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Focus on Kosovo

War Crimes in Kosovo
Photo Essay, October 1999
Naming Names: Serbian Militia Members Identified
New Report Details Executions in Kosovo
(New York -- October 26, 1999) Five individuals from the Serbian security forces have been named and identified in photographs by witnesses to their actions, Human Rights Watch announced today. One man is implicated in the killing of six family members and two men were seen as part of an armed unit in the village of Cuska on May 14, 1999, when forty-one ethnic Albanians were summarily executed.


Related Material

A VILLAGE DESTROYED: War Crimes in Kosovo
HRW Report, October 1999

The release of this report is timed to coincide with an investigation of war crimes in Kosovo conducted by American RadioWorks and broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program on October 25.

Details from the report, including photographs, can be found at:
Justice for Kosovo

Abuses Against Serbs and Roma in the New Kosovo
HRW Report, August 1999

"The world knows that terrible crimes were committed in Kosovo, but it's time to start attaching names and faces to those crimes. Identifying specific perpetrators is an essential part of justice and without justice, there can be no lasting peace in the region."

In a report released today, "A Village Destroyed: War Crimes in Kosovo," the organization details the grisly events in Cuska, as well as two neighboring villages in western Kosovo, Zahac and Pavljan, where Serbian forces killed another twenty-five people on the same day. The report contains the photographs of the five members of the Serbian security forces who have been identified. It is the first human rights report to name and provide pictures of people who may be responsible for or have first-hand knowledge of war crimes in Kosovo.

In Cuska, Serbian forces took three groups of men into three different houses, where they were sprayed with machine guns, and then set on fire. In each of the three groups of men, one man survived. Their stories and those of other witnesses are provided in the report.

Villagers positively identified in photographs two individuals they claim were present in Cuska on May 14. Witnesses named one man, Zvonimir Cvetkovic, and other sources identified the second man, Srecko Popovic, from these photos. Other witnesses recognized a third man who was present in Zahac on the same day, Slavisa Kastratovic. While none of these men are known to have opened fire on the ethnic Albanians, their presence in the villages means that they should be able to identify the perpetrators, as well as the commanders of the unit. That information is invaluable to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which is mandated to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Kosovo.

"The world knows that terrible crimes were committed in Kosovo, but it's time to start attaching names and faces to those crimes," said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Identifying specific perpetrators is an essential part of justice -- and without justice, there can be no lasting peace in the region."

The photographs used to identify the men in Cuska were provided to Human Rights Watch by representatives of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). While Human Rights Watch cannot vouch for the authenticity of the photographs, numerous Kosovar Albanians interviewed separately recognized the men mentioned in this report from these photographs, and placed them among the Serbian forces in the villages on the day of the killings. Some witnesses were able to provide names.

A Human Rights Watch researcher scanned the photographs into a laptop computer and then showed them to villagers in Cuska, Zahac, and Pavljan, as well as to people in the city of Pec. The methodology employed was to show the photographs to only one person at a time, preferably in a one-on-one setting. All of the photographs were shown one at a time on the computer screen without any comment or suggestive hints.

In addition to the war crimes committed in Cuska and Zahac on May 14, Human Rights Watch documented a serious crime in Pec, a city that was almost entirely "cleansed" of its ethnic Albanian population in the first week of the NATO bombing campaign. Two witnesses independently identified from a photograph Nebojsa Minic (aka "Mrtvi," or "Death"), and directly implicated him in the extortion and killing of six family members from Pec on June 12.

Numerous witnesses also identified Vidomir Salipur as a Pec policeman with a reputation for his use of torture and beatings against ethnic Albanians. Salipur, who allegedly headed a local militia group called "Munja," or "Lightning," was killed by the KLA on April 11, 1999, before the May 14 incident in Cuska. In Photograph no. 6 published in the report, Salipur is standing next to Nebojsa Minic.

The motive for the killing in Cuska, Pavljan and Zahac remains unclear. There is no evidence to suggest any KLA presence in the villages in 1998 or 1999, and no policemen or soldiers are known to have died in the immediate vicinity during the NATO bombing, which might have made revenge a possible motive. One explanation offered by local villagers is that Cuska was the home of Hasan Ceku, the father of Agim Ceku, military head of the KLA.

There is also evidence of Yugoslav Army involvement in the attack. A number of sources reported seeing documents from the army regarding a military buildup around Cuska shortly before May 14. One Western journalist claimed to have seen Yugoslav Army documents that ordered the village to be "cleansed."

For more information, please contact:
Fred Abrahams (212)216-1270
Alexandra Perina (212) 216-1845
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