Timeline

* For a detailed timeline on the Kosovo war, visit PBS Frontline’s Kosovo Chronology.
** For a periodically-updated timeline on Transitional Justice in Serbia, more generally, visit Marija Ristic’s timeline on Balkans Insight.

Bytyqi Brothers Timeline

Background Information

20 August 1974:  Ylli Bytyqi born in Aurora, Illinois.

9 July 1976Agron Bytyqi born in Joliet, Illinois.

17 February 1978Mehmet Bytyqi born in Joliet, Illinois.

18 March 1999:  The Rambouillet Accords are signed by a Kosovo Albanian delegation, but rejected by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), leading to the breakdown of the peace talks.

24 March 1999:  Following the breakdown of peace talks, NATO authorizes and commences airstrikes against targets in the FRY.

Spring 1999:  A volunteer unit, called the “Atlantic Brigade” is established in New York.

April 1999: The Atlantic Brigade places itself in the service of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).  Agron, Mehmet and Ylli Bytyqi become members of the Atlantic Brigade, departing with nearly four hundred other U.S. residents for Kosovo.  The Bytyqi Brothers travel through Albania to Kosovo on their U.S. passports.

9 June 1999:  NATO and FRY officials sign a Military Technical Agreement (known as the Kumanovo Agreement) to govern the withdrawal of FRY forces.

10 June 1999:  The UN requests NATO to suspend bombing.  The Security Council adopts Resolution 1244, permitting the deployment of international civil and military authorities in Kosovo.

20 June 1999:  FRY forces complete their withdrawal from Kosovo.

The Arrest and Killing of the Bytyqi Brothers

23 June 1999:  The Bytyqi Brothers agree to escort several Roma neighbors, including Miroslav Mitrovic, from Kosovo and Metohija into Serbia.  The brothers stray over the unmarked boundary line from Kosovo near Merdare and are arrested and detained by Serbian police for illegally entering FRY.  They have personal documentation showing their New York and U.S. residence and identity, but no visa to enter FRY or Serbian-controlled territory.  A judge sentences them to two weeks in jail in Prokuplje, Serbia.

24 June 1999: The FRY Parliament issues a decision revoking the declaration of the state of war.

26 June 1999: The 24 June decision revoking the state of war takes effect.

8 July 1999:  A judge orders the Bytyqis’ release.  Vlajko Stojiljkovic, the then-Minister of Interior, orders Deputy Minister Vlastimir Dordevic, who in turn orders Sreten Popovic (Commander of a reconnaissance-diversionary platoon of the Operational Pursuit Groups (OPG), itself a part of the 124th brigade of the Special Police Units) to transfer the Bytyqi Brothers to plain clothes FRY Interior Ministry (MUP) officers and take them to a police training site in Petrovo Selo.  This, according to the trial testimony of Dordevic, Popovic, and Goran “Guri” Radosavljevic, who at the time was a lieutenant-colonel and Commander of the Petrovo Selo training facility.  According to Serbian prosecutors, Milos Stojanovic (Section Commander within the OPG) participates in the arrest and transfer of the Bytyqi Brothers.

10 July 1999 (approximately):  The Bytyqi Brothers are taken from the Petrovo Selo training facility to a nearby pit.  The pit houses a mass grave of Albanian citizens whose bodies had been brought from Kosovo in cold-storage trucks for reburial.  The brothers are bound, blindfolded, and shot in the back of their heads and dumped on top of the grave.

August-October 1999Natasa Kandic and the Humanitarian Law Center make repeated inquiries regarding the Bytyqis’ whereabouts and status.  They receive only the records of their release from the Prokuplje prison.  Sometime later, the Bytyqi’s Brothers’ mother Bahrije and brother Fatose go to the Prokuplje prison to search for information.  They learn only that the brothers were taken away by plainclothes officers in a white car.

12 March 2000:  The Sunday Times reveals that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been supporting the KLA prior to NATO’s bombing campaign over Yugoslavia. For the duration of the war, the United States and NATO had promised not to become “the KLA’s airforce,” while Yugoslav authorities regarded the KLA as a terrorist organization.

