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Forging Kosovo: Between Dependence, Independence, and Interdependence

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Edited By Arben Hajrullahu and Anton Vukpalaj

For many areas of social science research, including conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and international state-building, Kosovo remains a uniquely interesting and relevant case. This book is motivated by the belief that there is much to be gained, analytically and empirically, from bringing together local scholarship that focuses on Kosovo-specific issues. It helps understand how pathdependent historical legacies set in motion prior to and during the war for independence, coupled with contemporary processes of dependence on and interdependence with external actors, shaped contemporary Kosovo society and institutions. It brings together a methodologically diverse set of local scholarly perspectives on contemporary political, legal and societal developments in Kosovo.

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“No Bodies-No Crimes”: The Reburial Operations of the Serbian Forces in Kosovo in 1999

Anton Vukpalaj

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Abstract This chapter analyses the specific operation of the Serbian forces named asanacija (sanitization) decided by Slobodan Milošević and his most trusted subordinates at the end of March 1999 which consisted on exhumation and reburial of at least 944 bodies of Kosovo-Albanian civilians massacred in Kosovo by Serbian forces. After the massacres of civilians, Serbian forces proceeded with exhumation of the bodies from the mass graves where they have been initially buried. Bodies were exhumed by heavy machinery, transported by trucks and reburied in different locations in Serbia, more than 400 kilometres from the initial mass graves. The chapter analyses public documents from the trials of the Serbian leadership by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and compares the operation to the similar operations conducted by Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995 as well as to the similar operations of the Nazis during the Second World War. The chapter alleges that the aim of operation asanacija was to debunk claims of the international community that Serbian forces committed ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and to maintain Serbia’s supremacy over the coming negotiations on Kosovo. The chapter concludes by showing that having gone defensive after NATO bombing, the concealment of crimes contributed to the overall objective of the Serbian regime consisting of ethnically “cleansing” Kosovo from its vast majority Kosovo-Albanian population.

Keywords: Kosovo, Serbia, reburial operations, mass graves

From March to June 1999, Serbian forces had orchestrated an operation under the cover name asanacija...

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