Jan. 8. The police informed the KVM [Kosovo Verification Mission] of a KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] attack on police vehicles near Dulje (west of Stimlje). A KVM patrol already in the area had heard the shooting and on investigation found the scene of an ambush against police vehicles. Two policemen were dead and another two wounded. Three Albanian civilians in a taxi were also wounded. It appears they had inadvertently driven into the ambush. KVM evacuated an injured policeman and the three civilians to Prizren hospital. Later, KVM were informed that one of the wounded policemen had died, raising the total fatalities to three. Prizren Regional Center comments that this was a well-prepared ambush. ...
Jan. 14. KVM patrols received reports of bombardments of the villages of Javor and Luznica (northwest of Stimlje). ...
Jan. 15. The KVM reported a serious deterioration of the situation in the Stimlje area. Racak, Malopoljce, Petrova and Belince villages (south and west of Stimlje) were all affected. Verifiers saw houses burning in Racak and Malopoljce. KVM patrols witnessed VJ tanks and armored vehicles firing directly into houses near Malopoljce and Petrova. VJ and police forces prevented KVM patrols from entering the area, but late in the afternoon a KVM patrol did get to the village of Racak. Verifiers saw one dead Albanian civilian and five injured civilians, including a woman and a boy suffering from gunshot wounds. The KVM also received unconfirmed reports of other deaths. Residents of Racak claimed that men had been segregated from women and children and that 20 males had been arrested and taken away. ...
Jan. 16. KVM teams that included human rights verifiers went to Racak village. ... By 1250 hours, the first confirmed reports were received of civilians having been killed. The accounts of surviving residents said that the killing had taken place of [sic] Jan. 15. They said that following VJ and police attacks, security forces had entered Racak at approximately 0700 hours. ... They claimed these forces had executed some residents and detained others. Additionally, the survivors reported that they recognized some of the policemen as being from Stimlje. ...
The first KVM teams to arrive in Racak on Jan. 16 in the early morning found the following:
Twenty-three adult males of various ages. Many shot at extremely close range, most shot in the front, back and top of the head. Villagers reported that these victims were last seen alive when the police were arresting them. ...
Three adult males shot in various parts of their body including their backs. They appeared to have been shot when running away. ...
One adult male shot outside his house with his head missing ...
One adult male shot in head and decapitated. All the flesh was missing from the skull.
One adult female shot in the back ...
One boy (12 years old) shot in the neck.
One male, late teens (shot in abdomen).
Decani, Serbia -- Serbian forces have been turning increasingly to the abduction and execution of small groups of civilians in their fight against ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, according to human rights officials and witnesses.
Many of the executions took place moments after Serbian special police units concluded attacks on villages held by the Kosovo Liberation Army rebels, witnesses said.
"The number of disappearances are increasing each month," said Behxhet Shala, secretary of the ethnic Albanian Council for Human Rights. "There is a mathematical logic to all this. As the Kosovo Liberation Army kills more police, the police go out and hunt down civilians who live in the areas where the attacks take place. These are reprisal killings."
Some 300 ethnic Albanians are listed by human rights officials as missing since March, when the conflict intensified between the rebels and the 50,000 or so Serbian soldiers and policemen deployed here. Some of them may have fled to Albania or Montenegro and others may be living with relatives elsewhere in Kosovo. But some were seen by witnesses being led away by special police units, never to reappear.
[...] Visits to six of the sites where kidnappings and executions by Serbian forces are said to have taken place yielded accounts by witnesses and a look at the bodies of some of the victims. But the precise number of those executed is difficult to determine.
Based on the accounts of witnesses from each area, it appears that a total of about 100 ethnic Albanians, most of them men of fighting age, have been rounded up and shot, usually in groups of fewer than a dozen, in the last five months.
