The human rights abuses against Kosovar Albanians that leapt to international prominence during the NATO bombing campaign predated NATO's involvement by at least ten years. In 1989, the Serbian-controlled government in Belgrade suspended the autonomy guaranteed Kosovo by the 1974 constitution and initiated a crackdown on human rights. Mass firings of ethnic Albanian public sector workers ensued. The Serbian government replaced local Albanian police officers with special police units from the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (Ministarstvo Unutrasnjih Poslova), or MUP.
The Serbian government ran Kosovo as a police state for the rest of the 1990s, with political trials, police abuse, deaths in detention, and discrimination in health care, education, and employment. Numerous reports by Human Rights Watch and other international and domestic human rights organizations, such as the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Humanitarian Law Center, the Center for the Protection of Women and Children, and the Kosova Helsinki Committee, reported incidents of torture, political "disappearances," imprisonment of critics of the regime, and rape.6
Throughout the 1990s, the Kosovar Albanian community responded by creating their own parallel political structures. Under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, the ethnic Albanian population initially rejected a violent response to the abusive and discriminatory treatment inflicted upon them.
This began to change in 1997, when a hitherto little-known group called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) demanded Kosovo's independence and began to ambush and attack police patrols in various parts of Kosovo, especially in the central Drenica region. The group gradually increased its armed actions, which prompted a rapid and sometimes brutal response by the Serbian police. The first major police operations occurred in late February and early March 1998 when, after attacks by the KLA in the area, Serbian special police forces attacked three villages in Drenica, killing eighty-eight women and children. The atrocities galvanized the ethnic Albanian community, and quickly turned the KLA into a sizable, although still disorganized, military force. It was from this time on that the fighting in Kosovo became an internal armed conflict for the purposes of international law, making Common Article 3 and Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions applicable.7
Throughout 1998 and early 1999, there was ongoing fighting between the KLA and Serbian and Yugoslav forces that involved serious violations of international humanitarian law by both sides. The vast majority of these abuses were committed by Serbian and Yugoslav forces, such as indiscriminate shelling, the destruction of civilian property, and summary executions, but the KLA also committed war crimes, including executions of Serbian civilians and ethnic Albanians considered to be collaborators with the government. The government conducted two major counterinsurgency offensives: in May and June 1998 along the border with Albania, and July through September 1998 throughout most of central and western Kosovo. An estimated 2,000 people were killed during the year, the majority of them ethnic Albanian civilians.8
Throughout this period, cases of rape were also reported. By the time the bombing began in March 1999, Sevdie Ahmeti, a human rights activist working for the Pristina-based Center for the Protection of Women and Children, had documented thirty-six incidents of rape committed by Serbian police and Yugoslav Army soldiers.9 The Humanitarian Law Center also received reports of two rapes in Decani committed by Serbian police.10 OSCE-KosovoVerification Mission (KVM) human rights officers, who were deployed in Kosovo from November 1998 to March 1999, also reported twenty-three rapes committed prior to the NATO intervention.11
In December 1998, Human Rights Watch conducted research into rape by both the KLA and government forces. Although very credible reports of rape emerged, including one rape of a Roma woman by Kosovar Albanians, Human Rights Watch was able to confirm only six cases: one in September 1998 in the Suva Reka (Suhareke) municipality, one in December 1998 in Djakovica municipality, two in the area of Decani (May and October 1998), and two cases in November 1998 in Pec. Evidence collected by Human Rights Watch, the Center for the Protectionof Women and Children, and the OSCE-KVM human rights officers suggests, however, that Serbian security forces committed rapes and other forms of sexual violence throughout 1998.12
Following the NATO air strikes, reports of rape flooded the international media. On April 13, 1999, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook claimed that Serbian forces had opened a "rape camp" near Djakovica.13 Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon made similar statements about rape camps allegedly set up in Djakovica.14 Cook's comments came one day after NATO attacked a train in Serbia, killing twenty civilians; some commentators charged that NATO was publicizing rape reports to whip up war fervor and distract attention from civilian casualties inflicted by NATO.15 NATO officials and NATO member states used the theme of human rights abuses generally, and rape specifically, to justify their policies in Yugoslavia.
Human Rights Watch found no evidence to suggest the existence of a rape camp at an army base in Djakovica or Hotel Karagac in Pec.16 While Human Rights Watch believes that it is critically important to denounce all human rights abuses in any conflict situation, we are concerned that NATO's use of rape to bolster support for the war relied on unconfirmed accounts of rape. Offering such accusations with little or no basis suggests that those invoking the abuses may have been more concerned with pursuing certain political goals than with ascertaining what happened to individual victims and acting to prevent or remedy the abuse. Historically, when the horror of rape has been invoked to serve political ends, neither the purpose nor the result was to ensure accountability.17
Throughout the refugee crisis, U.S. and British newspapers and radio programs carried interviews with individual women reportedly raped by Serbian police, soldiers, and paramilitaries. Although accounts in the media brought much-needed attention to the use of rape in the conflict, they also raised questions about when rape is a war crime, how rape functions in war, and whether women will have access to justice after the conflict. The documentation that follows answers many of these questions.
The Shadow of Bosnia: An Atmosphere of Terror
I wasn't afraid of the killing. I was afraid of the raping.18
Rape and other forms of sexual violence in Kosovo took place under the shadow of Bosnia and Herzegovina.19 Women in Kosovo knew that rape had been used as a tool of "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Human Rights Watch received numerous, though unconfirmed, reports that some Serbian paramilitary groups active during the Bosnian war, such as Arkan's Tigers and Vojislav Seselj's White Eagles, allegedly joined in the "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Kosovo. These groups had reputations for using rape as a weapon of war in Bosnia.20
The atmosphere of terror, heightened by published accounts and collective memories of recent mass and systematic rapes in Bosnia, motivated families to pack up and leave as quickly as possible. Although there were fewer rapes in Kosovo, both the threat of rape and actual rape were very much a part of the assault on Kosovo. The mere threat was enough to force women and families to flee. The fact of rape in Bosnia had already established the credibility of the threat.
