[Congressional Record Volume 147, Number 107 (Friday, July 27, 2001)]
[Pages S8338-S8339]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                      MURDERS CANNOT GO UNPUNISHED

  Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, the murder of American citizens 
abroad is always a cause for concern, and I want to bring the attention 
of my colleagues to the killings of the Bytyqi brothers from New York 
City. Agron, Mehmet, and Yli were reportedly discovered in a mass grave 
in Petrovo Selo, Serbia with their hands bound and gunshots wounds to 
their chests.
  This heinous crime should be of particular concern to all of us. Not 
only were the Bytyqi brothers American citizens, but they were also of 
Albanian origin. We know well the brutal treatment of Albanians in 
Kosova and Serbia during the war. My heart goes out to all the victims 
and their families.
  I recently wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking for the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation to become involved in this case. Human 
rights workers and investigators, including from the United Nations, 
should assist in delivering justice to the Bytyqi family.
  There are reports that the brothers were murdered by policemen. I 
know my colleagues will agree that the murder of Americans overseas 
cannot go unpunished. I will continue to closely follow developments in 
this case--as well as the continued detention of political prisoners in 
Serbian jails.
  I ask that an article from the July 15th edition of the Washington 
Post detailing this crime appear in the Record following my remarks.
  There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

               [From the Washington Post, July 15, 2001]

            Three Americans Found in Serbian Mass Grave Site

                  (By R. Jeffrey Smith and Peter Fin)

       Pristina, Yugoslavia, July 14--The three young American men 
     had their hands tied with wire. Their heads were covered by 
     black hoods, and they were dressed in civilian clothes. They 
     were each shot at close range, and their bodies were dumped 
     in a pit dug in the Yugoslav national forest near the Serbian 
     town of Petrovo Selo.
       The men--all brothers of ethnic Albanian origin--had worked 
     with their father as painters and made pizzas on Long Island 
     before going to fight in the Kosovo war with the so-called 
     Atlantic Brigade, a group of about 400 Albanian Americans who 
     volunteered to join the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. But 
     they disappeared into a Serbian prison 17 days after the end 
     of NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, when 
     hostilities had ceased.
       For nearly two years, neither their family nor the U.S. 
     government was able to learn their whereabouts. Then, last 
     week, their bodies were discovered in a mass grave by Serbian 
     police investigators. Together with officials of a Belgrade-
     based human rights group, the police have begun to assemble a 
     picture of how the men, born in Illinois, lost their lives 
     during the violence that raged in and around the Serbian 
     province of Kosovo in the spring and summer of 1999.
       Serbian officials and others monitoring the probe say the 
     three--Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi, ethnic Albanians ages 
     24, 23 and 21 at the time of their death--appear to have been 
     murdered by policemen. Their bodies were placed in the grave 
     with 13 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, not far from a special 
     police training center 120 miles east of the capital of 
     Belgrade. A second grave nearby contains 59 bodies, and 
     investigators suspect they will find many other sites as they 
     begin to probe the forest more carefully.
       The Bytyqis are the first Americans to turn up in a Serbian 
     mass grave. ``Believe me, this is going to be a very 
     important case for us,'' the U.S. chief of mission in 
     Yugoslavia, William Montgomery, said in a telephone 
     interview. ``We need to get real information from the 
     Yugoslav authorities. We are going to insist they do a full 
       Montgomery said he and other U.S. officials had sought 
     information about the Bytyqis from the Yugoslav Foreign 
     Ministry several times since Yugoslav President Slobodan 
     Milosevic was ousted in October, but the ministry 
     acknowledged only that the brothers had been imprisoned after 
     the war ended.
       Circumstantial evidence unearthed so far raises the 
     possibility of a revenge slaying by policemen, possibly 
     motivated by anger over the leading role that the United 
     States played in pressing for Western intervention in Kosovo 
     to halt human rights abuses committed by Yugoslav security 
     forces against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.
       ``They were killed because they were American citizens,'' 
     said Bajram Krasniqi, a lawyer in Pristina, Kosovo's 
     provincial capital, retained by the Bytyqi family to press 
     for information about the case. ``There were people in that 
     prison who were in [the rebel army] . . . and they were 
     eventually released. This is the only case where someone was 
     arrested, taken to court, tried, released out of the prison 
     and then executed.
       ``This crime was planned, ordered and conducted without any 
     judicial act and it was done by Serbian officials in 
     cooperation with officials at the prison,'' Krasniqi said. 
     ``Hopefully, the Serb authorities will now arrest these 
     people and they will be brought to justice.''
       The men's mother, Bahrije Bytyqi, and their father, Ahmet 
     Bytyqi, had moved their family from Illinois to Kosovo in 
     1979 and later separated. Ahmet moved to New York and Ylli, 
     Agron and Mehmet joined him one at a time when each turned 
     age 17.
       Bahrije was expelled from Kosovo during the war by security 
     forces but later returned to the southern Kosovo city of 
     Prizren. She has been distraught and sedated since learning 
     last week of the discovery of her sons' bodies in Serbia, and 
     could not be interviewed today. When her 22-year old son, 
     Fatos, a resident of Prizren, was interviewed today, he 
     initially lied about his brothers' wartime activities, later 
     explaining he had been ``advised'' not to discuss their 
     membership in the Atlantic Brigade.
       But members of the brigade interviewed in New York said 
     that the brothers had been enthusiastic--if naive--volunteers 
     in the unit. They had different personalities: Ylli was 
     quiet, Agron an outgoing partier, Mehmet a hard worker. But 
     all three left New York on the brigade's charter flight in 
     the spring of 1999 and tried to join the same rebel unit--
     only to be told by rebel leaders that they had to fight 
       ``They had that youthfulness that exploded in their 
     faces,'' said fellow rebel Arber Muriqui in New York.
       In mid-June 1999, when NATO forces deployed inside Kosovo 
     to police a cease-fire, the brothers escorted their mother 
     back into the province. Roughly two weeks later, the brothers 
     told Fatos they were going to Pristina. Their mission, he 
     said, was to visit some ethnic Albanian friends from New York 
     who had fought with the Atlantic Brigade.
       Amid the postwar chaos--and seething tensions between 
     ethnic Serbs and Albanians--they headed north in a Volkswagen 
     Golf on June 26. An ethnic Roma neighbor of Bahrije's, 
     Miroslav Mitrovic, has told the Belgrade-based Humanitarian 
     Law Center, an independent group, that the three brothers 
     offered him and two other Romas a ride out of Prizren and 
     into southern Serbia, but Fatos says the brothers never 
     mentioned the plan and he cannot confirm the tale.

