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21. 08. 2018.

Author: Jelena L. Petkovic ???source???: UNS

Two Decades from Perenić and Slavuj Abductions: Investigation Road Signs are There, but the Road is Closed

Even though immediately after the 21st of August 1998 abductions of Radio Priština's journalists Ranko Perenić and Djuro Slavuj their car and equipment were spotted in Orahovac, there is no official feedback from the police force nor the prosecutor's office whether any witnesses or potential perpetrators had been brought in for questioning. Even the members of their families have never been questioned nor deposed.

Today, we commemorate twenty years since Ranko Perenić and Djuro Slavuj departed for their work assignment and never came back. For two decades now, their families, friends and colleagues have known that they departed Orahovac for the Zočište Monastery to speak to monks just released from KLA captivity. This is the very last piece of news about them.

- I cannot believe that there has been no information, nothing for 20 years. Ranko went to work that day, to provide bread and butter for his family, and he never came back. I am sad, unhappy, but what is smothering me more than anything is the indifference of people, the lack of humanity. Is it possible that they remember them only once a year? None of the authorities contacted us all these years, they did not ask where we were nor how we have been, and then we heard that the investigation was closed. I cannot comprehend that. I am asking for the investigation to be reopened and I will never give up on that request - Ranko's wife Snežana Perenić confided to the Journalists' Association of Serbia (UNS). 

Last year, the Perenić family learnt that EULEX, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, already closed the investigation in 2013. In the reasoning behind such a decision, former EULEX Prosecutor Maurizio Salustro stated, among other arguments, that "on the basis of information available, the victims went to Velika Hoča on August 21, 1998 in order to perform a work assignment. On their way back, they were intercepted by an armed group of individuals wearing KLA insignia, who threatened them using their fire arms and took them in an unknown direction". In the end, the conclusion - investigation closed. 

Journalists' Association of Serbia (UNS) has contacted the OSCE Mission in Belgrade several times, where Mr. Salustro is now employed, by sending interview request letters. We have never received any answer.

Given that neither the prosecutors nor the investigators nor the police have ever interviewed the family and colleagues of Perenić and Slavuj, which is a common procedure in all investigations, the logical conclusion is that there was no investigation at all to begin with.

In 2016, UNS initiated a new investigative research phase within its Dossier on Abducted and Murdered Journalists in Kosovo, whose fates and circumstances are not known to date, including who murdered them and who instructed the perpetrators to commit these atrocious crimes. Shortly after the aforementioned new phase began, UNS came across information that we believe could be used as investigation road signs.

UNS learnt that the New York Times reporter Mike O'Connor saw the vehicle in which Perenić and Slavuj were taken away after the abduction had happened.

- By coincidence, I saw one of the Yugoslav Army reports on the wiretapping of the KLA. On the day when Ranko Perenić and Djuro Slavuj were abducted, the report read: "Two packages were brought to Bela Crkva" (settlement in Orahovac). I immediately sent the New York Times journalist Mike O'Connor there. When he returned, he asked me for the serial number of their voice recorder. I knew the number, because I personally bought the said voice recorder. He saw the "Sony" voice recorder that Ranko and Djuro took to the field. O'Connor also saw a blue "Zastava 128" vehicle with the mentioned voice recorder still in it. He asked the KLA commanders where the people from the car were, and they replied that they did not know anything, that they found the car as is - Milivoje Miki Mihajlović, the former Radio Priština Editor and the Priština Media Center Manager, a key information source for all Kosovo-based media outlets in 1998 and 1999, told to UNS.

Shaun Byrnes, the Head of the US Kosovo Diplomatic Observer mission, who stayed in Kosovo in 1998, told UNS that, in the year when Perenić and Slavuj were abducted, Fatmir Limaj had the most influence in the area they went missing in. Moreover, he stated that this was an area of conflicting influences with Pastrik-based KLA headquartered in Prizren also exerting its authority. In addition, this location was also accessed by units controlled by Ramush Haradinaj.

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