President Vjosa Osmani’s speech on the 23rd anniversary of the Reçak Massacre
Honourable Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Konjufca
Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Kurti
Distinguished representatives of the Government of Kosovo,
Honourable Ambassador Hovenier and Ambassador Szunyog,
Honourable chairman Aliu
Dear families of the victims of the Reçak massacre
Twenty-three years ago, not far from the place where today everyone is paying their respects, the world was horrified and finally understood from the macabre images of the Reçak massacre the crime that happened to the innocent Albanian civilian population. The civilians were brutally killed by the forces of Milosevic's genocidal regime on the morning of the fateful day.
That day, Bebushi Hill, as it is known by the locals, was a reflection of the crime against humanity, a reflection of the crime against the Albanians, a reflection of the extermination and genocidal intent of the Milosevic regime, a reflection of the massacres of people in their homes who faced the brutality of the Serbian police and military forces.
During the ten hours of the attack, there were killings in other parts of the village as well, and rightly so did the then head of the OSCE verification mission, Mr. William Walker, from what he saw at the scene, as he himself had stated at the time described without any hesitation the act as a horrific massacre and a grave crime against humanity.
Representatives of the international community present at the scene were the hallmark of the testimony of this macabre act and once the most authentic witnesses along with the survivors of the crime, witnesses of the barbarism of Milosevic's power which aimed to exterminate the Albanians, and did so before eyes of the whole world.
The tendency to deny the Reçak massacre is a clear attempt to rehabilitate those who committed the crime. But propaganda can never change historical facts. And especially not the truth that has happened in front of the eyes of the whole world. There was a crime against humanity in Reçak, but also the manifestation of the intention of Serbia at that time to exterminate the Albanians from the face of the earth, and Reçak is one of the many horrible massacres where this intention was proven.
Denying the facts of war through the rehabilitation of war criminals is a repetition of the crime. But the truth about Reçak is far more powerful than any propaganda by the close associates of the Milosevic regime.
Documented history cannot be changed nor is it subject to interpretation. For a crime such as the Reçak massacre, propagandists should feel sorrow and at the same time apologize and bring perpetrators to justice!
In the memorial grave complex we visited today, only one grave is still empty, as the clearest evidence of the crime of February 15, 1999. The saga is not over yet for the Metushi family. The fate of their mother Sahide hangs over their freedom, but also our freedom. They did not stop searching for her from the very day but have received no news as yet. Not even a word about the over 1600 other forcibly missing from the last war, who are our daily duty and without whom our freedom will always remain unfulfilled.
Honourable ambassadors, dear participants,
Representatives of institutions,
Each of these tombs has a horror story. Each grave testifies to everything. All these graves together constitute an argumented, uncontested and documented evidence.
"It was a deliberate and non-selective act of murder, done to create fear among the people of Kosovo," said the then US President Bill Clinton.
This massacre marked the most important turning point of the war period in Kosovo, as world diplomacy intensified its efforts to stop the barbarism against the Albanian people of Kosovo.
At the same time, it intensified the efforts of KLA girls and boys for the freedom of our country.
The images from Reçak touched not only the conscience of ordinary people everywhere around the globe but also that of world diplomacy.
Nearly two months later, NATO launched a campaign of airstrikes on Serbia's military targets, forcing it to leave Kosovo once and for all on March 24, 1999.
Today, Reçak and Kosovo are free thanks to the engagements and the sacrifice of the people of Kosovo, as well as thanks to the help of our allies of the democratic world.
By commemorating every year the victims of the Reçak Massacre, as well as all the victims of the massacres throughout Kosovo, we remember and repeat the truth, and nothing but the truth, which we must tell here and everywhere around the world.
Reçak is our constant pain and is the need to maintain peace and human dignity. This place represents the beginning of the end of the Serbian regime's efforts to exterminate the Albanians. Reçak is one of the places where our freedom began to take shape.
Therefore today, from this very spot, we bow before all civilian victims, honour their memory, all the heroes and all the martyrs, we share with the families and loudly reiterate the only truth, that the people of Kosovo were victims of a regime genocide that is still awaiting justice!
Today, together with the leaders of the institutions, we visited the scene of the crime at Bebushi Hill. The place where all these civilians were massacred, where we heard the horror stories of those few survivors. From none of them can you ever hear a request for revenge, only a request for justice. Justice is the only thing we will always seek.
May the memory of all those who fell in Reçak be eternal!