"My son witnessed atrocious crimes, that's why he died"
Murder of Aleksandar Simovic Sima: There are witnesses of kidnapping, but kidnappers and murderers are at largeJelena L. PetkovicSource: UNS
My son Aleksandar, being an interpreter at the Center for Peace and Tolerance in Pristina, witnessed horror scenes. He saw the mutilated bodies of 14 Serb reapers in the village of Staro Gracko, close to Lipljan. He witnessed the discovery of the beheaded grandma Ljubica Vujovic. Her body was in the bathtub, and her head was next to it. Prior to that, during the bombing, three workers at the Faculty of Economics had been killed while on duty to protect the property from vandals. He witnessed atrocious crimes. I guess that is why he was removed – accounts in a quiet voice the teary-eyed Stevan Simovic, the father of the killed Aleksandar Simovic Sima, an interpreter at the Center for Peace and Tolerance and a journalist of the Swiss Media Action International, whose boss was Tim Coleman.
On 21 August 1999, Aleksandar Simovic and his Albanian friend were kidnapped by people in black uniforms with red markings on their arms and taken in an unknown direction. Aleksandar's friend was released afterwards. The documents of the UNMIK Missing Persons Unit read: "When Aleksandar was captured, an Albanian was with him. That Albanian was released the next day. Aleksandar has since disappeared without a trace."
- It was Saturday, and since that day my family and I have been living in hell. I stayed in Pristina for 30 more days and went here and there from bad to worse hoping to find him. I immediately reported his disappearance to everyone: KFOR, UNMIK, the Church Committee, the Red Cross ... I went to the UNMIK Police Headquarters, asked for an escort to approach Agim Ceku, who was awarded the rank general during the SFRY, and beg him, on bended knee, if necessary, to release him. A benevolent Albanian advised me not to approach Ceku alone, and when I asked a senior UNMIK officer for help, he answered - we do not co-operate with terrorists - underlines Aleksandar's father.
UNMIK documents also provide extensive detail about the abduction, including the name of a witness (V. S.), who described the last meeting with Aleksandar Simovic, a day before the kidnapping - on 20 August 1999, in Qafa jazz club. The documents also provide details of a woman who warned Simovic at the time to be careful after she had been at a table with three KLA members that she recognized “from an earlier encounter, in Tetovo, Macedonia".
"Intel messages" states - "he was kidnapped on 21 August 1999 from the Picasso café in Pristina. He was there with his Albanian friend. During the evening, two unknown Albanians came in the café and took Sima and his friend away. Afterwards the Albanian was taken back but Sima was not. There is no information about the Albanian who was with Sima, but the owner of that café knows that Albanian (The document then provides the first name of the owner of the café)."
On 22 February 2000, the UNMIK Missing Persons Unit requested information related to Aleksandar Simovic from UNMIK Police Regional Investigation Units, the Central Criminal Investigation Unit (CCIU), the Border Police, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and KFOR. The memorandum of the letter provides a summary of an incident that occurred the evening before his disappearance:
"Between 23:00 and 23:59 20-08-1999, Simovic was at the Pristina bar Qafa with a group of foreign journalists and NGO international and local employees, one of whom was V.S. Simovic spoke Serbian to a female ex-colleague about nationalism and the war and the woman recommended caution. The woman went to a table at which KLA members were sitting and returned to Simovic, repeating that he should exercise caution. Simovic’s group left soon after and the woman appeared nervous..."
- I cannot tell you exactly whether he was kidnapped in the Picasso café. But I know that nobody would lift a finger to discover the truth. After that, I often called the owner of the café, Agron Dusi, called Titi, and his mother would always answer the phone. I think she is a Serb woman married to an Albanian. She kept repeating - we must not say anything, we must not say anything and hanged up. I learned the details you mentioned from Aleksandar's colleague who had worked with him at that Swiss firm. However, our Aleksandar did not die, he is alive! As the great statesman Gabriel Mirabeau said: "He who dies honorably will be remembered for hundreds of years, and he who lives dishonorably will be forgotten even by his own children."’ Aleksandar cannot be forgotten, he lives with us. I hope that we will soon embrace in another world - says Stevan Simovic.
Tomb for the soul
The tragic news was received by the parents on the last day of October, when a UNMIK police officer came to their house in Belgrade. The remains had been found in Gornja Obrina, in the municipality of Glogovac.
- He told us the news that defeated us - the remains of his corpse had been found. The next day, on 1 November, he came again and said - there is no corpse, only some small bones. Then on November 15 we went to Kursumlija to take the remains and we brought them to Belgrade. The funeral was on 18 November at the Lesce cemetery. What did we bury? We buried memories. The ancient Greeks had a custom worthy of respect. They built empty tombs, the so-called cenotaphs, for people killed in fires or floods, because they say the body is earth, air and water, and the soul is a sanctuary and it should be commemorated by a monument. Thus, we erected a monument to our Aleksandar.