Women recounted to Human Rights Watch their fear that they and their daughters would be raped. Rumors of rape circulated wildly as families attempted to flee their homes. Older women often dressed their daughters in loose clothing and headscarves in an attempt to disguise young girls as grandmothers. Other mothers smeared dirt and mud on their daughters' faces to render them unattractive. As one mother told Human Rights Watch, "I was most afraid for my daughter. I lost eighteen kilos during the war because I was afraid that my daughters might be raped."21 In the words of another woman, "The girls were afraid of the police and put on scarves. The police took off their scarves and pinched their cheeks and told them not to act like old women. The girls were screaming."22 According to a doctor in Pristina, "Rape was our greatest fear. Our main goal was to get our daughters-aged twenty-five, twenty-one, fourteen, and ten-out of the country."23
Foreshadowing the Attacks: Propaganda against Albanian Women in Kosovo
Women were very vulnerable and the Serbs knew that if they touched the women the men would react. This has been going on for ten years.24
The rapes and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated in Kosovo during the conflict did not surprise women's human rights experts. Sevdie Ahmeti, who documented human rights abuses against women in Kosovo forten years prior to the NATO bombing, had already collected thirty-six testimonies of rape by Serbian special police units and Yugoslav Army soldiers committed in the period February 1998 to March 1999. Serb paramilitary forces and special police used rape on a number of occasions during 1998 to punish female family members of Kosovo Liberation Army supporters before the NATO air offensive.25 A Human Rights Watch investigator who researched rape in Kosovo before the NATO bombing campaign documented rapes of young women, particularly in the Drenica region, considered a KLA stronghold. In total, Human Rights Watch documented six cases of rape by Serbian forces during 1998, although evidence collected by Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and local human rights groups suggested that the real number was much higher.26
Official state propaganda in Yugoslavia in the decade preceding the war served to dehumanize and stereotype Kosovar Albanian women.27 Serbian propaganda contrasted Serbian women, viewed as "cultured, strong, and worthy of motherhood," with Albanian women, portrayed as "indiscriminately fecund."28 According to Ahmeti, "During the late 1980s there was tremendous propaganda against Albanian women-we were portrayed as open-legged, stupid, uneducated women ready to have sex."29 This attack on Albanian women in the state-controlled media fed Serbian nationalist hysteria, encouraging conflict and abuses. Combined with official propaganda denouncing Kosovar Albanian men as "terrorists," the images portrayed in the media manipulated the fears of the ethnic Serbian population.30
The nationalistic propaganda also exploited fears of Albanian population growth. Serbian media "pump[ed] out portraits of Albanian women as baby makers, calling their offspring `biological bombs,' labeling Albanian family life primitive and backward."31 Some young women victims of rape expressed fear that they could not expect tomarry following the attack. One purpose that rape in the war may have served was discouraging women from reproducing in the future.
Rape and other Forms of Sexual Violence as Weapons of Systematic "Ethnic Cleansing"
The paramilitary said to us - You are in our hands, and until we fulfill our obligation to steal and take your women, we will not let you go.32
Police, soldiers, and paramilitaries raped women throughout Kosovo; the attacks occurred under a variety of circumstances. The most common circumstances that emerged from the testimonies of victims of rape and sexual violence and from corroborating accounts provided by eyewitnesses were rapes in women's homes, rape during flight from the country, and rape while in detention. In one typical scenario, government forces entered women's homes and raped them either in the garden, in an adjoining room, or in front of family members. Women victims and eyewitnesses also reported rapes that occurred as soldiers and paramilitaries extorted money from Kosovars attempting to flee the country. When families could not produce money, and sometimes even when they did, wives, sisters, and daughters were forced to leave with police or soldiers. Some number of those women experienced rape and sexual assault. In at least one case, the attack took place in front of the entire group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the road. Finally, in another common scenario documented by Human Rights Watch, Serb soldiers and paramilitaries separated women from the men and held the women and children hostage in schools and various abandoned buildings. During the period of captivity, soldiers and paramilitaries took some of the women to other sites to torture them sexually.
Almost all of the rape testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch were gang rapes, involving more than one perpetrator. The identities of perpetrators, however, were frequently difficult to discern. Men and women interviewed struggled to distinguish between police and paramilitaries. Victims described perpetrators of rape as dressed in camouflage outfits and sporting black masks or scarves. Yugoslav Army soldiers generally wore uniforms, typically green camouflage; special police units generally wore blue camouflage uniforms. Based on the accounts of victims, it appears that paramilitaries perpetrated at least five of the rapes documented by Human Rights Watch researchers based in Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo. Yugoslav Army soldiers and Serbian special police perpetrated two rapes recounted to Human Rights Watch by victims. In six cases identified by Human Rights Watch, women were first gang raped and then murdered. Paramilitaries perpetrated all six of these cases.
Accounts of biting also pervaded the refugees' and internally displaced persons' (IDPs) stories. Nurses who treated rape victims and eyewitnesses who saw women returning after long absences reported that many of the women had visible teeth-marks on their arms and exposed flesh.33 One nurse told Human Rights Watch that armed Serbian men in dark blue uniforms dragged young girls into another room in a house sheltering refugees in the village of Beleg.34 She continued, "They raped them. They were covered with bites. I tried to wash them."35 Sevdie Ahmeti, who worked closely with survivors of rape and sexual violence after the conflict, confirmed this finding. Afteraccompanying several rape survivors to their gynecological exams, she told Human Rights Watch, "There were bites all over the bodies of the victims, especially the raped women. The bites were on their breasts and legs and especially near their intimate places."36
In all, Human Rights Watch found ninety-six credible cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence. All of these accounts stemmed from direct victim or witness testimony gathered by Human Rights Watch or other local nongovernmental organizations working in the field. Human Rights Watch investigators interviewed six women who survived rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by Yugoslav soldiers, or Serbian police and paramilitaries during the conflict.37 Human Rights Watch also met with two women who acknowledged that they had been raped but refused to give testimony to investigators. Human Rights Watch discovered six additional cases of women who were raped and subsequently murdered.
The Center for the Protection of Women and Children, a Pristina-based NGO, interviewed and provided assistance to twenty-nine rape and sexual violence victims. The Albanian Counseling Center for Women and Girls, an NGO in Tirana, Albania, documented an additional twenty-eight rape cases through direct interviews with victims. The Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms provided Human Rights Watch with four additional cases. And the Humanitarian Law Center reported four rapes. To the extent possible, Human Rights Watch corroborated these accounts through interviews with dozens of nurses, doctors, eyewitnesses, and local human rights and women's rights activists.
A psychologist from Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) working in Pec with victims reported four cases. Medical personnel working in Kosovo and Albania confirmed an additional eight cases of rape.38 Physicians for Human Rights published extracts from four direct interviews with victims of sexual violence.39 Amnesty International also documented three rapes of women held in a village in the region of Suva Reka during a three day period beginning April 21, 1999, although it appears to be the same incident reported by Human Rights Watch.40 It is important to note that some of these cases may have been double-counted by local and international organizations. In spite of problems of tallying numbers of attacks, Human Rights Watch believes, for the reasons described below, that these cases represent only a small fraction of the incidents of sexual violence that actually occurred for the reasons described below.
