Kosovar President Hashim Thaci on December 10 visited the sight of a mass killing in 1999 of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces, calling on Belgrade to apologize for what he says were “crimes against humanity.”
To mark International Human Rights Day, Thaci, a former military commander of forces who fought for Kosovo’s independence, visited the southern village of Recak, 32 kilometers south of the capital, Pristina.
Twenty years ago, Serbian forces killed 45 ethnic Albanians in the village, a move that served as an impetus for NATO to launch an air campaign against Serbia to end the 1998-1999 war.
The massacre in the village was “the culmination point of the massacres and crimes against humanity committed by the Serbian state against Kosovo,” Thaci said.
“The future is not built by denying crimes and even labeling or insulting civilians killed in Kosovo,” he added.
Belgrade maintains that the people killed in Recak were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army who died in combat with state security forces.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said claims of a massacre at Recak are fabricated, according to a December 5 statement.
Bilateral relations can be “built only when the Serb leadership acknowledges the accountability and apologizes for the crimes committed in Kosovo,” Thaci told Serbia.
Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations are sour despite eight years of talks that have been mediated by the European Union.
The EU has said the events in Recak were “undeniable,” and a U.S. Embassy statement on December 7 urged “Kosovo and Serbia to return to the table and refocus their energies on the future by normalizing relations.”
About 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serbian government crackdown on Kosovo’s pro-independence forces in 1998-1999.
A NATO air campaign lasting 78 days ended Serbian rule in Kosovo and the UN governed the province until 2008 when Kosovo declared independence.