On this day exactly 24 years ago, a crime took place in the Panda Café in Pec. The first 19 years after the crime were marked by the belief that the crime was committed by members of the KLA. Until December 2013. to this day, the truth about this crime has not been revealed, nor has anyone been held accountable for it.
In the evening, two assailants dressed in black and wearing balaclavas stormed the “Panda” cafe, a popular gathering place for high-school students, and shot six young men of Serbian nationality with automatic weapons. The youngest of the murdered was 15 years old, the oldest 25 years old. To this day, the truth about this crime has not been revealed, nor has anyone been held accountable.
The first fifteen years after the crime were marked by the belief that the crime was committed by members of the KLA. Until December 2013, when Aleksandar Vučić, then First Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Office for the Coordination of Security Services, stated on TV Pink’s programme „Teška reč“ that “there are many terrible things that we will have to face, such as the murders of Serbs in the ‘Panda’ cafe in Kosovo in 1998, which there is no evidence to prove were carried out by Albanians, as has been assumed”.
This statement caused a turning point. The media, which until then had written unusually little about the event and even ignored its anniversaries, suddenly started to cover the crime more extensively. Fewer of them tried to report objectively on the event, and speculations and theories about who was guilty, MI-6, SAS, Legija, Rade Markovic, etc., began to appear in greater numbers.
Vučić continued with occasional statements, usually vague, more hints than information. The state took action, the Organised Crime Prosecutor’s Office took over. But it all came down to media reports. No one was charged, no one was convicted, neither for the crime nor for the cover-up. The families are still waiting for answers.
Below, we publish parts of the media captions from last year’s Istinomer, collected by Istinomer as part of the Amnesia section. In addition to visuals, this section presents to the public the way in which the media in Serbia deal with issues important for the development of society and the way in which they act as intermediaries between citizens and public officials.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he had information and knowledge about the murder of six young Serbs in Pec in 1998, for which no one has yet been held accountable.
“I have information and knowledge, but our competent authorities are looking for complete evidence to shed light on this heinous crime.” As far as Serbia and I personally are concerned, the parents of the victims can be absolutely sure that we will not hide the truth, no matter who participated in this terrible and serious crime, whether it was Albanians or Serbs, which I think would surprise many people,” said Vucic.
Nikola Šainović, then Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Kosovo, triumphantly announced that the ‘Panda’ case had been solved.
“When this group was arrested, a friend from SUP Pec told me in confidence that these Albanians had nothing to do with Panda, that they were just chickens,” Ljubomir Ristic, the father of the murdered Svetislav, recalled Šainovic.
Ivan Obradović (15), Vukota Gvozdenović (16), Svetislav Ristić (18), Zoran Stanojević (18), Ivan Radević (24) and Dragan Trifović (18) were killed in ‘Panda’ on December 14, 1998, and wounded Vlado Lončarević (18), Mirsad Šabović (34) and Nikola Rajović (18).