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Jun 18, 2019 11:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Zeldin Opposes Early Release Of Man Connected To Murder Of Bytyqi Brothers

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin. PRESS FILE
Jun 19, 2019 12:16 PM

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin opposed the early release of a convicted war criminal who has been connected to the murder of three brothers from Hampton Bays in 1999 in Serbia during the Kosovo War.

Vlastimir Djordjevic has served 12 years of his 18-year sentence and is eligible for early release as of June 17. Mr. Zeldin and U.S. Representative Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter on June 14 urging the court not to grant an early release for Mr. Djordjevic “until he cooperates fully regarding these crimes and otherwise demonstrates his rehabilitation,” the letter stated.

Mr. Djordjevic was a former Serbian colonel general who was found guilty of war crimes against Kosovo Albanian civilians during the Kosovo War, including being responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians and the forced displacement of many more.

According to the letter, he has been connected to additional crimes including the murder of Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi, three U.S. citizens and brothers from Hampton Bays who accidentally crossed into Serbian-controlled territory from Kosovo during the war.

“International justice serves to facilitate post-conflict reconciliation by clearly identifying those individuals criminally responsible for atrocities committed and offering a degree of satisfaction and closure to victims,” the letter stated. It continued that an early release for Mr. Djordjevic would “undermine these aims and miss an opportunity to obtain information that could lead to justice in additional, unresolved cases.”

The letter was sent to Judge Carmel Agius, president of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, an international court under the United Nations. The “Mechanism,” as the court is called, performs functions previously carried out by the former International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which imposed Mr. Djordjevic’s sentence.

Mr. Zeldin, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has committed to securing justice for the brothers’ deaths since 2015. He has actively communicated with representatives of the Serbian government and met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic earlier this year to find those responsible.

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