Government abuses increased with the withdrawal of the OSCE/KVM on March 20, but intensified dramatically with the NATO bombing on March 24. Villages along the border to the northwest of Djakovica city, in the direction of Junik, were depopulated. Prominent Albanians, including those who had worked for the OSCE, were targeted for murder in Djakovica city, and the old city center was burned. Reprisals for fighting in the Cabrat neighborhood between the KLA and government forces is one explanation for the severity of government crimes against civilians in the city proper (see below).
Some villages in the municipality were also hard hit.2 As explained below, more than one hundred men are missing from an April 27 attack on Korenica. That same day, thousands of Albanians from the villages northwest of Djakovica were forcibly expelled to Albania and fled in a giant convoy. In the village of Meja, men were separated from the cordon, and approximately 300 of them remain missing as of April 2001. Twenty men were executed in Goden on March 25.
Meja was also the site of a NATO attack on a convoy of internally displaced Albanians on April 14. Later that same day, NATO bombed another IDP convoy near the village of Bistrazin (Bistrazhin).3 (For details see The NATO Air Campaign.)
Djakovica (Gjakove) City
Djakovica suffered the most intense violence against civilians of Kosovo's larger cities. While not all of the city's estimated 100,000 residents (including 20,000 internally displaced) were expelled, threats and killing drove a majority of the population from the city. Serbian police and paramilitaries, as well as Yugoslav soldiers, killed approximately 200 people between March 24 and June 12 alone in the city, and many more were killed in nearby villages such as Meja and Korenica. Approximately 1,200 other people from the Djakovica municipality remained missing as of February 2000. At least 150 others were arrested during the war and taken to Serbia proper where they were convicted by Serbian courts for "terrorist acts," although most were later released.
The violence in Djakovica was well organized. Although some killings took place almost every day, the large-scale violence and destruction occurred in distinct phases and appeared well coordinated by the security forces. A few large-scale killings also took place, such as the murders of twenty people in one house, aged two to seventy-three, on the evening of April 1. Prominent residents of the city, such as lawyers, doctors, and political activists, appeared to have been expressly targeted for murder.
Those active in the repression in Djakovica included local police, police from other parts of Serbia, the army, and paramilitaries, all working in close concert with one another. Witnesses identified certain local policemen, as well as some other local Serbs. Some local Albanians were also said to have helped the police identify individuals, especially political activists, wealthy businessmen, or families with members in the KLA.
Djakovica's proximity to the Albanian border was one factor in the intensity of violence. The nearby mountains were a common route for arms and personnel infiltration by the KLA which made the city strategically significant. From May 7 to May 11, intense house-to-house fighting between government forces and the KLA took place in the Cabrat neighborhood of the city-followed by a wave of state violence against civilians, as well as many detentions.
But Djakovica also has a tradition of resistance and Albanian national pride that may have contributed to the government's violent determination. The city's population-over ninety percent ethnic Albanian-strongly supported the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the main Kosovar Albanian political party in the 1990s, and many young men from Djakovica joined the KLA in 1998 and 1999. Albanians from Djakovica also believe that the city was targeted because of its reputation as a cultural and intellectual center in Kosovo.
Because an estimated 25 percent of the population remained in the city throughout the war, there are a number of credible witnesses who observed the looting, burning, and killing that enveloped the city. Among these are the municipal workers who were ordered by the police to remove and bury the dead. Faton Polloshka, head of the Djakovica Public Works Department, and his team of eight workers, all of them ethnic Roma,4 remember many of the names of victims and the dates and places of their deaths, as well as general observations about the events in Djakovica. They were some of the few non-military personnel allowed to travel freely throughout the city. Polloshka told Human Rights Watch:
Every day there were two, three, four, or five [killings]. . . If it was one body, we went with a car. If it was two bodies, we went with two cars. If it was more than that we took a tractor.5
Polloshka and his crew claim that the Serbian police systematically catalogued the deaths that took place, which was also the case in Pec. Many of the victims were identified and photographed, they said. And they said an investigative judge named Marinkovic was often present at the site of the killings.