Human Rights Watch sought to interview numerous witnesses in cities throughout Kosovo, with particular emphasis on those cities reported to have had rape camps or multiple attacks. But it proved difficult to find women able to testify about rapes that occurred in their own town or village. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, for example, many of the women raped in Djakovica came from Mitrovica. Likewise, many of the women raped in Mitrovica came from villages in the surrounding area. The result was geographical chaos, with residents from one village victimized in another village perhaps one hundred kilometers away from their homes.
The cultural stigma attached to rape further complicated the documentation efforts. Because women in Kosovo only reluctantly spoke of sexual attacks, Human Rights Watch believes that the cases documented in this report represent only a fraction of the incidents of sexual violence which occurred. As one surgeon told Human Rights Watch, "Many women were raped. This is a patriarchal place and women find it very difficult to talk about these things."41 In all, men and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch throughout Kosovo reported seeing forty-nine women taken away from refugee convoys, houses, and barns by Serbian police, soldiers, or paramilitaries. Some unknown number of these women may have been raped. Some women who returned after being held told friends and relatives that Serbian authorities had only interrogated them. Others reported that the Serbian authorities forced them to "make coffee," a phrase that some experts believed was a euphemism for sexual assault.42 Still other women told of being forced to strip naked and being subjected to searches. These cases, supported only by hearsay evidence, could not be corroborated by Human Rights Watch. However, the large number of women taken away, some of whom never returned, does indicate that additional abuses may have occurred.43
Soldiers, police, and paramilitaries raped women in their homes. In one case in Pec, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that six armed and uniformed Serb men entered a house on June 12, 1999, around 9:00 p.m., two days before NATO entered the city. Before murdering six members of the family (aged five, six, seven, twelve, thirteen, and twenty-eight), the men raped one of the wives, a twenty-eight-year-old mother. Her sister-in-law, the mother of three of the murdered children, survived a chest wound and witnessed the killings. She told Human Rights Watch,
They were wearing military clothes and had black scarves on their heads. They took my sister-in-law into the front room, and they were hitting her and telling her to shut up. The children were screaming, and they also screamed at the children. She was with the paramilitary for one half hour. She was resisting, and they beat her, and the children could hear her screaming. I could only hear what was going on. I heard them slapping her. The children did not understand that they were raping her. After they raped my sister-in-law, they put her in line with us and shot her.44
Another family member, who was present and was interviewed separately, told Human Rights Watch:
When we got home, they ordered us to sit on the couch. They told my sister-in-law to stand up and come with them. They took her to the bathroom and raped her. My mother was near her in another room-she is an invalid. She heard them saying "faster, faster" to my sister-in-law. I asked my mother and she said that they "dehumanized" her.45
In another case documented by human rights investigators of the Pec Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, a twenty-year-old woman was raped in her home in Mitrovica by six local policemen. According to the victim's testimony given to the council, police took the woman and a fourteen-year-old girl into another room away from the family, where they raped the twenty-year-old. The younger girl resisted and one policeofficer allegedly asked her age. She responded that she was only fourteen. The police officer told the others to leave her alone since they had older women available. Although they forced her to strip naked, the police did not rape the fourteen-year-old.46
On June 12, in the city of Djakovica, six Serb paramilitaries entered an apartment building housing approximately 250 people. A.H., who lived in the building with her husband and son, described the sexual assault of her sister to Human Rights Watch:
After they burned my father's house, my father and the family took shelter in my building. [One paramilitary] told my father to give all our jewelry or "I'll take your daughter." [The paramilitary] had long hair with a pony tail and a big machine gun and ammo belt. They took my sister into another room because my father said he had no money. They took her in another room in the flat, locked the door, and told her to take off her clothes. She was seventeen.
My sister took off her tee-shirt, but they told her, "No, not that part, take off the lower part." She took off her pants and her panties. She was having her period.
I heard everything through the wall, and my sister told me what happened afterwards. The walls are very thin. I heard my sister begging them, "Please in the name of God, if you have a sister or a wife, don't touch me." I got close to the door and I heard him say, "You have your period so you are worth nothing." She looked like she had come back from the dead. She was gone for ten minutes, but it felt like days. Other than my sister, five other girls were abused [in our building], all of them very young.47
A psychologist for Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) counseling rape survivors in Pec, Colette Vercelletti, also reported cases of rape in women's homes. In three cases, women told her that they were raped in their own homes and their families were forced to watch.48
Also in the town of Pec, investigators with the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms collected testimony indicating that three local girls had been raped and then killed.49 Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm these cases independently.
Attacks in Flight
Throughout the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, an estimated 800,000 ethnic Albanians were forced out of the province by government forces. Tens of thousands more were internally displaced. During this time, long cordons of civilians were ushered along roads from villages to larger cities, and then out of Kosovo, usually to Albania or Macedonia. In some cases, refugee columns were sent back from the border to their place of origin.
During these treks, those seeking refuge were repeatedly stopped, harassed, robbed, and sometimes beaten or killed by paramilitaries, police, or the army. Human Rights Watch also documented thirty-five cases where womenwere pulled out of line and taken away by government forces. In some cases, the women returned after several hours. In other cases, the women did not return. Persons interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported paying exorbitant sums to free young women held by police and paramilitaries.50 One young woman told Human Rights Watch:
About twenty tractors were crowded together inside the village in a field. The paramilitaries shot at the first tractor so the tractors would stop. The paramilitaries came closer and separated the men over fifteen [years old] from the women. They took the women's jewelry and money and threatened us. They said, "Now come, we're going to have sex with you." I gave them 500 Deutsch Marks. They didn't take me because the other women stood up and grabbed me and they all gave money so I wouldn't be taken away. The Serbs hit me in the back.51
Some families reported hiding in the forest for months, only to be forced later to join refugee columns. According to one woman, who gave birth in the mountains without medical treatment, Serbian soldiers and police attacked a group of internally displaced persons who had taken shelter on a pig farm near Vucitrn. After beating the woman's two-year-old son and several others, she said, the police took four women and forced them to board an army truck. She told Human Rights Watch:
I saw the women pulled by force into the Serb truck and while they were in the truck we heard them screaming. We could not see because the truck was closed. There were four women, two of them were approximately thirty years old, and the others were twenty and twenty-two. I knew them. The women were on the truck for one hour. The women came off the truck like they were insane, like they had lost their minds. They could not talk about anything.52
Sexual assaults included sexually threatening full body searches. One woman from Dobrotin (Dobratin) told Human Rights Watch that police came to a small village where she and her children had taken shelter for seven weeks during the NATO bombing campaign.