[[Page S8339]]

       There is a dispute between Fatos and Mitrovic over why the 
     brothers did not have their U.S. passports with them on the 
     journey; in any event, Fatos and the family lawyer say, the 
     brothers carried other identification that clearly indicated 
     they were American residents, including New York state 
     driver's licenses. Around their necks, he said, were 
     medallions bearing the seal of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
       The brothers were detained at a Serbian checkpoint in the 
     village of Merdare; the Romas were allowed to proceed, 
     Mitrovic told the law center. A magistrate in the nearby town 
     of Kursumlija sentenced them to at least 15 days in jail for 
     illegally crossing the border between Serbia and Kosovo, a 
     Serbian province. The next day--June 27--they were 
     transferred to a prison in Prokuplje, in southern Serbia.
       There, according to documents and testimony obtained by the 
     law center, the three brothers were interviewed by a police 
     inspector named Zoran Stakovic, whose specialty was cases 
     involving foreign citizens. Four days before the end of their 
     sentence. Stankovic came to the prison and told the warden to 
     release them into his custody, the law center said it had 
       Fatos said he was told by a prison official, whom the 
     family bribed for information four months ago, that the three 
     brothers were taken to the back door of the prison and handed 
     over to two plainclothes police in the company of the 
     uniformed patrolmen. They were driven away in the company of 
     the uniformed patrolmen. They were driven away in a white car 
     and never seen alive again.
       Their family became so desperate that at one point they 
     persuaded their lawyer, Krasniqui, to write a letter to 
     Miloservic, pleading for information about her sons; their 
     mother also went to the prison in Serbia to demand answers. 
     ``They were very hopeful that the boys would return because 
     once they were in prison, Serb authorities would be aware 
     that they are American citizens,'' and Marin Vulaj, vice 
     chairman of the National Albanian American Council.
       The law center made inquiries in August, September and 
     October 1999, after Mitrovic contacted the center to express 
     his own concern, but only received a copy of the brothers' 
     prison release order.
       ``I was hoping they were alive,'' Fatos said. ``We were 
     very shocked. We had no idea how they could have gotten'' to 
     the mass grave site in Petrovo Selo. In a statement issued on 
     Saturday, the law center demanded that the Serbian government 
     ``tell the mother the truth.''