The total number of deaths in Djakovica is unclear, since so many men remain missing. The Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms estimated the missing at 1,200 and compiled a list with names, dates of birth, places of abduction, and the names of the persons who reported the missing. As of July 11, 1999, the list had 948 names, but approximately 250 more names were being added to the database. The council also had a list of 200 persons killed from Djakovica municipality which included fourteen KLA fighters.6
The Washington Post conducted in-depth research into the killing in Djakovica. Based on information from Faton Polloshka, the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms and its own independent investigation, the paper came up with an "incomplete" list of 199 people killed between March 24 and June 12 in Djakovica, 186 of whom are listed by name.7
One hindrance to counting the dead was the authorities' apparent attempt to remove or destroy evidence. According to Faton Polloshka, as well as one of his street cleaners, interviewed separately, seventy-seven bodies that had been buried in the Djakovica cemetery in early May were removed sometime after May 7. Polloshka told the New York Times that approximately one hundred bodies were removed from the cemetery on May 22.8 Another city employee, who worked in the cemetery for six years, told Human Rights Watch: "Bodies were taken from the cemetery. They came with bulldozers. I didn't see this but we saw the next day that they had come. It was after the Cabrat offensive."9
On July 24, Human Rights Watch observed large tire tracks and disturbed earth at the spot in the cemetery where the bodies were allegedly removed. A number of other graves were marked "Paidentifikuar"-"Unidentified." One grave said: "Wool socks, black jacket and pants with white stripes." According to Polloshka, during the war, his team also buried eighteen bodies in private gardens throughout the city.
All evidence suggests close cooperation between the various security forces present in and around the city: police, army and paramilitaries. Djakovica residents named Sreten Camovic, who was the local head of state security, as the officer responsible for the city, although nobody witnessed him committing any crimes. Milan Stanojevic was the local head of the police-a cousin of Djakovica's mayor, Momcilo Stanojevic. According to Polloshka, he had a brief conversation with Mayor Stanojevic during the war: "I was close with the mayor and I asked him `What are you doing? Don't you want to live here after this?' He answered that his `orders are coming from above.'"10
In an article from April 30, 1999, the Washington Post reported on some of the Yugoslav forces active in the Djakovica region. Citing "U.S. intelligence reports," the article mentioned the Yugoslav Army's 125 Motorized Brigade, commanded by Col. Srba Zdravkovic;11 the 252nd Armored Brigade, commanded by Col. Milos Mandic; and the 52nd Mixed Artillery Brigade, commanded by Col. Radojko Stefanovic.12 Colonels Mandic and Stefanovic were both named by the State Department in early April as commanders known to be operating in Kosovo.13
Many Albanians from Djakovica also spoke about a local Albanian family, the Jakupis, that had long-term ties with the police. In its report on Kosovo, the OSCE also mentions the Jakupi family as having been mandated by the police to contribute to "local security" in 1998 and 1999.14 Many people in Djakovica said the family assisted the police, at least by guiding them around the area, during the NATO bombing.
One further clue regarding government forces active in the Djakovica area emerged from the trial of 143 Kosovar Albanians, who were convicted by a Serbian court on charges of terrorism on May 22, 2000 (see the section on Kosovar Albanian Prisoners in Serbia Since War's End in the chapter Abuses After June 12, 1999). According to Judge Goran Petronijevic, the verdict was based in part on the testimony of Yugoslav Army Capt. Radovan Bogavac, who participated in a May 7, 1999, action in Djakovica to help a group of police under attack by the KLA, as well as a Yugoslav Army report on activities in the Djakovica area. While this does not suggest Captain Bogavac's participation in war crimes, it clearly shows that the Yugoslav Army was active inside Djakovica city.
