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Kosovar President Hashim Thaci (right) visits a memorial in the village of Recak on International Human Rights Day.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci on December 10 visited the site of a mass killing in 1999 of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces, calling on Belgrade to apologize for what he says were “crimes against humanity.”

To mark International Human Rights Day, Thaci, a former military commander of forces who fought for Kosovo’s independence, visited the southern village of Recak, 32 kilometers south of the capital, Pristina.

Twenty years ago, Serbian forces killed 45 ethnic Albanians in the village, a move that served as an impetus for NATO to launch an air campaign against Serbia to end the 1998-99 war.

The massacre in the village was “the culmination point of the massacres and crimes against humanity committed by the Serbian state against Kosovo,” Thaci said.

“The future is not built by denying crimes and even labeling or insulting civilians killed in Kosovo,” he added.

Belgrade maintains that the people killed in Recak were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army who died in combat with state security forces.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said claims of a massacre at Recak are fabricated, according to a December 5 statement.

Bilateral relations can be “built only when the Serb leadership acknowledges the accountability and apologizes for the crimes committed in Kosovo,” Thaci told Serbia.

Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations are sour despite eight years of talks that have been mediated by the European Union.

The EU has said the events in Recak were “undeniable,” and a U.S. Embassy statement on December 7 urged “Kosovo and Serbia to return to the table and refocus their energies on the future by normalizing relations.”

About 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serbian government crackdown on Kosovo’s pro-independence forces in 1998-99.

A NATO air campaign lasting 78 days ended Serbian rule in Kosovo and the UN governed the province until 2008, when Kosovo declared independence.

With reporting by AP
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (file photo)

The United States has sanctioned an official in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, a Pakistani police officer, and 18 other individuals accused of involvement in "gross violations" of human rights.

The United States "will not tolerate torture, kidnapping, sexual violence, murder, or brutality against innocent civilians," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on December 10, which marks International Human Rights Day.

The Treasury Department said that Aslan Iraskhanov -- described as director of the Interior Ministry for Chechnya's provincial capital, Grozny -- and his immediate family members are now barred from entering the United States.

"In his prior position as the head of the A.A. Kadyrov police unit, Iraskhanov was credibly alleged to be responsible for‎ the summary execution of 27 men," a statement said.

It said the Russian government "fails to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish officials" involved in "abuses and gross violations of human rights in Chechnya."

Such abuses include "widespread patterns of extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention by government authorities."

In Pakistan, the Treasury imposed economic sanctions on Rao Anwar Khan for his reported role in "staging numerous fake police encounters in which individuals were killed by police."

During his tenure as senior superintendent of police in the Malir district, Sindh Province, Anwar was said to have been "involved in over 190 police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people," according to a statement.

It said he also "helped to lead a network of police and criminal thugs that were allegedly responsible for extortion, land grabbing, narcotics, and murder."

The move freezes Anwar's U.S. assets and criminalizes financial transactions with him by anyone in the United States.

The sanctions against Iraskhanov, Anwar, and 18 other government officials and businessmen in Burma, Libya, Slovakia, Congo, South Sudan, and Saudi Arabia were imposed under the 2012 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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