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Jul 8, 2014 9:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Man Committed To Finding Brothers' Killers In Serbia

Jul 8, 2014 5:02 PM

Fifteen years ago, three brothers from Hampton Bays, while trying to carry out a peaceful mission following the end of the Kosovo War, were arrested and executed by the Serbian government.

Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi were sentenced to 15 days in jail for accidentally crossing the unmarked administrative border between Kosovo and Serbia in June 1999. Despite a judge’s order that they be released, the three brothers were whisked away, bound and blindfolded, and shot in the back of the head in early July 1999, their bodies dumped in a mass grave for slain Albanians.

While a handful of Serbian military officials believed to be involved in the Bytyqi brothers’ executions have been arrested, none has been convicted in connection with the illegal execution.

And one man has made it his mission to make sure justice is served.

Fatose Bytyqi, a younger brother of the three Bytyqis who lives in Hampton Bays, has met with dozens of U.S. Department of State officials and made almost 50 trips to the Serbian capital of Belgrade, demanding answers from the Serbian government regarding his slain siblings.

Now, after 15 years of searching for answers, Mr. Bytyqi hopes to finally bring his brothers’ killers to justice, with the help of U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton and members of Congress.

“For 15 years, me and my family expected results from the Serbian government,” Mr. Bytyqi said during a press conference held on Monday morning at Southampton Town Hall while accompanied by Mr. Bishop. “The Serbian government’s responsible for my brothers—their kidnap and their execution—and no one’s brought to justice.”

While standing beside Mr. Bytyqi, Mr. Bishop discussed a resolution he introduced to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last October that prioritizes bringing the Bytyqi brothers’ killers to justice, criticizes the fact that no one has been convicted or is currently facing charges in the matter, and devotes unspecified American resources toward monitoring the Serbian government’s investigation into the killings.

A copy of the resolution states that any progress, or lack thereof, by Serbia regarding this matter should be a significant factor in determining the future development of U.S.-Serbian relations. Currently, the Republic of Serbia is a candidate to join the European Union—something that Mr. Bytyqi said should be blocked if its government cannot be held accountable for killing three U.S. citizens.

“Whether our resolution passes or not, the Serbian government must simply do the right thing,” Mr. Bishop said. “They are attempting to rejoin the community of nations, they are attempting to atone for past atrocities, but our government must make it clear to the Serbian government that if they wish to maintain or establish appropriate relationships with our country, finding and prosecuting the murderers of these three young men must be part of their effort to make amends.”

Born just outside Chicago to Ahmet and Bahrije Bytyqi, ethnic Albanian immigrants from Kosovo, the three brothers—Ylli Bytyqi, then 25, Agron Bytyqi, 24, and Mehmet Bytyqi, 21—felt compelled to join the Kosovo Liberation Army during the spring of 1999 to fight in the Kosovo War, a 15-month-long conflict between Yugoslavia and Albanian rebels in the Kosovo territory. The three siblings, who had lived in Hampton Bays since the early 1990s, wanted to fight for the independence of their ethnic homeland.

They never got the chance to do so: The war ended a few months after their arrival. But the brothers agreed to help several ethnic Romas—a persecuted group in Kosovo at the time—get out of Kosovo before returning home. The group of Romas had been their neighbors in Kosovo and helped bring the Bytyqis food when it was too dangerous for them to go out in public.

The brothers crossed a section of the Kosovo-Serbia border illegally during their journey and were subsequently arrested. The neighbors they were assisting were freed, but the Bytyqi brothers would spend the rest of their days in captivity.

Two years after their deaths, the remains of the three brothers were uncovered in a mass grave in the Serbian village of Backo Petrovo Selo, thus compelling Fatose Bytyqi, along with his other brother, Ilir, to begin their search for answers. They also have another brother, Enver, and a sister, Bukurije.

The bodies of their slain siblings were returned to New York in March 2002.

Fatose and Ilir Bytyqi have been assisted by former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia and Bulgaria Robert L. Barry, who also worked as the Head of Mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in their quest to bring the murderers of their brothers to justice.

Mr. Barry said the blame for their deaths should fall squarely on Goran Radosavljevic, a lieutenant colonel of Yugoslavia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and the commanding officer of the Backo Petrovo Selo special forces training camp where the Bytyqis were executed.

