Thursday, 23 April 2015

Kosova: Victims of Kosovo war mass grave identified

The last batch of 21 remains out of the total 54 Kosovo Albanians discovered at a mass grave have been identified and returned to their families in Kosovo’s capital Pristina, it was announced Thursday [16 April 2015].

The 21 Kosovo Albanians were among 54 victims, who were killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo War and later discovered at a mass grave in Serbia’s Rudnitsa village near Raska city in April 2014.

Out of these 21 victims, 19 belonged to the same family, who had the surname Morina, Pristina’s Forensic Medicine Center Director Arsim Gerxhaliu said. The victims are expected to be buried after a funeral ceremony Friday.

In total, 53 of the 54 victims had been identified, Gerxhaliu said, adding that the remaining unidentified victim was believed to be a refugee or a guest who happened to be at the wrong place at a wrong time.

On April 2, 2015, 28 out of these 53 victims were handed over to families after identification. Moreover, on Sept. 18, 2014, four out of these 54 victims were returned to their families.

All victims are believed to have been killed by the Serbian military and paramilitary units during the war.

Since the Kosovo War, hundreds of people, mostly Albanians remain missing.

The Kosovo War was an armed conflict between Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Liberation Army between February 28, 1998, and June 11, 1999.

After Serbs attempted ethnic cleansing of Albanians, NATO intervened and ended the war with airstrikes in 1999.

Thursday 23 April 2015

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Moroccan activists fight to give dead migrants dignified burial

At least 700 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean sea after their boat sunk on Saturday evening. There were only 28 survivors, and only 24 bodies were recovered, according to the Italian coast guard. This follows Monday’s tragedy, which saw another 400 people lose their lives. Each time, only a tiny number of bodies are ever recovered. The rest either lie on the seabed or wash up on the shores of Mediterranean countries like Morocco, where fellow migrants and activists struggle to give as many as they can a dignified burial.

In 2014, an estimated 3,500 migrants died while attempting to make the crossing over the Mediterranean, according to figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The 2015 death toll is set to surpass this amount.

In most cases, the only other way to recover the bodies of migrants is to wait until the currents wash them ashore. Once washed up along Mediterranean coastlines, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of individual countries.

Laetitia Tura is the co-producer of "The Messengers", a documentary film that examines how the bodies of dead migrants are handled.

"[In Tunisia] bodies that routinely float ashore are treated like waste by the authorities. They're piled up in landfills well out of sight. In 2011, authorities dug a mass grave for the bodies. But in Tunisia, like elsewhere, the struggle to ensure that these migrants are given a dignified burial is above all the fruit of a collective effort led by individuals and NGOs."

Sédrik actively takes part in one such initiative to identify migrant bodies that appear on the shores of Morocco. Sédrik is from Cameroon and when he first came to Morocco he didn’t have papers. However, he gained legal status in a government-run amnesty programme and is now a legal resident. Sédrik keeps close tabs on migrants passing through Tangier on their way to Europe.

I'm often called to the morgue to try and identify the bodies of dead migrants. In Tangier, the 'mortician' [Editor's note: an employee of the morgue] is very cooperative. If any documents have been found with the bodies, he shares them with us. However, most of the time, migrants don’t carry identification.

The Tangier mortician also gives us time to identify the bodies. It's usually very difficult to recognise them as the bodies have already partly decomposed in the water.

Most bodies, however, are never actually identified. If migrants don't stop in Tangier before heading out to sea, other migrants don't know them and it's almost impossible to identify them.

"The cost of repatriating bodies is huge"

Hicham Rachidi is the secretary general of GADEM, an NGO dedicated to promoting migrant rights in Morocco. His NGO closely follows the drawn-out process of burying the bodies.

In general, bodies are buried where they are found. They are very rarely repatriated because the cost of doing so is always huge.

In 2004, the royal cabinet [Editor's note: a cabinet that consists of the King and his advisors] intervened to repatriate the bodies of 43 young Moroccans that had washed up on Spanish shores. The operation was very expensive and lasted months. They carried out DNA tests on the families, repatriated the bodies and organised burials. It cost 2,800 Euros to repatriate each body. But this isn't a regular occurrence.