Phase One-March 24 to April 2
The first wave of violence began on March 24, when NATO initiated its attack on Yugoslavia, and continued until April 2. Djakovica's historic old town, including the Hamudi Mosque, was set on fire and sporadic killings took place throughout the city. On March 25, unknown security forces broke into the home of a respected physician, Dr. Izet Hima, and shot him in front of his wife.15 According to the Washington Post, Faton Polloshka picked up Dr. Hima's body at 5:00 p.m. and then collected the bodies of three other ethnic Albanians killed that day: Kujtim Dula, forty-four, Qamil Zherka, seventy, and his son, Nexhdet, forty-one.16 Prominent Djakovica residents Urim Rexha, a lawyer, and Mark Malota, an LDK leader who had rented his house to the Mother Theresa Society, were also killed.17 On March 26, armed Serbs shot and killed six men in one house on Ymer Grezda Street, including a Muslim cleric, Zenel Dana, and his sons Emin and Fahri. The killing is cited in the war crimes tribunal's indictment of Milosevic, Milutinovic, Sainovic, Ojdanic and Stojiljkovic.18
By the end of March, thirty-two people had been killed in the city, according to the Washington Post.19 Thirty-one were killed in March, according to the Council for the Defense of Human Rights.20
Many people were expelled from Djakovica during this time. Interviewed in northern Albania, refugees-most of them women-spoke of the old town's burning and their forced expulsion at the hands of police, paramilitaries, and the army. Many refugees reported seeing clusters of dead bodies lying around Djakovica as they left the city.21 One refugee from Djakovica interviewed in northern Albania said:
There was heavy shooting in Djakovica; people were killed by Serbs, and people are terrified. They don't even bury the bodies. . . . The soldiers were telling us: "Go to Albania, this is our land, not yours." The violence began on March 24 in Djakovica. There was no KLA there. The Serbs began setting homes on fire. Many of them are Serbian civilians. . . . I saw seven bodies in the Qyli neighborhood of Djakovica, located in the northwest part of the city, on the outskirts. Two or three from several different families. The entire neighborhood had been destroyed by tanks that entered into the neighborhood on March 25.22
Refugees in Albania and Djakovica residents interviewed after their return spoke of an order to the chaos, as armed forces moved systematically neighborhood by neighborhood. As one refugee in Albania said, "It was all very organized. They went from one neighborhood to another. Some soldiers are in charge of destroying things, while others are in charge of accompanying people to the border."23
Some of the most intense violence took place on April 1 and 2, when fifty-six people are believed to have been killed. A coordinated police action on two adjacent streets in the Qerim neighborhood-Milos Gilic and Sadik Stavileci-resulted in numerous executions.
According to witnesses, who said the neighborhood had organized men to keep watch in the area, Serbian police forces attacked the streets in a systematic sweep beginning around midnight on April 1. One woman, N.C., told Human Rights Watch:
I saw fire from the end of the street near the Sofes Mosque. They came nearer. Others were waiting on the other end of the street. The first massacre was near the mosque against the Leshi family, a man and his wife. Then Hysen Deda with his wife, daughter and her five-year-old child. Then they came to the Vejsa family and twenty of them with some others were killed. They then came to the Cana family, where four people were killed.24
The witness mentioned a policeman-she believed a deputy commander-who lived in the neighborhood: Novak Pitolic. Although she didn't see Pitolic on the night of the attacks, a neighbor and witness to the attack, A.N., interviewed separately, claimed that he saw Pitolic that night.25 Another man, a former policeman in Djakovica, confirmed that Pitolic was an active policeman in town, although he didn't see him committing any crimes.26
The neighbor, A.N., said the attack began between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. He watched from a hole in his attic that gave him a view of the street,27 and told Human Rights Watch:
I saw Novak Pitolic and he made a signal with a lighter two times. At that moment, an armored vehicle turned on its lights. One vehicle with two policemen without lights went on the road. It left two policemen behind. I saw them with a small machine gun near Fehmi Leshi's house and I heard sounds and screams and then shots.28
Based on refugee testimony in Albania during the war, the Washington Post reconstructed a lot of what happened in the Qerim neighborhood that night. It said the police moved down Sadik Stavileci Street, killing fifty-four people and burning most of the houses apart from those homes belonging to local Serbs.29 Witnesses believed that the police were looking for Besim Bokshi, the local leader of the LDK, but he managed to escape along with approximately 300 other residents of the neighborhood.
The most brutal killings occurred in the Vejsa family house at 163 Milos Gilic Street, where twenty people from five different families were killed and then burned, including twelve children under the age of sixteen. ICTY forensic experts found evidence of twenty bodies at the site, and the killing is included in the indictment of Milosevic.30
According to N.C., approximately ten policemen arrived at the Vejsa house around 12 a.m. All of the men had already fled the area, except Hysen Gashi, who was mentally disturbed. Those who remained were shot in the kitchen, and then the house was set on fire. One ten-year-old boy, whose name is withheld, survived. A.N., a neighbor, told Human Rights Watch:31
When they came near the Vejsa house, I heard the voice of my good Serbian friend Nenad Rajcevic and his five brothers. I saw all of them. There were thirty or forty police in total. All of them in police uniforms. I saw [Serbian] civilians too. They went to the Vejsa house. I then heard screaming in that house. I also saw them go in with Milos Sepanovic. . . . They stayed only five minutes. I heard screams and shooting. Then they went to Jonus Cana and they killed the whole family, four people, within two minutes.32
A.N. described Rajcevic as thirty-six years old and originally from Montenegro. He worked in the main post office. His five brothers were: Tihomir, aged approximately forty-two, Nenad, thirty-six, Sasa, thirty-three, Lubisa approximately thirty-nine, and Micko, approximately thirty-four. Milos Sepanovic, approximately forty-three years old, was described as a former mechanic who worked in the police.
