Excavation at suspected mass grave site begins

RUDNICA -- Excavation at Rudnica, south-west Serbia, began on Wednesday on grounds of clues that the site holds a mass grave containing the remains of ethnic Albanians.

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

They were killed during the conflict in Kosovo and Metohija in 1999.

Veljko Odalović, head of the Belgrade delegation in the Working group in charge of cases of people gone missing during the incidents in Kosovo in 1998-1999, told reporters during a tour of the site that expert teams have been deployed at the scene together with anthropologists, archaeologists, forensic scientists, pathologists, representatives of the Priština delegation, EULEX, International Commission on Missing Persons and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

”Technically speaking, the site is ready and the works will not be interrupted until the site is searched thoroughly, and we will work over the coming weekends as well,” Odalović said.

According to the assessments based on the information on the potential number of remains buried at the site, the digs will take some 60 days, Odalović said.

The procedure will be transparent and reporters had a chance to visit the site on Wednesday, while members of the association of families of Kosovo Albanians will be able to visit the site occasionally, he noted.

”The work will be long and painstaking, and all examinations will be performed at the scene,” he stated.

Exhumation, examination of remains and sampling for purposes of DNA analysis will be performed at the spot and the analyses will be conducted by the International Commission on Missing Persons in the Tuzla laboratory in Bosnia-Herzegovina, he said.

Odalović could not specify the number of victims buried at the site but he noted that the entire location would be searched.

Chairman of the Kosovo Commission on Missing Persons Prenk Djetaj expressed satisfaction that the exhumation of Kosovo Albanians' remains has begun on Wednesday.

”I believe that we will continue cooperating in this way in order to solve the fate of missing persons. If this issue was solved, the bridges of reconciliation would be closer,” Djetaj said.

Remains of two ethnic Albanians were previously discovered at the Rudnica site and their identity was confirmed by DNA analysis.

On April 7, the 36th meeting of the Belgrade and Priština delegations concerning the grave site in Rudnica was held in Priština under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office and the Serbian government Commission on Missing Persons began new digs in Rudnica in December 2013 at the spot where the remains of 250 people are believed to have been secretly buried.

The Rudnica case was triggered by protected witness who told EULEX in Priština that the bodies of murdered Kosovo Albanians were transported to the old stone pit in 1999.

Some parts of the Rudnica stone pit were examined for the first time in 2007 and the examinations continued in 2010 and 2011 but nothing was found.