[...] The detained men were often marched in single file by the black-uniformed Interior Ministry commando unit to the local water treatment plant, which was used as a command center [...] Not every ethnic Albanian who is picked up by the police disappears permanently, but the fear of being seized has become common in these villages. Many of those picked up return after a few days, complaining of beatings and other ill treatment at the hands of the police.
According to witnesses, the largest number of killings occurred in the villages of Likosane and Cirez at the end of February, in the village of Prekaz in the first week of March, in the village of Poklek at the start of May, in Ljubenic at the end of May and in Decani in June.
On May 30, special police units entered Poklek and ordered most of the residents into a house owned by Shait Qorri.
Fazli Berisha, who was outside the village hiding behind a wall, said he saw 60 or 70 women and children ordered out of the house as Serbian forces burned neighboring homes. The women were told to walk across a field to Vasiljevo, a neighboring village, he said.
"Hajirz Hajdini and Mahmut Berisha were brought out moments later and told to walk in the opposite direction," he said, referring to two men. "As they walked away they were shot by the police. Sefer Qorri, 10 minutes later, was brought out of the house and told to walk in this direction. He was shot in about the same spot."
The villagers said they later found the body of Ardian Deliu, a 17-year-old youth, near Vasileva, about two miles away, but they said nine men remain missing.
Report: EUR 70/33/98
From the end of February 1998 a marked and extreme increase in police and, increasingly, military actions in the areas where the
Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, or in Albanian Ushtria ) is reported to have a strong presence [which] has resulted in hundreds of killings, many of which Amnesty International believes to have been extrajudicial executions and the consequence of excessive use of force. This report features detailed information on three such police or military actions in the Drenica area of Kosovo province: at Likosane and Cirez villages (28 February-1 March); at Donji Prekaz (5-6 March); and at Glodjane (24 March).
This report also features cases of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the KLA in and around Glodjane in the weeks after the police action there in March. Towards the end of May 1998 the Yugoslav authorities stated that at least 25 civilians had been killed by armed ethnic Albanians since the beginning of the year. Amnesty International is not able to verify this figure or the circumstances of each case, but opposes the deliberate and arbitrary killing of civilians, prisoners or others who have been rendered defenceless. The deliberate killing of people taking no active part in hostilities contravenes minimum standards of human behaviour and is prohibited under the laws of armed conflict.
Violence has escalated still further since the events described here occurred.
On 28 February and 1 March 1998 Serbian police killed 26 ethnic Albanians in the villages of Likosane and Cirez (Likoshani and Qirez in Albanian). Four police officers were also killed.
Comparing the official accounts of the events and the evidence collected from independent sources, two very different accounts emerged. According to the police, one of their routine patrols was attacked near Likosane at 12.30pm on 28 February and two police officers were killed. Reinforcements were brought in at around 2pm, who then fought with armed ethnic Albanians through until the next day, during which time two more police officers and 16 of the Albanians were killed. However, reports from ethnic Albanian witnesses contradict this version, saying instead that the confrontation began on the evening of 27 February when armed men, believed to belong to the KLA, fired from a vehicle at a school housing Serbian refugees (from Croatia or Bosnia) in the nearby town of Srbica (Skënderaj in Albanian).
Police reportedly gave chase to their vehicle which stopped at a bend near Likosane and the occupants fired back at the police. Police reportedly brought in reinforcements during the night, while the armed men of the KLA may well have reinforced themselves to fight an expected police action.
In summary, in the fighting which occurred during the night of 28 February and the early hours of 1 March, the police used helicopters and armoured vehicles in the operation, and were armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. It appears that although there was resistance from the KLA, those fighting for it were outnumbered and they withdrew from the area allowing the police to move in. Amnesty International believes that most of the ethnic Albanians who died were killed after the KLA's withdrawal.