The Rajcevic brothers and Sepanovic were also named by N.C. She told Human Rights Watch she saw the Rajcevic brothers in blue police uniforms as she and her family were walking in a column of internally displaced persons out of Djakovica. Human Rights Watch interviewed another ethnic Albanian man, a former policeman in Djakovica, who said that Sepanovic was an active policeman during the war, and that he was a local leader in Qerim neighborhood, although he was not a witness to his actions. The man also confirmed that Novak Pitolic was a Djakovica policeman, but said he didn't see him during the war.33
Faton Polloshka from the Djakovica Public Works said he helped take the twenty bodies away, as well as thirty other people killed on April 1 and 2. He told Human Rights Watch: "The bodies in the Vejsa house were completely carbonized. I went for blankets in the hospital but they had only one. Nineteen of them were in one blanket. They were buried in three graves.34
The victims were:
Hysen Gashi, 50
Valbona Haxhiavdija, 38
Rina Haxhiavdija, 7
Doruntina Haxhiavdija, 3
Egzon Haxhiavdija, 5
Shaindere Hoxha, 55
Flaka Hoxha, 15
Fetihe Vejsa, 60
Tringa Vejsa, 31
Dorina Vejsa, 11
Marigona Vejsa, 9
Sihana Vejsa, 7
Arlind Vejsa, 5
Rita Vejsa, 2
Mandushe Nuci, 52
Shirine Nuci, 73
Valbona Caka, 34
Delvina Caka, 7
Diona Caka, 2
Dalina Caka, 14
Smaller scale killings took place in other parts of the city on April 1 and 2. One witness, who gave her story to Human Rights Watch while she was a refugee in Albania, said that the police forced her and her family out of their house in the first days of April. Her husband, Hajdar, fifty-two, was killed on the street, and she saw many other corpses on her way out of the city. She said:
They sent me and my children out of the house, but they kept my husband. They finally let him go, but while he was walking out, he came across three policemen in the street. They were special police with masks over their faces and mouths. They also stopped my brother-in-law and told him to stop and fight. When I was running away, they killed them in our yard. Maybe ten minutes later, when it all became a little bit more quiet, I went back and found my husband dead with a gun shot wound in his temple. In the streets, I saw about ten dead people and one of them had his throat cut.35
Sporadic killing took place throughout April, although with less frequency than on the first two days of the month. According to the figures provided by the Washington Post, thirty-five people were killed between April 3 and May 6. One woman told Human Rights Watch how three of her neighbors who lived at 86 Commune Parisit Street in the Blloku i Ri (New Block) neighborhood, two brothers and a sister, were killed on April 23. She said:
The three of them [Teki, Agim, and Femije Deda] were having lunch on April 23. Around 1:30 p.m., a bunch of us in the neighborhood saw the police enter their house. There were no more than fifteen police; they rushed into the house, smashing their way in. I know one of them: Nebojsa Obradovic, aged thirty-eight or forty. He's a local policeman from Djakovica. We heard lot and lots of shooting-maybe one hundred shots-it was automatic weapons fire. They killed the three first, then they ransacked the house. They tried to burn the living room where the bodies were.
I waited several hours before I came into the house. It was about 5:30 p.m. I came with two friends, a neighbor and a brother of the victims' uncle. The gate to the garden had been blasted open and the doors to the house were broken-they were wide open. The three bodies were riddled with bullets. Each one had a puddle of blood below it. The brothers were killed as they were kneeling face down, one on the sofa and one on a chair. The sister was lying back on the other chair, face up. They had bullet holes in their bodies and even in their hands.36
Human Rights Watch visited the house where the killings took place in June 1999. Parts of it had been burnt but three large bloodstains were still visible on the sofas where the three victims had allegedly been shot. Bullet casings were littered all over the living room.