The police came and surrounded us and demanded money and gold from us. They took our tee-shirts up and touched our breasts and our legs and demanded money. They were touching us and demanding money. Those who had no money-their daughters were taken away. The daughters were held for five hours.53
One rape victim recounted to Human Rights Watch how she was dragged off a tractor by a Serb paramilitary near the border village of Zur (Zhur) and sexually assaulted in front of dozens of other refugees. The victim, a thirty-year-old mother traveling with her mother, mother-in-law, and two children, told Human Rights Watch:
Two uniformed Serbian men stopped us. A big guy with red hair called me from the tractor. The red-haired one came around the tractor and said, "You," pointing at me. When he told me to get offthe tractor, I didn't. Then he yelled, "You! Get off!" My three-year-old son was asleep on my lap. He kept yelling, "Get off! Get off!" He pulled me off the tractor and ripped my clothes. His pants were already open and his penis was out. He tore off my bra. I started screaming and crying. The other Serb came close and pointed his automatic weapon at my chest. I was wearing dimije [baggy pants] so they'd think I was old. The red-haired one took my pants off, tearing the drawstring. He told me to sit down. He took the 10 DM that I had with me. He took off his pants and pulled me close to him. We were right next to the tractor, next to the driver's cabin. I had my period. When he took off my pants, he saw the pads with blood on them, so he didn't have sex with me. Instead he turned me around and grabbed my breasts, trying me on the other side [anal rape]. I contracted myself very tightly and he didn't succeed. He may have ejaculated. I don't know. It took three or four minutes, then he told me that I could get back on the tractor.54
Witnesses to this attack, which occurred on June 2, 1999, corroborated the account and provided additional, credible details of the incident. A tractor driver who passed that same point later in the day, as well as his other passengers on the tractor, corroborated the description of the two uniformed men. One eyewitness to the sexual assault, an eighteen-year-old man from Djinovce (Gjiaoc) in the Suva Reka municipality, told Human Rights Watch:
He took her onto the asphalt road and raped her right there in front of everyone. Only one Serb raped her. The other Serb hit people with the butt of his automatic weapon and said, "Silence, silence!" We all averted our eyes. It took three or four minutes. He did it right next to the tractor.55
Other women and girls seized from the lines were forced into cars, driven away, and raped or sexually assaulted. Serbian forces grabbed a twenty-two-year-old woman from Mitrovica from the line of fleeing refugees and drove her away in a white Volkswagen Golf. She told Human Rights Watch:
It happened while I was in line with the people. It was April 14th when we left our house and on the 15th we were walking near Djakovica. They say it was only two kilometers from the border. We arrived at four o'clock in the morning. We had a rest until six o'clock in the morning in a building close to the road. The border to Albania was closed. Serb police came with trucks and put us in the trucks and said that they would take us back to Kosovo because the border was closed. In another village they told us to get off the truck and we started walking again. We met Serb paramilitaries. There were five or six cars of them.
They approached my uncle and separated him. They took his gold and his money from him. Then they came up to me. I was arm in arm with my brother and my mother was behind me. [The paramilitary] came up to me and asked, "What is he to you?" and I said that he is my brother. He took my hand and told me to get in his car. I was so surprised. I did not want to walk. He told me not to refuse or there would be lots of victims. He swore at me and said, "Whore, get in the car." I could not say good-bye to my family. When I got in the car I saw another girl. We were two girls, and there were two uniformed Serbian men.
It was nine or ten o'clock at night. We were away from the line by several meters. He told us to get out. The other girl was taken by the driver and I was taken by the other. He told me not to scream and to take off my clothes. He took off his clothes and told me to suck his thing. I did not know what to do. He took my head and put it near him. He started to beat me. I lost consciousness. When Icame to I saw him over me. I had great pain. I was screaming and scratching the ground from the pain.
Another man came with a car and he got over me. The other man with the car asked the first one why he was treating this whore so good. I was crying from the pain and he was laughing the whole time. The second one got off me and told me to put on my clothes. I couldn't find them.
Just as I got dressed another one came and took me to another place a couple of meters away and he started with the same words and did the same things the first one did. He kept me there for several minutes and then told me to wear my clothes so I [looked like I did when I left the line]. He told me not to tell anyone or they would take me for good and shoot my family.
The men wore masks. They wore camouflage clothes and they were carrying weapons and knives on their belts. They said that they were paid to do this. I begged him [the first rapist] to kill me, but he didn't want to.56
B.B., in shock and still bleeding from the attacks, took shelter with her family and several hundred other internally displaced persons in a large warehouse. Serbian police arrived on April 19 with several Serbian doctors and nurses who gave B.B. tranquilizers and pieces of cotton to staunch the flow of blood. According to B.B., one nurse, seeing the blood on B.B.'s jeans, put her head in her hands and said, "What have they done?"57
In other cases, women taken from the lines were forced into trucks, gang raped in the trucks, and then raped again in houses where they were held hostage. One woman, who was twenty-one years old, was wounded when Serbs shelled the village of Izbica (Izbice) on April 17. A police officer told her mother that he would take her to the hospital. Instead, he forced her into the back of a military truck covered with a canvas. Sevdie Ahmeti, who interviewed the woman, told Human Rights Watch that the young woman was gang raped repeatedly by policemen over a period of days. Finally a police officer took her to the hospital in Mitrovica, where a Serb doctor reportedly refused to treat her. An Albanian nurse in the hospital cared for her and gave her sedatives. After the conflict, Ahmeti arranged for the woman to receive medical treatment. At that time, several months after the rape, she had scars from bite wounds on her breasts.58
Another nurse saw other women being taken from the lines of refugees. She told Human Rights Watch,
We continued to walk [from Mitrovica] to Decani. We stopped near Decani and stayed one night in a village. At three o'clock in the morning a group of nine men came in a jeep. We were close to the road. They chose five girls, and they took them away. It was night. They had flashlights, and the girls were sleeping. Everyone panicked. They put the girls in the jeep and we asked them to release the girls but they refused. They said that they needed them for information. [They said that] if their families had nothing to do with the KLA, they would release them. They did not bring the girls back. When we were turned back from the border to Pec, we heard [from other refugees] that the girls were raped.59
In another case recounted to Human Rights Watch by an investigator of the Humanitarian Law Center, who was based in Macedonia during the conflict, a male witness hiding near a police checkpoint reported that four girls between thirteen and seventeen were led away by police and held for three hours. According to his testimony, the police raped each of the girls and took their clothes. The witness heard the girls screaming; when they reappeared they were naked.60
In another case documented by the Center for the Protection of Women and Children, a twenty-two-year-old woman was dragged out of a refugee column on the road between Djakovica and Decani. Two paramilitaries took her behind a bush and raped her next to the road. After the rape, and despite the fact that she was bleeding, the paramilitaries ordered her to walk with the group.61
Rapes and Sexual Assaults of Women Held Hostage or Detained
Women held in buildings throughout Kosovo independently gave remarkably similar accounts of rape, sexual assault, and harassment. After separating women and children from the men, Serbian forces held women hostages in various empty buildings. Women reported being taken out of these holding centers one by one to be "checked." These checks included interrogations and, in some cases, rape and other forms of sexual violence.