Rukije Nebiu, a mother of two who was pregnant with her third child, was one of the 26 Albanian victims. She was killed in her house in Cirez village; pictures of her body indicated that she had been shot in the head with a high velocity weapon (see cover photograph). Rukije's husband Xhemsir Nebiu and her brother-in-law Ilir Nebiu were also shot in or close to the house. Other victims in Cirez included 63-year-old Ajet Rexhepi and four brothers from the Sejdiu family including 24-year-old twins Nazmi and Bedri who were also reportedly found dead in their house.
Among others, 10 male members of the Ahmeti family, aged between 16 and 50 years, were killed, apparently in extrajudicial executions, in Likosane. Mirsije Ahmeti, whose father and three brothers were killed, was reported in the Belgrade weekly Vreme as describing how the police came to their house at about 4pm on 28 February, ordered the occupants onto the floor at gunpoint, locked the women and children in one room and took the men out. The men were at first believed to be missing and were apparently not counted in the 16 dead first reported by the police (the police in any case did not issue the names of the dead). On 2 March their bodies were seen in the morgue in Pristina (Prishtinë in Albanian), the capital of Kosovo Province, by somebody who was able to identify them and they were returned to the village for burial on 3 March.
Visitors to the scene including representatives of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) observed and photographed blood, teeth and what they believed to be brain tissue on 1 March in the yard of the Ahmeti house. They also observed the words: "This is what will happen next time, too," written in Serbian on the wall. It is unclear whether all of the blood and body parts came from the Ahmetis; one local journalist who visited the scene believed that some traces may have come from an injured KLA fighter who may have come to the yard at some point and that his trail of blood may have led police there.
According to the HLC, 70-year-old Muhamet Djeli and his son Naser were killed in the house opposite that of the Ahmetis. Muhamet was killed in an outbuilding and Naser was killed in the next room in the presence of his wife and two children. He had been hit by a bullet which came through a window that had been covered with a mattress. A trail of blood indicated that he had been dragged outside, but his body was taken to the Pristina morgue by police.
The HLC also reported that although many of the bodies were taken to the morgue, there were no signs that autopsies had been performed on them, nor on the bodies which were left in the village. To Amnesty International's knowledge, to date no investigations have been carried out into the killings.
"Unidentified victim" of
Donji Prekaz massacre.
On 5 and 6 March special police forces carried out another operation around the village of Donji Prekaz, some 10 kilometres from Likosane. At least 56 ethnic Albanians were killed in this operation. The main target of this operation was the home of Adem Jashari. He had been convicted in absentia of terrorism in an unfair trial in a court in Pristina in July 1997 and was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment (the trial is described in the accompanying document Unfair trials and abuses of due process, #4 in this series, AI Index: EUR 70/35/98). In public statements by the police since the trial he had been referred to as being a KLA commander. At the trial itself he was alleged to have received military training in Albania, to have recruited men to fight with the KLA and to have ordered and taken part in armed attacks against the police. [...]
Although the full information about what happened in Donji Prekaz on 5 and 6 March is still not available, Amnesty International is seriously concerned that at least some of those killed were extrajudicially executed and that others may have been unlawfully killed as a result of the excessive force which was used without regard to the fact that women, children and men who were not armed were among those in the houses at the point they were attacked by the police. There appears not to have been any intention to effect the arrest of armed suspects in the village with proper precautions and while minimizing the use of force in order to protect life, as both national and international law requires. Rather, the operation appears to have been carried out as a military operation by forces under apparent orders to eliminate the suspects and their families.
The police operation was carried out or at least led by officers of the Special Police Units (Posebne Jedinice Policije - PJP). These are elite units which are trained for special operations, such as dealing with hijacking. It is impossible to ascertain how many police officers were involved, but it seems likely that there were several hundred men. They were dressed in combat uniform, operated in military formations, and were supported by armoured personnel carriers (APCs) armed with heavy machine guns and cannons of at least 20 millimetre calibre. Besides vehicle- mounted weapons it appears that the police also carried heavy machine guns, rocket- propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles and sniper rifles. Some reports indicate that 81 millimetre mortar rounds were also fired in the attack. Witnesses claimed that much of the police's firing at the village emanated from the disused hunting ammunition factory in the vicinity of the village where they had previously established a presence. This factory appears to have been used as the base for the operation.
