Statement on Leaked Letter in Bytyqi Case

Yesterday, Kurir published a letter from members of the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, including its Chair and Ranking Member, regarding the Bytyqi case. The leaked letter discloses for the first time that despite his public defenses of Goran “Guri” Radosavljevic, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has privately expressed that he believes Guri Radosavljevic – one of his closest advisors – to be responsible for the murders of Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi, three American citizens and brothers executed and dumped on top a mass grave by Serbian government officials at the end of the Kosovo war.

Bytyqi family members and their pro bono advisor had this to say:

Praveen Madhiraju:  “Fatose and Ilir Bytyqi and I were each present during a meeting in September 2015 when then Prime Minister Vucic made this claim. Also present were other Serbian and U.S. officials. During the meeting, Prime Minister Vucic started off by expressing his regret that the Bytyqi case had not yet been resolved. He seemed genuinely upset by it. He then explained that he had learned much more about the case compared to when he started. At one point while Fatose was making a suggestion, Mr. Vucic interrupted and said, ‘In my mind, only two people are responsible for these murders – Guri and [one other person he named].’ That is a direct quote that I wrote down immediately after the meeting. He also told us that he had dispatched two Ministers to interview potential witnesses, a fact Mr. Vucic himself disclosed in a Dec 2016 interview.”

Fatose Bytyqi: “This was not the first time that Prime Minister Vucic told me directly that he believed Guri was responsible. Other high-level Serbian officials have told me the same. But after the September 2015 meeting, my family put our trust in President Vucic. We believed in his word. Two years later, Guri and he are still attached at the hip and he tells us we should be ashamed for criticizing him.”

Ilir Bytyqi: “President Vucic told us in that meeting that if it were him, he’d do everything he could to find his own brother’s killers. He told us he himself believed that Guri was responsible. Now he’s acting like Guri is his brother and doing everything to protect him.”

President Vucic has repeatedly promised that he’d resolve the Bytyqi crimes. First, by the end of summer 2014 and later by March 2015. Then, at a June 2015 event at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, he called it Serbia’s “duty” and pledged that the case would be resolved “very soon or much sooner than anybody might expect”.

Instead, President Vucic has protected the main suspect, Goran “Guri” Radosavljevic, also a suspect in a number of other war crimes committed during the Kosovo War and their cover-up operations. When U.S. Ambassador Kyle Scott and a Bytyqi family member questioned this relationship, Mr. Vucic lashed out, saying that critics “should be ashamed” of themselves and were trying to “kick me in the head”.

The congressional letter was written in advance of President Vucic’s return trip to DC earlier this week, his first since the September 2015 meeting. During the recent visit, Mr. Vucic again expressed his desire to resolve the Bytyqi case. But instead of delivering on his promise to resolve the cases, he repeatedly accused the family and its representative of insulting him and drew no distance from Guri Radosavljevic. He called efforts before the U.S. Congress to ensure justice in the Bytyqi case “pranks” and “vaults”.

For years, U.S. officials and dozens of international experts have consistently demanded that Mr. Vucic and other Serbian leaders sever ties with Radosavljevic and resolve the Bytyqi case. The issue is the subject of a pending resolution before the Congress sponsored by Congressman Lee Zeldin and bi-partisan members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Zeldin took to the floor of the House last week and echoed these calls: