Kosovo Families Seek Racak Corpses.
Feb. 02, 1999
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Ismet Emini reached into the pocket of his bullet-nicked leather jacket and pulled out what he had left of his brother.
It was a piece of skull. Emini wants the rest of him.
Survivors of the mass killing in Racak, a village in southern Kosovo, gathered outside the morgue in Pristina on Tuesday to demand that Serb authorities release the 40 bodies, three weeks after the alleged massacre galvanized the latest international push for Kosovo peace talks.
Although peace monitors reported seeing 45 bodies soon after the Jan. 15 attack, only 40 bodies were turned over to authorities. The villagers said Tuesday they wouldn't leave until they had been handed all the corpses for burial.
``We will feel more at peace,'' said Emini, whose arm bore a wound he said was inflicted by a Serb bullet during the attack.
His brother, the father of five children 10 and under, was in front of him when Serb police started shooting, he said.
Serb authorities maintain the clash was a fight against rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army. When the shooting was over, the bodies of at least 38 men of all ages, a woman and a 12-year-old boy were scattered in the village and gullies. When reporters and international monitors found them on Jan. 16, some bodies had their eyes gouged out; one old man had his head cut off.
Serb police removed the bodies for autopsies by Serb and Finnish forensic teams. They have refused to release the dead to any but their families and only after they have been officially identified. Eleven of the bodies have not yet been identified.
Many Racak villagers are afraid to come to Pristina for fear of arrest.
The families, scattered to surrounding villages by the attack, say they will take the bodies only if Serbs release all of them at once for burial.
``We are very unhappy, but what can we do?'' asked Eyra Begiri, wounded in the attack that killed her 20-year-old son, when morgue workers left her and the others waiting in the cold outside.
Villagers say they heard a television report overnight that they could finally pick up the bodies Tuesday.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe intervened on their behalf Tuesday, but failed to win the release of the bodies. It promised to keep trying.
``We want to make sure that this funeral is carried out in a dignified manner,'' said Michael Peterson of OSCE, turned away at the morgue.
When the funeral finally does take place, a plot is ready on a hill overlooking the now-ruined village of Racak.
It will be called ``The Graveyard of Heroes,'' said the villagers, some defiant in their loss, some simply devastated.
``They died together,'' Emini said. ``They will be buried together.''