In a report by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs made public on 10 March the Ministry claimed that Adem Jashari had been involved in the attack on the police patrol near Likosane on 28 February. The report also stated that there was another attack on a police patrol near Donji Prekaz on Thursday 5 March at dawn (at around 5.30 that day), and that following the deployment of a strong police presence, the terrorist group retreated to the stronghold on [sic] the Jashari compound.
However, witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International and others give accounts which give strong reason to question this version of events. In particular witnesses from other parts of the village than the Jasharis' report the police moving in on and shooting at their homes from as early as 5.30am. Witnesses from the Jasharis' part of the village described how their part was fired upon from about 6.30am.
It is more difficult to estimate the degree of resistance offered by the armed ethnic Albanians in the Jashari compound and other parts of the village, particularly as some witnesses may have been reluctant to reveal knowledge of this. On the basis of what can be ascertained or deduced, it appears that each family or group of families gathered women, children and men who were not carrying arms into the safest room in each house. Meanwhile, some or all of the male members of each family repelled the police attack with arms. It also appears that they were expecting the police to attack, as they had done in the police action against the Jashari house in January, and in the incidents around Likosane a few days before. Nevertheless, it is evident that they were outnumbered, and had fewer and inferior weapons than the police used. They may well have had dozens of men armed with assault rifles and some other weapons such as anti-tank weapons. The degree of resistance offered from each house or group of houses also seems to have varied, but it is clear that the strongest resistance came from the Jashari compounds.
The only reported survivor from the compound where Adem Jashari's closest family members lived was an 11-year-old girl, B.J., who spoke to foreign and local journalists. She told reporters how her family sheltered together during hours of firing in which her house was repeatedly hit and then, when the firing ceased, how she found the dead bodies of her three sisters: Blerina (age seven years), Fatima (eight) and Lirie (10) and then of her mother and four brothers. Because of the lack of other witnesses and the concealment or destruction of evidence which will be described later, it is extremely difficult to reconstruct what happened in the compound except for what the girl told journalists after her escape.
Around 35 children, women and some men gathered in a house across the track from Shaban Jashari's compound during the attack. Amnesty International interviewed most of the family groups which had been sheltering in the house. In their testimony, which was taken at separate locations, they largely corroborated each other, confirming details of the attack as a whole and describing in various degrees of detail the extrajudicial execution of three of the six men who had been with them and the wounding of a fourth.
The witnesses stated that after hearing the start of the attack at around 6.30am or 7am they gathered in the house of Beqir Jashari which had the strongest walls and was in the middle of the row of houses. They remained in the house listening to the sounds of the attack on the other houses until about 1.30 that afternoon. At this point they stated that the second and then first floors of Beqir Jashari's house came under fire and that the roof and upper part of the house started to collapse. Police then came close to the house and witnesses describe how a tear-gas grenade (this could possibly have been a smoke grenade) was thrown and the gas or smoke came into the room through the broken windows. Police then ordered the people to come out of the house one by one, calling in a mixture of Albanian and Serbian. In the confusion (the children did not understand the orders) the people in the house came out in groups with the men among them, some dressed in women's clothes. The men were picked out after they came out.
The first victim appears to have been Qazim Jashari, a 47-year-old teacher, who was stopped by police and shot just as he emerged from the house. The next victim was 26-year-old Nazmi Jashari whose killing several witnesses described. Nazmi Jashari was walking with his 70-year-old mother. Her account of his killing, parts of which follow, was corroborated by several other witnesses who were interviewed independently by Amnesty International:
When we arrived at the door of the yard he said to 'me let me help you'. ...When we went out of the yard my son held me. He told me 'okay mother let's go', the only thing which I know from him. In front of the house when we were stopped they [the police] took my son from me. ... I told him go and leave me here because nothing will happen to me. He didn't say anything to me and they took my son from me until I turned my eyes to him .... they ordered my son to lay down then they searched him and ordered him to get up again and he did that. Again to lay down, they did not find anything, no weapons. I saw with my eyes how they prepared their automatic weapons, two of them, one on one side and another on the other, they shot him between the shoulders I saw that with my eyes and screamed at that moment 'Please God, I rely on you!' ... I didn't know what else I could say. I held those two walking sticks. I felt that my feet where completely cold. I could not feel them, I didn't know that they were mine. I saw how he was still he didn't move he seemed to be sleeping. I thought to go and to see him one of the police ordered me: 'Don't move!' He did not let me and I was just staying and looking. Then I wanted again to go and to cover him. I wanted to take this [her scarf] off and one of them turned a gun to me, but he didn't let me.
Examination of pictures of the body of Nazmi Jashari by a forensic pathologist consulted by Amnesty International indicated injuries which are broadly consistent with the accounts of him having been extrajudicially executed, albeit there are discrepancies between the witness accounts and the pathologist's analysis of the precise manner in which Nazmi Jashari was shot. The photographs showed entry wounds from bullets to his chest. At least one of the entry wounds showed marks which may have been the result of gasses as the muzzle of the gun pressed against his chest as it was fired. Nazmi's face was also caved in - the pathologist concluded this was either the result of blows from an object such as a rifle butt or his face having been stamped upon.
Beqir Jashari (43) managed to get out with the rest of the people who had sheltered in his house in the confusion as the police killed Qazim and Nazmi. He was reportedly shot as they fled up a hill close to the cordon of police on the outside of the village. Riad Jashari (16) was reportedly shot and injured before he reached the hill but survived to flee with the assistance of the others.
Whether or not all or some of the men who had been in the Beqir Jashari house, whose killings the witnesses described, were bearing arms during the police attack it is important to stress that in the witnesses' accounts they had ceased to offer resistance and had effectively surrendered themselves to the police. [...]
Witnesses from other places in the
Jasharis' part of the village described
variously how they were ordered out of their
homes or how their homes were fired upon.
Some hid in their own or neighbours' houses
for two or three days. The houses in the
Jasharis' part of the village were rendered
uninhabitable; houses appeared to have been
deliberately set on fire and parts were
bulldozed with tracked vehicles during the
operation. Elsewhere in the village the
inhabitants managed to flee or hid in their own
or other houses. Some of those who hid did
not get out until the following day, 6 March,
or in some cases even 7 March.
In the aftermath of the incident, around 56 people were buried, amid some confusion. For example, at least two of the bodies handed over by the police came from Lausa village and had been killed in another incident. Some of the bodies were not identified because they had been badly burnt. Of around 41 bodies which were identified 12 were women and 11 were children up to 16 years of age. Most of the victims identified came from the compound of Adem Jashari and the houses close to it.
Some of the survivors believe that bodies still remain in the ruined houses. In the absence of more detailed evidence, the conclusion must be, at the very least, that the victims who were clearly not using arms - that is the women and children at least - and about whom there is not witness testimony, died as a result of the excessive use of force by the police in contravention of international standards on law enforcement. Little regard appears to have been taken of the fact that unarmed people were present in the houses. The women and child victims appeared to have died as a result of different combinations of shrapnel injuries, bullet wounds and falling debris inside the houses. International standards such as the UN Body of Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials specify that intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. In particular no warning was given of the intention to use force before at least two houses were attacked with heavy machine guns, cannons and probably mortar rounds. In witnesses accounts they were only called by the police to come out after several hours of bombardment by the police. [...]
In areas of civil turmoil or armed conflict, women are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. They are often subjected to brutal treatment simply because they live in a particular location or belong to a particular group.
This report aims to illustrate the human rights situation of women, primarily ethnic Albanian women, in Kosovo province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by highlighting a number of representative cases. The report does not claim to depict the full range and severity of human rights violations against women which have taken place and which, as armed conflict persists, continue to occur daily. Ethnic Albanian women are the victims of human rights abuses now, but since the early 1980s there have been cases in which ethnic Albanian women have shared the fate of many of their menfolk and like them have been arbitrarily detained, ill-treated and convicted in unfair trials. With the outbreak of armed conflict, they now also face mass forced displacement and the risk of deliberate and arbitrary killings. [...]
Question: How can women be "particularly vulnerable" when the abuses referred to are "cases in which ethnic Albanian women have shared the fate of many of their menfolk and like them have been ...", etc.? The disproportion clearly operates against males, from the way the passage is phrased; so why not a report on "Human Rights Violations Against Men" as well, and first?
Note: Hidden indeed. Women victims make news as women; male victims, when they're noticed, as "ethnic Albanians," "people," or simply "those."
Ethnic Albanians unseen since entering police stations or being led away by Serbian police... Serbs and Albanians taken from vehicles stopped by the armed ethnic Albanian opposition, hauled off trains, or unseen since armed Albanians came to their homes... People unaccounted for in the aftermath of armed police operations or military engagements, who may be among the hastily and anonymously buried...
In Kosovo province the “disappeared” and “missing” come from all ethnic groups. The police are believed to be responsible for the “disappearance” of ethnic Albanians. Many of those who have “disappeared” were reported to have been arrested and led away by police, either captured or detained in the context of clashes between the police or paramilitary police and the armed opposition group the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), or arrested far from the scene of conflict. The KLA has been accused of the abduction and presumed unlawful killing or detention of ethnic Albanians whom it alleges are “collaborators” with the Serbian authorities, although they have failed to define what they understand by “collaboration”.
Other victims include members of the Serbian, Montenegrin, Romani and other ethnic groups. The apparent lack of consolidation in the KLA's central command structure and the reported inability of the leadership to exercise full control over its various local groupings increases the difficulty of ascertaining the fate of those reported to have been abducted by armed Albanians. It is still too early to ascertain accurate statistics for “missing” or “disappeared” ethnic Albanians. [...]
Now let us look at a typical passage from the report itself:
The early part of 1998 saw the beginning of a disturbing series of reported “disappearances” as well as many cases of "missing" persons and others who are unaccounted for. It is feared that some - perhaps all - of these people are no longer alive.
The "disappearance" of eight men from Novi Poklek, 31 May 1998
Ahmet Berisha (40), Hajriz Hajdini (48), Muhamet Hajdini (45), Sahit Qorri (60), Sefer Qorri (55), Ferat Hoti (39), Rama Asllani (60) and Blerim Shishani (15) were inhabitants of Novi Poklek (Poklek i Ri), a settlement which was built in recent years on the edge of Glogovac close to a factory called Feronikl. On 31 May a large operation was mounted by the police in and around the settlement.
On the afternoon of 31 May at about 1pm a large force of police arrived in several dozen vehicles at the outskirts of the settlement. After firing at the houses from a distance, patrols of police reportedly started to go from house to house in the settlement, ordering the inhabitants out of the buildings. Many of them were reportedly collected in a house in the settlement where men were separated from women and children. The women and children were directed to leave.
Reports of the events include allegations that nine or more men were killed. Despite the lack of confirmed information, the whereabouts of the eight men named above who were reportedly detained by the police remains unknown. Amnesty International believes that these eight men have “disappeared”, and may have been the victims of extrajudicial executions.
The bodies of two other men, Ardian Deliu (18) and Fidai Shishani (17), were reportedly found at the scene, but it has not yet been possible to establish the circumstances of their death. Several differing rumours about the fate of the "disappeared" men have circulated, including claims that bodies or body parts have been seen in the village; that the police were seen apparently transporting prisoners in the direction of the Feronikl factory where they are being held, or that they have been killed and buried in a mass grave. One witness reported that he had seen two of the men fall to the ground after being fired upon, but was unable to state categorically that they had been killed.