In late April, in a village in the Drenica region that will remain unnamed to protect the women involved, government forces dressed in green camouflage uniforms with green insignia, which suggests they were soldiers in the Yugoslav Army, held a group of twenty-seven women and children in a small barn full of hay. According to five testimonies collected separately, all of which corroborated one another, women were taken out one by one. According to one of the women:
We were checked close to the door, outside in the yard, one at a time. It took twenty minutes. They asked, "Where is your husband? Is he in the KLA?" Girls had all their clothes taken off completely. And the married women-they took off our upper clothes and were handling our breasts and touching us. They asked us where we wanted to go and lay. They took off my blouse and asked me questions. First they asked questions and then they checked for money. They touched my breasts.62
According to other women held in the barn, Serb paramilitaries took six of the younger women out several times and raped them in a building next door. At one point, the paramilitaries took five of the younger women (aged twenty-nine, twenty-three, twenty, nineteen, and twenty) and three older women women (two of them aged fifty, the third aged sixty) outside one final time. One witness heard three gun shots immediately after the three older women were taken from the building.63 None of the women returned and only one of the nine, in fact, survived. Their remains were discovered three months later in a well located on the property.
During their incarceration, the women attempted to bribe the troops not to take their daughters. One woman said, "I gave you money-100 DM and gold coins." The men in uniform replied that they were aware she had paid and took the woman anyway.64
Only one of the six younger women who had been taken away by the Serb forces survived. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, she described her experience.65 Aged twenty-one, V.B. was seven months pregnant when she was raped by Serb paramilitaries. She said,
In the first place we were in [a small village], where we were captured by the regular army. They kept us there for three nights. They separated us into two groups. A small group of twenty people was taken from that place and they told us we would go to [another village] because it was dangerous here from NATO bombing. We asked, "Why don't you take us all?" and they told us that they would bring the others. We were relatives-all from one village except for my mother-in-law. The regular army sent us to the big yard and they left us there. After they left us in the yard four people came. The army moved on and left us in the hands of these paramilitaries. They had insignia of tigers. When they were torturing us, sometimes it was with masks and sometimes without. Some had shaved heads, scarves, some had long hair.
They put us in a small barn with hay in it. Then the four men came into the barn and slammed the door and pointed machine guns at us. They asked for gold, money, and whatever we had. We gave whatever we had. But they were still torturing us. They would take a girl, they kept her outside for half an hour, and after that they would bring one back and then they would take another. They took five girls. One by one they tortured all the girls. Four or five times they took them and brought them back. They did this to my sister. When she was turned back I asked, "What are they doing to you?" and she felt sorry for me and told me not to talk. Then I asked my sister's close friend. I asked, "What are they doing to you?" and she said that the soldiers were taking off their clothes and forcing them to be naked.
Then they took me. I was pregnant. I was holding my son. They took him away from me and gave him to my mother. They told me to get up and follow them. I was crying and screaming, "Take me back to my child!" They took me to another room. It was so bad I almost fainted. I can't say the words they said. They tortured me.
Because I was pregnant, they asked me where my husband was. I was afraid to say that he was in the woods.66 So I said that he was in Italy. One of them said to another soldier, "Kick her and make the baby abort." They did this to me four times-they took me outside to the other place.
All the girls were tortured the same way until they were taken for the last time. While I was sitting apart from my mother in the yard, I could not see my mother or my sister, but I could hear my son crying. One man grabbed the child and brought him to me. He let the boy stay with me for a while and then they took him away. Then another man came at me. Three men took me one by one. Then they asked me, "Are you desperate for your husband?" and said, "Here we are instead of him."
The paramilitaries released V.B. and put her inside with the other older women. A policeman sat outside, guarding the door. He wore a camouflage and blue uniform. After half an hour, however, other paramilitaries entered the room:
They were coming in with knives and masks. And they would ask one another, "Are we going to cut them?" They did the same thing [each time]. They beat me, and they bit me. The one who wasfinishing with me would take me to another one and say, "You take her now." One was very big with a shaved head and he tortured me very much. When he took me in his hands he tortured me so much that I fainted. I didn't know where I was. When I woke up I was lying on the ground with no clothes and he was standing over me and laughing. I was very afraid.
I screamed but he put a machine gun in my face and said that he would shoot me if I screamed again. I didn't have any clothes on. I was afraid that since I was pregnant they would cut me. They were playing with their knives all the time. They said, "We will take the baby out." That man with the shaved head and a mask sharpened his knife [in front of me]. One gave himself an injection. The man with the shaved head did all these bad things. He [cut his hand a little bit] and drank blood in front of us. After I fainted they didn't take me anymore.
V.B. was told by the policeman guarding the door to the barn to go back inside. The five other young women, along with three older women, were led away by the paramilitaries. V.B. told Human Rights Watch,
When I entered the [barn] I heard three shots. Maybe the three women were killed there. With the other girls, we didn't know what happened to them until they were found.
When they took the girls and women they tied the door with wire. We stayed there for an hour. The man who was guarding us opened the door and told us to go out to run away. He had blue clothes and camouflage on. He turned me back and released us. He did not torture me. I only saw him when he turned me back and when he released us. He also gave me milk.
The families of the victims reported the rapes and "disappearances" to the Yugoslav Army (VJ). A commander "with two red stripes on his uniform" took the testimony and promised the families that the army would find the perpetrators and try them.67 The commander later took the pregnant rape survivor to the hospital, where she delivered her baby two weeks later.