5 October 2000:  Goran Radosavljevic, now Commander of the Special Police Forces (PJP) of the FRY, declines to deploy troops against protesters in Belgrade who were rallying against efforts by Milosevic to steal Yugoslavia’s presidential election.  Opposition coalition candidate and Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) party chief Vojislav Kostunica is confirmed the victor, and Milosevic is subsequently detained under house arrest and later extradited to the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

14 July 2001:  Reports first surface that the remains of the Bytyqi Brothers may have been exhumed from a mass grave in Petrovo Selo.

17 July 2001:  The Serbian Interior Minister (in the first post-Milosevic government) informs the U.S. Embassy that it has recovered bodies it believes to be those of the Bytyqi Brothers.

28 June 2001:  In the new Kostunica-led govenment, the PJP is renamed the Gendarmerie and Goran Radosavljevic retains his leadership over it, now with the rank of general.

4 March 2002:  The bodies of the Bytyqi Brothers are returned to New York.  Thousands attend the ceremony, including U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel.

Investigation

Spring 2002:  Serbian and U.S. authorities open separate investigations in the case.  The Serbian case was eventually transferred from the regional prosecutor’s office to the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor.

April 2002:  Vlajko Stojiljkovic, the alleged originator of the orders and former Minister of Interior, commits suicide on the steps of the Serbian Parliament after Parliament votes to extradite him to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

4 February 2003:  The FRY officially dissolves, becoming the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

12 March 2003:  Prime Minister Zoran Dindic is assassinated at the back entrance of the Serbian Government Building by a sniper.  The assassination, it was later learned, was orchestrated by an organized crime gang known as the Zemun Clan, headed by Milorad Ulemek “Legija,” former head of the Special Operations Unit (JSO).  The JSO was another MUP unit active during the Balkans wars of the 1990s.  It trained at the Petrovo Selo camp and had members present during the Bytyqi murders.

March 2004:  DSS party chief Kostunica becomes Serbia’s Prime Minister at the head of a coalition government replacing Zoran Zivkovic of the Democratic Party (DS).

2 May 2004:  After fourteen months in hiding following the Dindic assassination, Milorad Ulemek “Legija” gives himself up, arranging to turn himself over to Goran Radosavljevic, who takes him into custody.

27 June 2004:  DS candidate Boris Tadic defeats Serbian Radical Party (SRS) candidate Tomislav Nikolic in the second round of Serbia’s presidential elections.

August 2004:  Radosavljevic is removed by DSS Minister of Interior Dragan Jocic from his position in the Gendarmerie and is made “adviser” in the Ministry.

January 2005:  Radosavljevic steps down from his position in the Ministry of Interior and leaves Serbia, operating a security firm training foreign troops and living abroad for several years.

January 2006:  President Tadic pledges to bring the killers of the Bytyqi Brothers to justice.

June 2006: The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro officially ends with Montenegro’s proclamation of independence.  The Republic of Serbia becomes an independent state as a result.

Proceedings against Popovic and Stojanovic

23 August 2006:  The Serbian War Crimes Chamber indicts Sreten Popovic and Milos Stojanovic, the two OPG officers who helped transfer the Bytyqis from Prokuplje to Petrovo Selo.  It charges the two with having abetted the brothers’ deaths and denied the brothers their basic human rights.

December 2006:  Serbian prosecutors subpoena Goran Radosavljevic for questioning and testimony in their investigation of the Bytyqi case.  War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic later tells U.S. embassy officials that the prosecutor in the case suspects that Radosavljevic was acquainted with the case, since Radosavljevic commanded the Petrovo Selo training facility and was in constant communication with Vlastimir Dordevic.  Vukcevic also suggests that Radosavljevic was actively instructing and intimidating witnesses in the case.

February 2007:  Fatose Bytyqi, a surviving brother of the victims, testifies in the Popovic and Stojanovic trial.

13 February 2007:  The Serbian Interior Ministry announces that they have been looking for Radosavljevic for two months.  Through his attorney, Radosavljevic says he is on a business trip in Libya.

15 May 2007:  After three months of coalition talks, Kostunica again forms a coalition and remains prime minister.

17 February 2008:  Kosovo declares independence.

8 March 2008:  Kostunica’s governing coalition collapses.

11 May 2008:  Serbia holds parliamentary elections for the second time in less than 18 months.

7 July 2008:  A new coalition led by the DS is formed, with Milosevic’s former party, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), as the junior partner.  SPS chief, Ivica Dacic, assuming the roles of Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister.