A four-page UNMIK Police report number TD/738/01, dated 8 June 2001, provides details of the discovery of mortal remains in a forest in Glogovac municipality: "In the meanwhile, he found some human bones, skull and a pair of shoes lying in the forest. The patrol unit reached at the spot and found the same things. After that the investigations unit approached the scene, cordoned the scene, Pristina control informed and asked them to inform Forensic Science unit and also the Investigating Judge and the RMS. The RMS called back and told that they are not going to deal this case and also the Forensic Unit informed us that its growing darkness now and they will come in the morning…Some photos of the scene taken, case has been registered and it will be handed over to the unit coming from Pristina.“
- I assume they cut our son’s head and that only some small bones of the skull were buried. However, we are a family that does not hate. There is no hatred gene in our being, we have been brought up that way and we have lived tolerantly alongside everyone.
The ones who are dreaming with open eyes
Back at primary school, Aleksandar Simovic took part in literary competitions. He was awarded the first prize by the children's magazine "Zmaj". In addition to being fond of music and chess, he was a voracious reader.
- He read all the classics; he particularly adored Borges, our writers Brana Scepanovic, Danilo Kis, Borislav Pekic, and the French classics. I will tell you something more, when he socialized with the Albanians, his school friends would say: ‘’you are crazy, why are you hanging out with him?’’ However, he was open-minded; he did not care about nationality. People would say that Edgar Alan Poe, the great American writer, was “mad”, and he would reply: ‘’It is still debated whether madness is the highest level of intelligence, because a sick mind does not create everything that is glorious, magnificent and goes beyond ordinary common sense.’’ And go on to say that those who dream with open eyes know much more than those who dream only while sleeping. Our average people would declare mad every exceptional man out of pure envy or jealousy. Could anyone who is mad have written these verses, I ask you?
Just a few moments remained
Shortly before his kidnapping, Aleksandar Simovic wrote these sentences titled "Last Minutes of a Death Convict":
"How much strength does death give to life? I do not want to wait any longer; I just want the fear and pain to disappear at the edge of the blade that the force of gravity will ruthlessly pull to my neck somewhat more elongated than usual. Is there anyone who would want what I am today, alive just another two meters of the blade's path to my head? I'm looking at the restlessly stirring ones who are free according to the human law and waiting for me to bring joy to their lives and make them more valuable by my death. I, who own only the last moment, which is as long as the flash of light on the blade of the guillotine? ... I am now kneeling and waiting, because only a few moments remain, which are leaving me in the same, monotonous rhythm of life that I am accustomed to. Only one more question is bothering me. Will my eyes open again, if I close them now, and will I see the lady in the first row that is too close to the scaffold with the last ray of light that falls into my pupils? Will I see my blood dirty her white formal dress?"
Posthumously, the Literary Society of Kosovo and Metohija has published two books by Aleksandar Simovic.
- After the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement, when Slobodan Milosevic congratulated the citizens on the peace, life unworthy of man ensued for the Serbs, the Roma and honorable Albanians in Pristina. Aleksandar was employed in the post office, and studied electrical engineering in Pristina. After the arrival of international troops in Kosovo, he was first employed at the Center for Peace and Tolerance, formed by the then authorities from Belgrade. Since they did not pay, he moved to the Swiss agency Media Action International; where he was an angry opponent of the political model imposed by them. He came into conflict with this boss and got fired a day before his kidnapping.
That is a war crime
Former boss of Aleksandar Simovic, Tim Coleman, who lives in the UK today, did not respond to the invitation of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia to talk about Simovic.
The UNMIK Human Rights Advisory Panel, upon in-depth analysis of what the mission had done to investigate the crimes of abduction and murder of Aleksandar Simovic in its opinion of 2015, stated that "UNMIK should publicly acknowledge, including through the media, responsibility with respect to UNMIK’s failure to adequately investigate the abduction and murder of Aleksandar Simovic ".
The Panel also advised UNMIK to request the competent authorities in Kosovo to take all possible steps to ensure the continuation of the criminal investigation.
Last year, the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (JAS) found out that the murder of journalist and translator Aleksandar Simovic Sima is the only one of the 14 cases of killed and kidnapped journalists and media workers in Kosovo that EULEX investigated as a war crime.
- It is a war crime through and through – said Alexandra Papadopoulou, EULEX Head of Mission, for JAS, but did not have an answer to the question whether this crime would come before the Specialist Chambers for war crimes of the KLA in the Hague.
Kidnappers and killers have not been found to date.
Appeal for a monument
- I was in the Memorial Room for Victims of Kosovo and Metohija in Belgrade and it seemed to me that these pictures are crying, and saying - we do not want to be in the concentration camp, we want to see the light, the sunshine. Our authorities should erect a monument to those victims, in the sun, in a park, rather than leaving their pictures stuck in a ghetto, indoors. Because they are not dead, they have proven by their calvary that they are alive and that they will live on.
- I sued UNMIK, the Government of Kosovo and the company in which he had worked. When the court summons came I could not leave because I was very ill. I went to the post office to send a letter to the court, and our post said: ‘’we cannot guarantee that it will arrive.’’ Their letter to me can reach me; however, I cannot send a letter to the city where I have lived. In the end I received a notification - the party failed to respond to the summons. That is the end of the dispute.