In another instance, a nurse who was held hostage with dozens of other women in the village of Beleg in March 1999 told Human Rights Watch that Serbian forces she said were wearing black headscarves took thirty women out of a house in twos and threes and kept each girl for at least half an hour. Women who refused to go out or resisted were beaten with the butts of assault rifles. She continued:
They raped them. Soon after they were back, they could not talk. But after that they told me what they had survived. They were covered with bites. I did not have any drugs. I tried to wash them. They said that they were treated as if they were animals. I tried to help ten of the girls. They were bleeding. I used to work in a village, and I recognized them-they were my patients. They were all younger than eighteen years old.68
Human Rights Watch documented several cases where victims were able to identify their attackers as Serbian special police or Yugoslav Army soldiers or officers. However, paramilitaries appear to have perpetrated most of the rapes during the conflict. In one incident, two ethnic Albanian refugee women from Kosovo told a Human Rights Watch investigator that Serbian security forces held them captive in Kosovo and raped them repeatedly. The two rape victims, both from a village in the Suva Reka municipality, gave detailed and credible testimony that was corroborated by eight other women villagers, interviewed separately.
According to the testimony, special police and army forces surrounded the village on April 21, 1999. Most of the men fled into the mountains. Between 200 and 300 women, including women from nearby villages, and eleven elderly men stayed in the village.69 The security forces divided up the women randomly to be held in three private houses. The women told Human Rights Watch that during the three days they were held in the houses, they suffered verbal abuse, threats, and harassment. One woman told investigators that police held a knife to her three-year-old son, threatening to kill him if she did not hand over gold or money. Serb forces compelled some women to clean and cook; other women were forced to have sex with their captors.
As in the Drenica case, women reported being forced to strip naked to endure searches. As one woman, twenty-three years old, told Human Rights Watch,
I was held in a room full of women. The police came, and gestured for me to come. A policeman made me take off my clothes and he found a note that I was hiding in my underwear on which I had my husband's telephone number in Switzerland. He tore up the note and started swearing at me. I went back to the group of women and the same policeman came back and said, "Come here." He took me far away from the other women and did whatever he wanted with me.70
Two of the women raped by Serb forces described the attacks in detail to Human Rights Watch. One woman, who was sexually abused on two occasions, described being taken by Serb forces from the house, which was crowded with frightened women and children. During one of those occasions, Serb soldiers raped her. At approximately four o'clock in the afternoon on her second day of captivity, she was "chosen" from among a large group of women by a man in a green camouflage uniform. The man took her into another house and raped her there.
The following day another man demanded that she go with him to a different house ten minutes' walk from the house where she was held prisoner. According to her account, the man did not tell her where he was taking her or why, but instead pushed her forward with his gun when she started crying.
The house was full of members of the Serbian security forces, she told Human Rights Watch. They asked her questions, using a mixture of gestures and very basic words to communicate, as the woman barely understood Serbian. The soldiers and police asked her age-twenty-three-whether she had any children, and the whereabouts of her husband. They demanded money and ordered her to take off her clothes when she failed to produce cash. She started crying and pulling out her hair, which made the men laugh. They put on some music.
After she took off her clothes, the men approached her one by one as she stood before them naked. She told Human Rights Watch that all of them looked at her, then they left her alone in the room with the man she believed to be the commander and another officer. The commander, whom she recognized as such because he had gold stars on his cap and issued orders to the other soldiers, reclined on his back about ten feet away from where the victim and the other officer were lying on a bed. The man on the bed, who was nude, touched her breasts but did not force her to touch him. "I kept crying all the time and pushing his hands away," she said. "Finally he said to me, `I'm not going to do anything.' The commander just stared at us."
After about ten minutes, the other soldiers returned to the room and, still nude, the woman was forced to serve them coffee. She was then ordered to put her clothes back on and clean up. She picked up the dirty cups and dishes and swept the floor, she said. Then the soldiers returned her to the original house with the other women. When the others asked what had happened to her, she refused to tell them.
The second rape victim from the same village, aged twenty-nine, told Human Rights Watch that the police took her away from the house where she was being held and brought her to another house. There she was placed in a room and forced to strip naked. One after the other, five members of the Serb forces entered the room to look at her body, but it was only the last one who raped her, she told Human Rights Watch. While one of the men was assaulting her, the other four entered the room and watched. The woman also stated that someone had placed a walkie-talkie under the bed in the room, and throughout the rape the Serbian forces shouted at her via the walkie-talkie to scare her. In all, she estimated that she was held in the room for about half an hour.71
A doctor in the United Arab Emirates camp in Kukes, Albania-where the refugees from the village found shelter-told Human Rights Watch that three other women had told him a day earlier that they had also been raped, although it is not known where the rapes took place. Human Rights Watch received unconfirmed reports that Serbian forces also took other women from the houses. According to one elderly woman from another nearby village, on the third night, the police entered one of the houses, shining a bright flashlight into the faces of the women, many of whom attempted to cover their heads with their scarves. The police found one woman and demanded that she leave with them. She returned approximately two hours later and, when asked what had happened, replied, "Don't ask me anything."72 Amnesty International has also documented a similar pattern of multiple rapes from the same village in the Suva Reka province in late April 21, 1999.73
Other sites around the country also contained evidence indicating that rape and other forms of sexual violence in temporary detention facilities may have occurred. According to Sevdie Ahmeti, the economics department at the university in Pristina may also have been used as a center for rapes and other forms of sexual violence. Ahmeti and other investigators who accompanied her found women's tights, combs, and panties strewn around the basement. The room had been decorated with pornographic pictures of women. On a blackboard on one side of the room, a message had been scrawled in Serbian: "If you are frustrated, empty between the legs of a woman." Blankets found in the basement had what appeared to be bloodstains.74
Kosovar Albanian women interviewed in Albanian refugee camps by counselors from the Counseling Center for Women and Girls also reported being taken from holding centers and forced to clean buildings housing paramilitaries and soldiers. One woman told a counselor,
At the first moment they picked out the most beautiful girls, brought us to the house, and closed one girl in each room. They came in my room and demanded that I get undressed. I started to scream and they beat me and locked me in the bathroom. They left me there for an hour until I stopped screaming. Then an officer, perhaps a lieutenant, chose the men who would come in and have sexualrelations with me. He himself did not. After four men entered the room and had sex, I was exhausted. He said that the fifth one would be the last one. After the fifth there were no more.75
In at least one case, a woman was specifically sought out for torture and abuse because of her status as a prominent women's human rights activist. On May 4, 1999, the door of the house where she was hiding was broken down by three masked men carrying assault rifles. During the hours that followed, she was sexually assaulted with the barrel of a gun.76