But because Mr. Radosavljevic still has strong political ties within the Serbian government, Mr. Barry said he has been insulated from war crimes prosecution.

“This is a case of political will,” Mr. Barry said. “They know who is responsible, we know who is responsible. The question is: Is the Serbian government going to lift the curtain of silence surrounding this case, and all the people we know were in the chain of command and who probably gave the order that day to assassinate the Bytyqi brothers, and bring them to trial?”

Ahmet Bytyqi, the father of the Bytyqi brothers, said this kind of corruption is exactly why he and his wife left Serbia, which was then part of Yugoslavia, in 1971 for Italy, before moving to the United States.

Beyond his own frustration with the lack of results in the investigation of his sons’ deaths, the elder Mr. Bytyqi said the way the Serbian government is approaching this case is indicative of a greater problem within the country.

“It should be in the interest of any government to prosecute its criminals that wear badges before those who do not,” he said. “I feel sorry for these people, too, because they continue to live under this government.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 8, 14 3:30 PM
Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been held in a Mexican jail for nearly three months after accidentally taking a wrong turn into Mexico with three legal guns in his vehicle.

He is being mistreated by Mexican authorities and fellow prisoners, and it appears that his own government is ignoring his plight. This is a recent veteran who is reported to be suffering from P.T.S.D. and this administration refuses to request his release as most other administrations would seemingly have done. ...more
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Jul 8, 14 5:29 PM
3 members liked this comment
Very well said .
By AndersEn (173), Southampton on Jul 9, 14 9:24 PM
Very sad that this fellow lost his brothers just for the fact they were Muslim. Senseless deaths to say the least.

The worst part is we have a Congressman who grandstands with a press conference on the issue. How about the lied to patriots who enlisted and the US goverment has midtreated, and forgot about? How about the serviceman still fighting a mental war. Like Kevin mentioned where is your press conference for the soldier being held in Mexico? Or my favorite subject of a under funded ...more
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Jul 8, 14 8:42 PM
3 members liked this comment
KLA is not a genuine movement of freedom fighters but a highly morally corrupted organization deeply involved in terrorism and criminal activities, which makes it very dangerous for the regional stability. Despite its official disbandment in Sept 1999 it continues its existence through the elements of Kosovo Protection Corps, Kosovo Albanian mafia as well as different satellite organizations like NLA, UCPBM, ANA etc, which are responsible for exporting the terrorism to the territory of Southern ...more
By Jaws (243), Amity Island on Jul 9, 14 12:17 AM
We can only hope that the same time and effort in finding those responsible would also be given to the families who lost loved ones in service to our country in Benghazi
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Jul 9, 14 7:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
I applaud Congressman Bishop for helping out this family. We remember the brothers who went to help the KLA at the time to protect their people. It was a tragedy that they lost their lives in such a disgusting manner. We hope the monsters are brought to justice.
By Infoseeker (279), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 14 12:48 PM
why would three American born brothers feel compelled to join the KLA and fight a war in another country they have no involvement in?!? Something seems very fishy here. (read my comment above) Tim Bishop needs to spend my tax dollars more wisely and not on something he will never be able to accomplish! I'm sorry for the family's loss, though...
By Jaws (243), Amity Island on Jul 11, 14 12:15 AM
I applaud Congressman Bishop for helping out this family. We remember the brothers who went to help the KLA at the time to protect their people. It was a tragedy that they lost their lives in such a disgusting manner. We hope the monsters are brought to justice.
By Infoseeker (279), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 14 12:48 PM
As a Croat, I can attest that the long held grudges between ethnicities in the Balkans have know little restraint.

I hope those who are responsible for genocide are brought to justice.
By Mr. Z (11550), North Sea on Jul 11, 14 3:36 AM
Jaws, the only thing fishy is YOU!
By Infoseeker (279), Hampton Bays on Jul 11, 14 7:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
This country needs to mind its business. We have plenty of major problems right here.
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Jul 11, 14 11:18 PM
Chief1, these 3 brothers were from HERE.
By Infoseeker (279), Hampton Bays on Jul 12, 14 7:13 AM
Ok I know they were from here. The problem is they went to a war zone on their own. We have no right to question what another country did in wartime. Both sides in that war has been known to conduct genocide.
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Jul 13, 14 10:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
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