A group of Moroccans also drowned off the coast of Soussa in Tunisia, but their bodies were never repatriated. It was really tough for the families. They saw the bodies of their loved ones in reports filmed by French broadcaster TV5 Monde but they never saw them for themselves.

"Bodies that aren't identified are given anonymous burials by local municipalities"

Most of those who try to cross the Mediterranean in boats are Sub-Saharan African migrants. It's appalling to see the number of bodies that wash ashore each year.

If they are identified, the job of handling the burial passes to the family or friends of the victims. In Casablanca, a Catholic burial costs around 800 euros. Occasionally, because it is cheaper, Christians are buried in Muslim cemeteries.

European countries are also confronting the difficulty of dealing with bodies. There is no EU-wide system in place to identify the corpses, so European countries carry out the task without cross-border cooperation. The job of identifying them is further complicated by the fact that migrants rarely carry documents.

Sara Prestianni works for Cimade, an NGO that promotes migrants' rights. She explains that the Italian system – a collaboration between scientists and authorities at the local and national level – is relatively organised and "at the end of this identification process, migrants have the right to be buried in a grave in their name. Local town councils handle the burials." In Spain, however, most of the bodies are buried in unmarked graves. In Greece, she adds, "despite the efforts of migrant NGOs, unidentified bodies often pile up in mass graves".

Thursday 23 April 2015

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17 Indian pilgrims killed in Nepal accident, bodies identified

At least 17 Indian pilgrims were killed and 28 others injured on Wednesday when a bus carrying them plunged into a river while negotiating a sharp bend along a downhill section of the Prithvi Highway in Nepal, police said.

According to Superintendent of Police Narayan Singh Khadka, the accident took place at 6.40 a.m. when the bus carrying 45 Indian pilgrims from Gujarat skidded off the Prithvi Highway, rolled down 200 metres and plunged into Jhyapre river in Dhading district, some 50 km west of Kathmandu.

Khadka said 14 people died on the spot while three others succumbed in hospital.

The 45 Indian pilgrims aboard the bus were returning to Gorakhpur in India after visiting the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu.

The injured were taken to various hospitals in Kathmandu, including the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), Vayodha Hospital, Shahid Memorial Hospital and Norvic Hospital.

Personnel of the army, police and armed police along with local residents carried out the rescue work at the accident site.

The Armed Police Force of Nepal said 14 of the 17 killed in the accident belonged to Surendranagar village in Gujarat.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae visited the various hospitals to meet the injured pilgrims, the embassy said in a statement.

“Latest position on bus accident on Wednesday — 17 dead, 27 injured, five critical and one missing. Our consular team is on the spot. We are sending injured to different hospitals for treatment,” the embassy said.

It further added that the bus, carrying around 45 Indian pilgrims, was an Indian registered vehicle, operated by Shri Hari Tours & Travels of Gujarat state bearing registration number GJ14X9900.

Thursday 23 April 2015

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'Many' more human remains found at MH17 crash site

Dutch investigators have recovered "many" more body parts and pieces of wreckage after resuming their search at the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane crash site in Ukraine, the Netherlands said today.

All 298 passengers and crew onboard the aircrraft – most of them Dutch – died when it was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine last year.

"Many human remains have been found in the first few days of this mission," the Dutch justice ministry said in a statement.

Investigators also recovered around 50 cubic metres of plane wreckage as well as personal effects including jewellery, passports and photographs.

Everything that has been found will be taken to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and from there to the Netherlands.

The latest search operation started last week in Petropavlivka, about 10km west of Grabove where most of the debris fell.

The Boeing 777 was flying at high altitude when it was shot down on July 17.

The remains of all but two victims, both Dutch, have been identified.

Kiev and the West claim that the plane was shot down by the separatists using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charges, pointing the finger at Kiev.

The Netherlands has been charged with leading the investigation into the cause of the incident and identifying the victims of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

‘Many’ human remains found at MH17 crash site, say Dutch investigators

THursday 23 April 2015

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