A Stand for War Criminals

Praveen Madhiraju

Praveen Madhiraju

Recently, the credibility of Serbia many promises to resolve the state-sponsored murders of three American citizens and brothers took a sharp downward turn.

U.S. Ambassador Kyle Scott summarized the problems in the Bytyqi case well:

“This is obviously a burden for the Bytyqi family, but also a burden for our bilateral relationship[.] When three of our citizens were arrested by the Serbian police, handed over from one unit of the police to another, and then found out back with their hands tied, executed gangland style, someone is responsible and it defies logic that no one saw anything and no one knows anything.

“I find it is very difficult to understand that nothing happened to any of the members of that group and that in fact, the leader of that unit [Goran “Guri” Radosavljevic] is now in a position on the Executive Board of the leading party in this country.”

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s response? To go to bat for the main suspect.

“And now, I have been asked, why is he [Guri] a member of Vucic’s party…You should be ashamed of yourself, what do you think, that I will allow someone kicking me in the head and not reply with facts…. Never [would] the enemy of the USA and killer of the American people [] get [an] invitation to NATO.”

Mr. Vucic then protested that no one did anything in 13 years to resolve the case and now he is to blame.

This is unprecedented. Many people (me included) have opined that PM Vucic still protects war criminals. Before 2008, he had a long history of doing so. But this is the first time he has so overtly went to bat for the prime suspect in the murders of three American citizens.

Remember that PM Vucic has previously pledged to resolve the case by the end of Summer 2014 and March 2015. In June 2016, he pledged resolution, “very soon or much sooner than anybody might expect” to the American public, Vice President Biden, and others. Each time, he has done little to nothing. It seems like the only time Mr. Vucic authorizes Serbian prosecutors to work on the case (and yes, it seems like they require his authorization) is when he needs something from the United States.

The Associated Press, Tanjug, and Radio Slobodna Europa, all covered Fatose Bytyqi’s recent visit to Belgrade.  A new independent investigative outlet called Insajder (Insider) produced a 30 minute mini-documentary on Serbia’s failures in the case. Yet Serbian officials seems content in their complacency.

Despite his many promises, Prime Minister Vucic just took a stand for war criminals. But he still has time to reassert the independence of the investigation and distance himself from the main suspect, Goran Radosavljevic. After all, it’s what he has promised to do many times.


Praveen Madhiraju

pro bono advisor to the Bytyqi family