On 11 June a group of lawyers from Pristina, who have been given power of attorney by relatives of the "disappeared" men, addressed a letter to the Serbian and Federal judicial authorities and police. In that letter they claimed that nine men had been killed and asked for an investigation into the incident, for the bodies to be located, an autopsy to be performed on them, and for the bodies to be handed over to the relatives for burial. The letter has been acknowledged by the district court, but to Amnesty International's knowledge no other replies have been received from the authorities, nor has there been any announcement that any investigation into the incident has begun.
There have been several reported cases in which Albanians “disappeared” following arrest or detention by police in different contexts related to the current armed conflict.
School caretaker Idriz Idrizi (43) “disappeared” on 23 January 1998, reportedly on the way home to his village of Gornji Prekaz (Prekaz i Epërm) after visiting the town of Srbica (Skënderaj). The route passed a former hunting ammunition factory which lies between the outskirts of Srbica and the village of Donji Prekaz (Prekaz i Pushtëm). Serbian police units had established a base inside the factory from which they had the previous day mounted an unsuccessful attack on the home of Adem Jashari, later killed during the attack of 5-6 March described below (see page 8).
Although the circumstances remain unclear, he was reportedly passing close to the factory on this route when he was called in by someone behind the perimeter fence. He has not been seen since. Local police reportedly told members of his family that he was being detained in the factory, although they did not consider this information to be reliable.
On 6 March the factory was used by the police to hold men detained during their operation against Donji Prekaz. Some of the detained who were interviewed by representatives of the Humanitarian Law Centre described being beaten in the factory compound before being transferred to a police station in Srbica. However, none were aware of other detainees who were already being held there.
On 20 June Jakup Qerimi (27) from the town of Urosevac (Ferizaj), said by Albanian sources to be mentally retarded, was reportedly arrested by seven police officers following a quarrel with a member of the security services. When his mother approached the police seeking information about her son she was reportedly told that he was a member of the KLA, and when she persisted in her requests, mentioning that she knew the officers who arrested him, she was reportedly told that she would never see him again. She has received no further news of her son.
On 6 July, in the village of Dobri Do (Dobërdol) near Pec (Peja), 10 men from the village of Rudica (Rudicë) in the Klina area, who had reportedly gone to the village intending to help evacuate their relatives, were arrested by persons variously described as Serbian police or paramilitaries. Eyewitnesses report that they were taken by tractor towards the neighbouring village of Gorazdevac (Gorazhdec).
On 17 July seven of these men appeared in court in Pec, where they are detained while being investigated for “terrorist” activities. According to statements made by these men to their lawyers and during their court appearance, they had been detained by Serbian paramilitaries and taken to Gorazdevac where they were handed over to police. In their statements they reported that the three men who did not appear in court, Nimon Bajraktari (51), Haki Ahmetgjekaj (23) and Bashkim Mehmetaj (22), were separated from the rest of the group before the handover to the police took place, and that they did not see them again. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
On 29 June Izet Ajazi (40), employed in the state electricity industry, was travelling by bus on the route from Pristina to the village of Magura (Magurë). Part way through the journey, at Velika Slatina (Sllatinë e Madhe) police separated him and five other ethnic Albanians whose names have not been made public and forced them off the bus, leading them away. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
There has apparently been no attempt by police or other authorities to investigate this or any other of the incidents detailed in this section.
Human Rights Watch today interviewed the sole survivor of a September 26 summary execution of thirteen men by Serbian police. The witness gave a coherent and credible account of the summary execution which was corroborated by the evidence found at the execution site and the testimony of another witness interviewed by Human Rights Watch on September 29.
Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern today about the safety of the survivor in light of the Serbian police presence in the region, and called upon the international community to take the necessary steps to relocate this important witness to a safe location. Furthermore, the man has a severe and infected gunshot wound on his upper left leg, as well as gunshot wounds on his left arm, and is in need of immediate medical attention. "The survivor is a credible witness to a summary execution, and the ability to bring the perpetrators of this serious war crime to justice hinges on his safety," said Holly Cartner. "The international community must take immediate steps to insure that he is safe and his testimony is preserved."
During an interview today, he told Human Rights Watch that the inhabitants of his village Golubovac in the Drenica region of Kosovo had fled into the nearby forest on Friday morning after Yugoslav forces began shelling around the neighboring village of Cerovik. The villagers spent the night in the forest.
According to the survivor, Serb police sent several elderly ethnic Albanian villagers who had remained in Golubovac to the forest on Saturday morning to tell the civilians taking shelter there that it was safe for them to return home. When they attempted to return, they were then gathered in a field by a group of about thirty or forty police officers, and the men were separated from the women and children. The police initially chose about twenty-five men from the larger group of men, but then narrowed this group down to fourteen men who, according to the survivor, would later be lined up and shot.
The survivor told Human Rights Watch that the fourteen were beaten with fists and rifles and kicked with boots while being questioned by Serb police about ties to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The process of separating the men and their subsequent interrogation lasted for about two hours. The men were then taken to the road next to the execution site, where they were forced to crouch with their hands behind their backs for an extended period of time.
The survivor told Human Rights Watch that the men were then led into a garden and ordered to lie flat on the ground, face down with their hands behind their backs. They were told that if they identified KLA members in their midst everyone else would be freed. During this time, the survivor reported being beaten on his back with sticks and kicked all over his body. He showed Human Rights Watch deep bruises on his back and buttocks that were consistent with this account. He also described in detail how the men were executed, relating how a single police officer first executed the man lying next to the survivor and then two other men nearby. The police officer then moved up and down the column firing a burst of automatic gunshots at each victim. Several of the men were kicked afterwards and one man was shot again when he displayed signs of life. The witness apparently survived because he was able to feign death when being kicked. The police left the site almost immediately after the execution and the survivor was helped from the scene by local villagers.
The testimony of the survivor was coherent and credible, and matched the testimony of an earlier witness previously interviewed by Human Rights Watch, as well as the evidence inspected at the execution site on Tuesday. Along a fence within a family compound, Human Rights Watch inspected many pools of fresh blood on Tuesday and found over eighty bullet shells at the spot where the witnesses claimed the policeman fired. The site was also visited by diplomatic observers on Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch is greatly concerned about the health and safety of the sole survivor, who remains in the Drenica region, which is under heavy Serbian police control. Human Rights Watch calls upon the international community to assist the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in bringing the survivor to a safe location, and demands that the Yugoslav authorities and police and military forces refrain from any actions that would jeopardize the safety of this important witness.
The violations of humanitarian law being committed in Kosovo fall under the jurisdiction of the ICTY. By taking immediate steps to collect and preserve evidence and witnesses' testimony, the Tribunal will not only increase the chances of ultimately bringing the perpetrators to justice, but also of deterring future abuses. However, time is of the essence if the tribunal is to fulfill its enormous deterrence potential. Much more intense and timely attention to ongoing atrocities are required.
In order for the ICTY to meet this challenge, it must have sufficient capacity and equipment on site to conduct an immediate investigation when allegations of atrocities emerge. Further, its investigators, including forensic experts, must have unimpeded access to the sites of recent abuses. To date, the Yugoslav government has denied entry visas to forensic teams, investigators of the ICTY, and other respected and impartial international organizations in a blatant attempt to prevent international and independent scrutiny of the abuses committed by its forces. Human Rights Watch calls upon the international community to assist the ICTY in developing such urgently needed capacities, and on the Yugoslav government to provide immediate access for the ICTY and its independent forensic experts to carry out investigations into allegations of mass graves and other atrocities in the region.
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