Testimony provided to Human Rights Watch also suggested that women held in prisons were raped and sexually assaulted, although there is no direct testimony to confirm these claims. A man, M.J., described being taken with others by truck to the prison in Lipljan (Lipjan), which also had a women's facility. When the detainees arrived at the prison, they were tortured and interrogated, he told Human Rights Watch. M.J. spent forty-two days in the prison. He told a Human Rights Watch investigator that women also were detained and raped in the prison. The women, held in a cell near the men, could be heard screaming. According to the prisoner, "I heard the police tell the women to take off their clothes. I will never forget their screams. The police would walk by our room and say to each other, `Tonight we will be with the girls.'"77
Because the prisoners were forbidden to look up or move around the prison, the witness did not see the women prisoners. Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm his account.5 The terms "rape and other forms of sexual violence" and "sexual assault" will be used throughout the report. The term "sexual assault" will be used to denote attacks which do not rise to the level of rape. The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Prosecutor v. Anto Furundzija defined the objective elements of rape as: (i) the sexual penetration, however slight: (a) of the vagina or anus of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator or any other object used by the perpetrator; or (b) of the mouth of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator; (ii) by coercion or force or threat of force against the victim or a third person. Furundzija Judgment, Case no. IT-95-17/1-T, p. 73, para. 185. The ICTY trial chamber in Furundzija also noted that "international criminal rules punish not only rape but also any serious sexual assault falling short of actual penetration. It would seem that the prohibition embraces all serious abuses of a sexual nature inflicted upon the physical and moral integrity of a person by means of coercion, threat of force or intimidation in a way that is degrading and humiliating for the victim's dignity. As both these categories of acts are criminalised in international law, the distinction between them is one that is primarily material for the purposes of sentencing." Furundzija Judgment, Case no. IT-95-17/1-T, p. 73, para. 186. In the Celebici Judgment, the trial chamber of the ICTY relied upon the definition of rape and sexual violence formulated in the case of the Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu (Case no. ICTR-96-4-T, Trial Chamber 1, 2 September 1998). The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) trial chamber in the Akayesu Judgment wrote, "The chamber defines rape as a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under any circumstances which are coercive. Sexual violence, which includes rape, is considered to be any act of a sexual nature which is committed under circumstances which are coercive." (As cited in Prosecutor v. Delalic, Mucic, Delic, and Landzo, Case no. IT-96-21-T, 16 November 1998, p. 173, para. 478). Violence includes psychological as well as physical harm.
6 See Helsinki Watch and The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Yugoslavia: Crisis in Kosovo (New York: Helsinki Watch, 1990), Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, Open Wounds: Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), and Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, "Persecution Persists: Human Rights Violations in Kosovo," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 8, no. 13, December 1996.
7 See section on International and National Legal Protections Against Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence. For a full discussion on legal standards and internal armed conflicts, see Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998).
8 For documentation on international humanitarial law violations by the KLA and government forces in 1998, see two Human Rights Watch reports: Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo and Human Rights Watch, A Week of Terror in Drenica (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998).
9 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 11, 1999.
10 Human Rights Watch interview, Ariana Zherka, Pristina, July 10, 1999.
11 OSCE, "Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence," in As Seen, As Told
(www.osce.org/kosovo/reports/hr/part1/ch7.html). The report includes two statements by rape victims and one statement by a rape victim's mother. In all, the accounts describe twenty-three rapes. In one incident, Serbian police gang raped two women on their way to attend a wedding. In another case, one Serbian police officer and three civilians raped a woman who was four-and-a-half months pregnant. In the final case documented in the OSCE report, paramilitaries gang raped a thirteen-year-old girl and nineteen other women.
12 OSCE, As Seen, As Told. The report notes that human rights officers, then based in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, gathered testimony about violations that had occurred after the evacuation of the OSCE-KVM from Kosovo and "[came] across acts of sexual violence that had been committed earlier."
13 "Britain Says Kosovo Women Raped in Military Camp," Reuters News Service, April 13, 1999.
14 Vernon Loeb and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Evidence Mounts of Atrocities by Yugoslav Forces," Washington Post, April 10, 1999; Nicholas Watt and Ian Traynor, "Serbs Have Rape Camp," Guardian, April 14, 1999.
15 For additional information on civilian casualties in Yugoslavia, see Human Rights Watch, "Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 12, no. 1, February 2000.
16 The U.S. State Department report, "Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting," (www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/kosovoii/op.html) states in the "Atrocities and War Crimes by Location" chapter: "[A]ccording to a 22 June 1999 New York Times report, Serbian forces used the Hotel Karagac as a rape camp for Albanian women." Elisabeth Bumiller's June 22nd New York Times article states: "For now, State Department officials in Washington say they have received refugee reports that Serbs were using the Hotel Karagac in the town of Pec and an army camp near Djakovica as rape camps." On page 12 of the report, the State Department cites Kosovar Albanian sources for these reports; however, it does not indicate whether these were witness-, victim-, or hearsay statements. The report refers to one statement by a victim that "Serbian forces used a second hotel in Pec, the Metohia, for raping Kosovar Albanians."
17 Dorothy Q. Thomas and Regan E. Ralph, "Rape in War: Challenging the Tradition of Impunity," SAIS Review, Winter-Spring 1994, p. 93.
18 Human Rights Watch interview, T.E., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
19 See Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina: Volume II (New York: Helsinki Watch, 1993).
20 However, Human Rights Watch did not find conclusive evidence that Arkan's Tigers or Seselj's White Eagles were responsible for any of the abuses detailed in this report.
21 Human Rights Watch interview, T.E., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
22 Human Rights Watch interview, S.T., Dobrotin, July 13, 1999.
23 Human Rights Watch interview, Dr. A.B., Pristina, July 21, 1999.
24 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 12, 1999.
25 See, for example, Gordana Igric, "Kosovo Rape Victims Suffer Twice," Institute of War and Peace Reporting, (www.iwpr.ac.psiweb.com/index.pl5?archive/bcr/bcr_19990618_2_eng.txt).
See also Human Rights Watch, A Week of Terror in Drenica and Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo.
26 Human Rights Watch, A Week of Terror in Drenica. Male detainees in the Drenica region reported that police threatened to rape their wives and daughters (p. 43). Women also reported that police conducted body searches, in one case "rais[ing] [a woman's] dress to check for weapons" (p. 37). See also Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo. One refugee in northern Albania in 1998 claimed to have witnessed the rape of six women and girls, two of them thirteen-year-old girls (p. 39). Physicians for Human Rights also documented violent beatings and rape throughout Kosovo in 1998. Physicians for Human Rights, "Medical Group Recounts Individual Testimony of Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo," June 24, 1998.
