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Suffolk man bids UN push charges in brothers' deaths in Serbia

Fatose Bytyqi, center, speaks about the unresolved killings

Fatose Bytyqi, center, speaks about the unresolved killings of his brothers, American citizens Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi, in Serbia 15 years ago, at a news conference in Southampton on July 7, 2014. At left is former U.S. Ambassador Robert L. Barry, and at right, Rep. Tim Bishop. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Fatose Bytyqi of Hampton Bays has taken his quest for justice for the 1999 execution-style slaying in Serbia of his three brothers, all U.S. citizens, to the United Nations.

Last week, attorneys for the Bytyqi family filed a complaint with two human rights arms of the United Nations to ratchet up pressure on Serbia to investigate and prosecute former officials they allege ordered, or failed to stop, the killing of the Bytyqi brothers after the Kosovo war.

"I think it's the first time that Serbia will be forced into a formal process where they will have to defend, in a public way, why [Goran] Guri Radosavljevi? and other high officials haven't been prosecuted," said Praveen Madhiraju, the Washington-based pro bono attorney for the Bytyqi family.

Radosavljevi? was commander of the special police units in the Serbian Ministry of the Interior and in charge of the training camp in Petrovo Selo, Serbia, where the Bytyqi brothers were shot in the back of their heads while blindfolded with their hands wired behind them and dumped in a mass grave.

Radosavljevi? claims he was on vacation when it happened.

Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi, also from Hampton Bays, had joined 400 other Albanian-Americans in April 1999 to fight Serbian forces attacking ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo, part of former Yugoslavia. They were killed after the war ended six weeks later.

No one has been convicted of their slayings, despite U.S. government pressure. War crimes charges against two Serbian special police officials were dismissed because the judge ruled the war had ended.

“For 15 years, Prime Minister Vuci?, Deputy Prime Minister Da?i? and their predecessors have personally promised me and my family that they would resolve the case. Yet, Goran Radosavljevi? remains free and shielded from responsibility while my family remains in an endless state of mourning. We have no justice,” said Fatose Bytyqi in a statement.

The complaint, technically called a general allegation, was filed on July 30 with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

It calls for the Working Group to request the government of Serbia to address the issues that have hampered the investigation and prosecution of high-ranking officials involved in the case, including Radosavljevi?.

Both NGOs and Serbian prosecutors have indicated that witnesses are reluctant to come forward and testify due to intimidation and improper influence from Radosavljevi? or those around him, according to Silvia Palomba, co-director of Destination Justice's Litigation Program, and Madhiraju, who filed the complaint.

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