21 October 2008:  Disaffected with the its leadership, Tomislav Nikolic and twenty other Serbian Radical Party members of parliament break off and form the new center-right Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

22 December 2008:  Now back in Serbia, Goran Radosavljevic testifies in defense of Popovic and Stojanovic.  During his testimony, Radosavljevic confirms that he was in charge of the Petrovo Selo training facility.  He also testifies that he was in Petrovo Selo only occasionally during the period in question, while at the time of the crime he was on vacation, either with his father or friends.  He denies any involvement in the Bytyqi deaths.

2009:  Radosavljevic joins the SNS party, serving as an informal advisor to party chief Nikolic on security issues.

11 June 2009:  Natasa Kandic, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade and an expert witness in the trials of Popovic and Stojanovic, resigns from the trials, stating that: “A total of 96 witnesses were heard all of whom protected the accused, i.e. their superior commanders, in their testimonies…. The fact that Goran Radosavljevic Guri freely returned to Serbia to be questioned as a witness in the main hearing leads to the conclusion that he was in contact with state authorities and that he has been promised that he will not be found responsible for this crime.”

22 September 2009:  The trial court issues its judgment, acquitting Popovic and Stojanovic.  In 2010, an appeals court grants a retrial.

23 February 2011:  Vlastimir Dordevic is convicted at the ICTY for his role in the murder of more than 700 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999 and sentenced to twenty-seven years imprisonment.  Dordevic had been part of the initial focus of the investigation of the Bytyqi case regarding the chain of command within the Interior Ministry.

23 September 2011:  Retrial of Popovic and Stojanovic begins before the Serbian War Crimes Chamber.

9 May 2012:  Popovic and Stojanovic are acquitted in their retrial.  The presiding judge reasons that because the Bytyqi Brothers were likely detained by MUP officials and killed after the end of the war, they did not have prisoner of war status and therefore could not have been victims of a war crime.  He then emphasized that the Bytyqis were arrested while performing a humane act, helping two Roma families get from Kosovo to Serbia, where they wanted to seek refuge.

20 May 2012:  In a run-off election, SNS candidate Tomislav Nikolic defeats incumbent President Tadic to become President of Serbia.

9 October 2012:  The War Crimes Prosecutor files an appeal in the Popovic and Stojanovic retrials.

March 2013:  The Appellate Court in Belgrade (War Crimes Department) upholds the judgment of the Belgrade Higher Court War Crimes Department and the acquittals of Popovic and Stojanovic.  The Appellate Court agrees with the determination of the trial court that it was not proven that Agron, Mehmet and Ylli Bytyqi had prisoner of war status.

Recent Updates

25 April 2013:  The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs questions U.S. State Department officials and calls upon them to seek justice in the case. The Committee confirms that they have met with surviving brother Fatose Bytyqi, that the U.S. State Department has engaged Serbia on a bilateral level regarding the case, and that Secretary Hillary Clinton has raised the case directly with Serbian Prime Minister and Interior Minister Dacic.  Jonathan Moore, State Department Director of the Office of South Central Europe, states that: “We continue to call upon these authorities in Belgrade to investigate this case and to prosecute it…. We are not aware of direct progress.”

22 October 2013:  U.S. Congressmen Tim Bishop introduces a concurrent resolution on the Bytyqi Brothers case.  He is joined by ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel.

21-27 November 2013:  Fatose Bytyqi meets with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, Deputy Prime Minister and SNS party president Aleksander Vucic, and with the War Crimes Unit investigators and prosecutors.  According to the Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor, things will move forward in the next few months on a number of high profile cases.

16 March 2014:  The SNS wins a large majority in parliamentary elections.  Goran Radosavljevic joins the SNS’s election-night celebration.

28 May 2014:  In discussions with US government officials, Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic affirms the absolute need for justice to be done in the Bytyqi case and pledges that action will be taken during the summer.

July 2014:  Marks the 15th anniversary of the Bytyqi Brothers’ disappearances and murders.

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A compilation of primary resources used in constructing this Timeline can be found here.