The Promise of Justice : Burning the Evidence  


Photo: Stephen Smith

Images of a Massacre | A Calculated Risk | Trepca
Bodies to Dust | "No One Would Dare Stop Us"
Milosevic's Hidden Hand? | Zahac's "Disappeared"
Blood Money | Revenge or Justice

Blood Money

There's still money to be made from the Kosovo war. Last May, hundreds of families gathered in a farm field near Zahac for a memorial ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the massacre at the bus garage and attacks on two neighboring villages. Since then, Albanians from other parts of Kosovo have been showing up in Zahac offering stories about the missing men for hefty fees. Shehide Dobraj's husband Muhamet is one of the missing. "When these people come to our door and lie to us, saying that the men are in prison, that's when we start to hope," she said. "They say, 'We saw your son in a prison in Serbia. We saw your husband in prison, he was wounded.' This and that. I don't know what to believe."

There are also hundreds of ethnic Serbs missing from before, during, and after the Kosovo war. Many were killed by vengeful Albanians returning from exile. Families in Serbia and Kosovo now struggle to sift fact from fiction. At the Pristina office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Susanne Ringgaard heads a program to recover and identify Kosovo's dead. Ringgaard believes that most of the missing—Serbs and Albanians—are dead. But she says an insidious industry has materialized of racketeers who prey on desperate families.

Photo: Stephen Smith

Ringgaard said: "Albanian lawyers and Serbian lawyers will contact families and say, 'We have information about your relative and they have been spotted in such-and-such labor camp. If you give us 20,000 German marks I can take you there,' or, 'I can give you some more information.' And people usually pay up and they get nothing." Newspapers in Serbia and Kosovo regularly print sensational stories about secret prison camps operated by the other side. Ringgaard and other observers suspect that opportunistic politicians in Kosovo and Serbia are cynically using the issue of the missing to thwart efforts towards reconciliation. "All of the stories, all of the propaganda, all of the misinformation about the camps on both sides definitely keeps the conflict alive," she said. "You cannot bring closure to the families. You cannot give them a body, and give them a chance to bring closure to it, and to begin grieving so they can move on with their lives."

Next page: Revenge or Justice

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