“The Bytyqi brothers gave their lives to fight injustice. Now, we must return this favor and deliver justice for their family.”
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Con. Res. 32.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York?
There was no objection.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking Mr. Zeldin for authoring this resolution. This measure is one particularly close to my heart.
In my career in Congress, I have had long dealings with the Albanian community both in the Balkans and in America, so this one really hurts since I know the family of these three brothers who were murdered.
Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi were three brothers from New York State who were killed execution-style by Serbian officials after they mistakenly crossed the unmarked Serbia-Kosova border. Their bodies were discovered with their hands bound behind their backs in a mass grave in 2001.
Serbian President Vucic promised me 3 years ago that his government would bring the murderers to justice, but this hasn’t happened. In fact, there isn’t even a serious criminal investigation underway. This is appalling.
Sadly, it is part of a pattern we see with Serbian war criminals responsible for crimes against the people of Kosova.
The Bytyqi brothers are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to post-conflict justice in Serbia. We had a hearing on the Foreign Affairs Committee several weeks ago about this very topic.
Approaching 3 years ago, the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center released a dossier detailing the murder of nearly 1,000 Kosovars, killed by Serbs in Kosova, then transported to Serbia, and dumped in a mass grave.
The U.S. Government has raised this atrocity with the Serbian war crimes prosecutor. But once again, no one has been held accountable, although I believe with all my heart that Serbian authorities know who is responsible for this. Let’s be clear, if Serbia wants to join the West and its institutions, they must deal with their past and prosecute those responsible for war crimes.
Mr. Speaker, I encourage our EU friends to hold Serbia to this standard when considering Serbia’s candidacy. Today’s resolution makes it clear that Serbia must fully investigate the Bytyqi brothers’ case and bring justice to the families of these murdered New Yorkers. Their family currently lives in New York in Mr. Zeldin’s district. It also calls on the U.S. Government to encourage and assist a successful prosecution of this case.
Mr. Speaker, I strongly support this measure, and I again thank Mr. Zeldin for his excellent work and partnership with me in trying to push the Serbian Government to find justice for these New Yorkers. Mr. Speaker, I urge all Members to support this measure, and I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. ZELDIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 32. I wish to start off by thanking the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel for his long-time passion and advocacy on this very important issue for my district, as well as Grace Meng, who also has been supportive. This execution-style murder of Ylli, 25 years old, Agron, 23 years old, and Mehmet Bytyqi, 21 years old, has greatly impacted my own district. These were three brothers born in the United States who resided in Hampton Bays, New York.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bytyqi brothers’ murder. In July 1999, these three brothers went overseas toward the end of the Kosova war and were arrested by Serbian authorities for illegally entering the country when they accidentally crossed into Serbian-controlled territory. The brothers were kidnapped, murdered, and dumped into a mass grave in Serbia by government officials still serving today.
Since taking office, I have been committed to helping the Bytyqi family receive the justice they have long deserved.
In February, Chairman Engel and I traveled to Munich to meet with Serbian President Vucic, where he once again promised to resolve the case of the Bytyqi brothers. Despite many promises by Serbian officials to resolve the case of this state-sponsored murder, there has been no justice served.
This resolution notes that progress with this investigation should remain a significant factor that determines the further developments of U.S.-Serbian relations. The Bytyqi brothers gave their lives to fight injustice. Now, we must return this favor and deliver justice for their family.
Mr. Speaker, I again thank Chairman Engel and lead Republican McCaul for their leadership and assistance on this issue. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. ZELDIN. Mr. Speaker, I have no other speakers and am prepared to close.
Mr. Speaker, once again, I encourage all of my colleagues to support this important resolution. For those in Serbia listening to today’s floor debate, it is an important lesson that, 20 years later, we have not forgotten. We will not forget. We will continue to strongly encourage them to do the right thing. This issue is not going away if they wish it away. On a bipartisan basis, we will continue to advocate to fight this injustice.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume for the purpose of closing.
Mr. Speaker, this is a good measure to seek justice for this senseless murder of three innocent American citizens, three innocent New Yorkers. We cannot allow this horrific crime to continue to go unpunished. As Mr. Zeldin mentioned, and others who we have worked with, we have raised this repeatedly with the Government of Serbia to no avail. They know exactly who killed these American citizens. They know what happened and why their bodies were dumped in a mass grave. They are withholding it.
It is unconscionable that these American citizens cannot get justice, that their families cannot get justice. We will not stop. I know Mr. Zeldin and I won’t, and other people won’t, until we get justice and answers as to who killed these American citizens, the Bytyqi brothers, who were born in the United States of America.
Mr. Speaker, I hope all Members will join me in supporting this resolution, and I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from New York (Mr. Engel) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H. Con. Res. 32.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the concurrent resolution was agreed to.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table. (From the Congressional Record)