Serbs seek help to find missing Kosovo relatives
BELGRADE, May 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Several hundred relatives of Serbs missing in Kosovo marched in Belgrade on Wednesday calling for help to find their loved ones.
They carried pictures of those missing and banners saying: "Where are our children?" and "Return those dearest to us".
At the same time in Kosovo, a multi-ethnic council demanded that Yugoslavia hand over all ethnic Albanian prisoners held in Serbian prisons to its U.N.-led administration (UNMIK).
It made no mention of the Serbs missing in the province.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in its latest report that 1,279 ethnic Albanians were still in prisons in Serbia and that 3,000 people were still missing. Most were Kosovo Albanians, but the figure also included Serbs and other minority groups.
In the Yugoslav capital, the Belgrade-based Association of Families of Kidnapped Persons from Kosovo, which organized Wednesday's rally, said 1,200 Serbs and other non-Albanians had been kidnapped in Kosovo since 1998.
"Seventy-five percent of the total figure are people who were kidnapped since KFOR (NATO-led peacekeepers) came to Kosovo," the head of the organization, Ranko Djinovic, told reporters.
"We are calling all those who can in the UN Mission in Kosovo, in KFOR to help us," said Djinovic.
He said families of the missing reported that their relatives had been kidnapped by armed people in uniforms of the now disbanded ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army.
KFOR peacekeepers took control of Serbia's Kosovo province last June following NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia over Belgrade's repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.
Kosovo's Serbs have since been the targets of revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians.
"CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE"
The Serbian demonstrators on Wednesday went to embassies of KFOR countries to ask for help to find those missing. They had earlier submitted a plea to Serb authorities.
"No one is saying anything about this problem. It is a conspiracy of silence we want to break," Djinovic said.
Serbian Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic said separately on Wednesday that families knew the whereabouts of imprisoned Albanians in Serbia, but this was not the case with Serbs missing in Kosovo.
"The fate of abducted and missing Serbs is completely unknown and unclear. It is not known where they are, if they are alive and visits or contacts with these persons are impossible," Jankovic was quoted as saying by state news agency Tanjug.
The Humanitarian Law Fund in Belgrade, which follows the issue of missing people, said it had registered some 900 non-Albanians missing in Kosovo.
Valentina Tanaskovic, one of the marchers in Belgrade, said her father and boyfriend had disappeared: "We came out today to tell the whole world, to tell our people that we are also asking for our right, for our dearest ones, our blood to be returned to us."