27 See Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo, pp. 66-74. For an account of the propaganda against Kosovar Albanians, see Julie Mertus, Kosovo: How Myths and Truths Started A War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) p. 8. The importance of propaganda in encouraging rape and other abuses has been well documented in conflicts worldwide. For an additional case study on the relationship between propaganda and rape, see Human Rights Watch/Africa and Women's Rights Project, Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence During the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996), pp.15-19.
28 Julie Mertus, "Women in Kosovo: Contested Terrains," in Sabrina Ramet, ed., Gender Politics in the Western Balkans: Women and Society in Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Successor States (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999) pp. 174 and 178. Mertus cites Borba (Belgrade) 2 June 1994 as an example of such propaganda.
29 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 11, 1999.
30 Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo, pp. 66-74.
31 Julie Mertus, "Women in Kosovo: Contested Terrains," in Ramet, ed., p. 178.
32 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
33 Three witnesses independently volunteered that they had observed bite marks. Human Rights Watch interview, S.T., Dobratin, July 13, 1999. Human Rights Watch interview, V.B., Vucitrn, July 19, 1999. Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 11, 1999.
34 The Los Angeles Times also reported rapes in the village of Bileg (Beleg) in the second week of April. See Carol J. Williams, "In Kosovo, Rape Seen as Awful as Death," Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1999, p. A1.
35 Human Rights Watch interview, V.T., Decani, July 17, 1999. In all, V.T. reported seeing thirty women taken out of the house. She treated ten of the women.
36 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 12,1999.
37 Three rape victims spoke with Human Rights Watch researchers in refugee camps in Albania. Three women met individually with a Human Rights Watch investigator in their homes in Kosovo.
38 These cases came from doctors who had performed abortions or provided medical treatment in the cases.
39 Physicians for Human Rights, War Crimes in Kosovo: A Population-Based Assessment of Human Rights Violations Against Kosovar Albanians (Boston: Physicians for Human Rights, 1999), p. 80.
40 Amnesty International, "Kosovo: Incidents of Multiple Rape," News Release, May 27, 1999 (www.amnesty.org/news/1999/47007699.htm).
41 Human Rights Watch interview, Dr. C.C., Mitrovica, July 12, 1999.
42 Williams, "In Kosovo, Rape Seen as Awful as Death," Los Angeles Times.
43 The allegation of forty-nine cases of women taken away is based on direct witness testimony. An unknown number of women were taken away and held by Serbian and Yugoslav forces. Again, Human Rights Watch believes that these forty-nine cases represent only a small proportion of the total.
44 Human Rights Watch interview, H.B., Pec, July 14, 1999.
45 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Pec, July 18, 1999.
46 Human Rights Watch interview, Gazmend Mumaxheri, Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, Pec, July 14, 1999, reading from a verbatim record of the victim's statement.
47 Human Rights Watch interview, A.H., Djakovica, July 20, 1999.
48 Human Rights Watch interview, Colette Vercelletti, Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF), Pec, July 15, 1999.
49 Human Rights Watch interview, Dr. Aslan, Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedom, Pec, July 14, 1999.
50 In most cases women were taken away for periods ranging from twenty minutes to several hours. Witnesses reported that some women were held all night before families could ransom them. In one case, two twin teenaged girls were dragged out of the line of fleeing Kosovar Albanians and held several meters away for twenty minutes. The parents walked through the line and begged others to help raise the 500 Deutsch Marks demanded as ransom by the paramilitaries. The girls were not harmed. Human Rights Watch interview, D.M., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
51 Human Rights Watch interview, A.A., Kukes Refugee Camp, Albania, June 5, 1999.
52 Human Rights Watch interview, V.S., Mitrovica, July 12, 1999.
53 Human Rights Watch interview, S.T., Dobrotin, July 13, 1999.
54 Human Rights Watch interview, R.G., Kukes Refugee Camp, Albania, June 5, 1999.
55 Human Rights Watch interview, P.J., Kukes Refugee Camp, Albania, June 5, 1999.
56 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
57 Human Rights Watch interview, B.B., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
58 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 11, 1999, reading from the victim's verbatim statement.
59 Human Rights Watch interview, F.A., Mitrovica, July 16, 1999.
60 Human Rights Watch interview, Ariana Zherka, Pristina, July 10, 1999.
61 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 11, 1999.
62 Human Rights Watch interview, X. R., village in Drenica region, July 19, 1999.
63 Human Rights Watch interview, V.B., Vucitrn, July 19, 1999. V.B. did not believe that the older women had been raped.
64 Human Rights Watch interview, X. R.,village in Drenica region, July 19, 1999.
65 Human Rights Watch interview, V.B., Vucitrn, July 19, 1999.
66 Being "in the woods" is usually a reference to being with the KLA.
67 Human Rights Watch interview, V.B., Vucitrn, July 19, 1999.
68 Human Rights Watch interview V.T., Decani, July 17, 1999.
69 When first interviewed as refugees in Kukes, Albania, in April 1999, women from the village told Human Rights Watch that eleven elderly men had been taken by the police. Some claimed to have seen a dead body as they left the village, but they did not know who it was. Human Rights Watch revisited the village in August and learned that eleven elderly men had been killed, and their bodies had been found in the village well.
70 Human Rights Watch interview, Z.T., Kukes Refugee Camp, Albania, April 28, 1999.
71 Human Rights Watch interview, Z.Z., Kukes refugee camp, Albania, April 28, 1999.
72 Human Rights Watch interview, Z.T., Kukes refugee camp, Albania, April 28, 1999.
73 Amnesty International, "Incidents of Multiple Rape."
74 Human Rights Watch interview, Sevdie Ahmeti, Pristina, July 19, 1999. Ahmeti and others visited the site after NATO troops entered Pristina.
75 Human Rights Watch interview, Silvana Mirija, Director, Counseling Center for Women and Girls, Tirana, Albania, July 24, 1999. In all, counselors from the Center documented twenty-eight cases of rape through direct victim testimony. The Center had a staff of forty-five counselors in "open centers" and camps in Tirana, Pogradec, and Shkoder.
76 Human Rights Watch interview, A.X., Pristina, July 11, 1999.
77 Human Rights Watch interview, M.J., Dobrotin, July 13, 1999.