Calling for Justice for the Bytyqi Brothers

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 22, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing a concurrent resolution calling upon the government of Serbia to bring to justice those responsible for the murders of Ylli, Agron and Mehmet Bytyqi in July 1999. The resolution also calls on our government to do what it can to encourage and assist a successful prosecution of the case. I want to thank my fellow colleague from New York, Mr. Grimm, for co-sponsoring this resolution.

The three Bytyqi brothers were American citizens. Their ethnic Albanian family emigrated to the United States from Kosovo, and some family members reside in my district on Long Island. During the Kosovo conflict which prompted the NATO air campaign against Serbia, the brothers traveled to the region to fight. Remaining in Kosovo after a cease fire agreement ended the conflict, the three young men escorted an ethnic Romani neighbor and his family from Kosovo to Serbian controlled territory, where they would be safer. Accidently straying across the border, they were detained by police in southern Serbia and then sentenced for illegally entering the country. When released from prison, they were not set free but taken to a Ministry of Interior special forces training camp where they were executed and buried in a mass grave with the bodies of dozens of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.

To be clear, the Bytyqi brothers were not sentenced for any crime other than illegal entry. They were not afforded an opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law. They were not given a fair and public trial. They were shot, in cold blood, by a paramilitary unit working under the Ministry of Interior.

In 1999, Serbia was under the rule of Slobodan Milosevic, whose regime fomented ethnic hatred and was responsible for some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II. Today, Serbia is a very different place, moving forward in its democratic development, improving relations with its neighbors and advancing on its path toward European integration. In doing so, it has worked to prosecute many of the crimes committed in the Milosevic era. It is unfortunate, however, that those responsible for the murders of the Bytyqi brothers continue to elude justice.

Our government should do everything it can to ensure the successful prosecution of those responsible for the murders of U.S. citizens abroad. It should provide resources as needed, and it should make it clear to the authorities in Belgrade that inaction does have repercussions on bilateral relations. This resolution encourages just that. The resolution will also hopefully convey to the Serbian authorities the concerns of the U.S. Congress, and it is my hope they will respond by removing any protection given to the perpetrators of this crime and prosecuting them in a court of law.
Hopefully, Serbia's political leaders will not only recognize the seriousness which we attach to this case but also understand that it is in Serbia's interest to let justice work to sever the ties with the Milosevic past that have held the country back from a Europe where it otherwise belongs.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to support this resolution and its passage in this Congress.