With flowers, tears and bowed heads, the citizens of Kosovo held their annual commemoration day for the 1,650 people still unaccounted for since the country’s 1998-99 war.
People gathered Friday at the Grieving Valley in the village of Meja, 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of the capital Pristina, where 19 years ago 376 Albanian civilians were killed by the Serb army and paramilitary troops.
The war left some 10,000 dead and ended after NATO intervened on behalf of the region’s Albanian majority.
Victims’ family members expressed anger that Kosovo’s post-war governments had not renovated the symbolic cemetery where Muslims and Christians are buried at the same place, the only one in the country.
Blerim Maloku, whose father Mergim was slain during the war, urged authorities not to “treat us badly anymore” and fulfil their promise to renovate the cemetery.
A European Union mission monitoring justice in Kosovo said 506 victims overall have been returned to their families.
“Families need closure to their painful past and the tragic loss that they have suffered,” said Alexandra Papadopoulou, the group’s head.
Kosovo is run by former independence fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army — President Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.
Haradinaj went to the ceremony in Meja, laying bouquets of flowers at some headstones, and pledged to renovate the cemetery.
Thaci did not go to Meja but issued a statement.
“The perpetrators of the crimes, massacres, deportations, disappearances and other forms of systematic murders of our citizens must be brought to justice,” he said.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia has not recognized.
Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.