the other massacres in Kosovo, working together to build a future of peace, justice and prosperity for future generations. The governments of Kosovo and Serbia must guarantee victims and their families full access to justice and information about the fate of their loved ones.
Citizens of all ethnic backgrounds should feel at home and free to live and work in peace with their neighbors. As stated in this country's declaration of independence, Kosovo is a country committed to confronting the painful legacy of the recent past in a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness, dedicated to protecting, promoting and honoring the diversity of our people. Our common goal is to continuously support Kosovo on this path."- reads the joint press release of the embassies.
Controversy and outrage over Vucic's statements
Last December, statements by Serbian President Aleksander Vucic - who had called the Reçak massacre an "invented crime" - provoked harsh reactions among representatives of Albanian politics.
“How can one still deny a horrific well-documented war crime today. Because it is so difficult to understand that as long as Serbia lives in denial of the reality of Kosovo, the ghosts of the past will continue to undermine Serbia's path to the future.
[...] Let's do together what we all should: build peace and prosperity for all our children and start making our region a model of reference."- said the tweet published by Prime Minister Edi Rama and addressed to Vucic.
"I see Serbian officials denying one of the worst crimes against civilians that have occurred in Europe and confirmed by ICTY, the Reçak massacre. Serbian genocide policies cannot be defended. They must be reported. Peace, reconciliation and justice cannot be built on the basis of denial of crimes.”- the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, tweeted.