Phase Two-May 7 to May 13
The second killing wave began on May 7, the day intense fighting between government forces and the KLA began in the Cabrat neighborhood. According to Hekuran Hoda, commander of KLA Battalion II, Brigade 137, the fighting lasted until May 11 and many KLA and Serbian police died.37 According to the Washington Post, fifty-seven civilians not involved in combat were killed during this period.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the fighting in Cabrat began on May 7 around 9 a.m. Around 6 p.m., a crowd of civilians was fleeing the area toward the city center, when they were stopped by security forces on the Talicit Bridge. The men were separated from the women and children, and then brought to the Mulla Jusuf neighborhood, where they were divided into two groups and executed. One resident of the neighborhood who lived on Zejnel Luzha Street told Human Rights Watch:
I didn't see it [the killing] with my own eyes. But I was inside my house. I heard steps first as the group came and some words in Serbian from the police: "Stand in a line," they said. He repeated this many times. I heard nothing from the group. Then there was shooting. It was automatic fire, very short. Then they went one by one with a bullet to each person. I don't know how many. From what I heard, there were only two soldiers. I saw the bodies the next day from my window. I couldn't recognize any of them. There were eleven bodies and one was alive for twenty hours and then died. All of them were men. The bodies stayed there for forty hours before the police took them away with workers from Cabrat on tractors. I heard that another group was killed on a nearby street at the same time-nine people and two escaped.38
Another man, B.E., was among the other group of men who were taken into custody from the Talicit Bridge. He told Human Rights Watch that the security forces separated out twenty-six men and held them for approximately twenty minutes. Three armed men watched over them, all of them in camouflage and two of them wearing masks. Twelve of the men, B.E. among them, were then taken into a nearby street, where they were shot two by two. He said:
They sent us to a street, twelve of us. One of them was in a green uniform with a blue mark on his shoulder. The other one was in a blue uniform, I think they were brothers because they looked alike. Their accent was not like Serbs from Djakovica. Only these two took us.
They demanded our documents and money. Most of us gave our documents and money. One of them, the one in blue, said, "Let's finish this because the group is waiting." The other wanted to take us further along the street and he ordered us to break open the front door on one house. We did and two of our group went in. At that moment, one guy from our group [Agim Efendia] said "Don't do this Dragan," because he had heard someone say his name. They said, "Go on!" and they killed him. Then one of our group managed to escape.
Agim was still alive and Dragan said, "Let's stop his suffering." The other guy in the garden came and they told him and two others to bring Agim into the garden. The other one went in and we heard shots inside the garden and no one came out. Then we were ordered to go into the garden two by two, and they were killed. Me and another guy were the last. When I got to the garden I saw them all dead. They shot at us. They said "Turn your back." The bullets first hit me in the legs, then the chest, fingers, and two more on the leg. I was hit twelve times.
They checked all of us to see who was alive. They stepped on my back-I was the last one they checked. At that moment I didn't breathe or move. Then I heard them say they were going to execute some others, and they left.39
B.E. showed Human Rights Watch his scars. He had what appeared to be bullet wounds on the right side of his chest, his right knee, his left ankle, and the middle finger of his right hand.
Testimony from Faton Polloshka corroborates the two stories provided above about the May 7 killings. Without being told about the two witnesses, Polloshka told Human Rights Watch that his team of street cleaners picked up two groups of bodies from Zejnel Luzha Street of men who "had been executed" on May 7. According to Polloshka, one group had twelve bodies, the other had nine bodies.40 These numbers differ slightly from those provided by L.V. and B.E., but Polloshka's account otherwise matches the details provided by the witnesses.
Individual killings also took place in other parts of the city on May 7. One woman, S.G. who lived on Maslan Shazivari Street, told Human Rights Watch that, around 10 a.m. on May 7, four paramilitaries burst into her home and murdered her husband, Ibrahim. She said:
The doors opened and four paramilitaries entered. They had come from our neighbor's house. They shot two bullets into the house: one went upstairs and one went into the kitchen. . . . They demanded money. My husband said we didn't have any money. They laid him on the floor and told me to go outside. They killed him with three bullets on the fifth stair of the stairway. One of the bullets hit him in the face. There was lots of blood. When the shots were fired, I was on the fourth stair of the stoop in front of the house, just a few steps from the front door. I knew my husband was dead but they didn't allow me to go back inside.41
Human Rights Watch visited the home on June 15, 1999, and saw blood stains on the stairs where S.G. said her husband had been killed. According to S.G., the Djakovica street cleaners buried her husband seven days later in the city cemetery-grave number 28.
Many men and women were also taken into detention after the fighting in Cabrat. According to Polloshka and the local Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms,42 the women were held temporarily in the Gorenje Elektromotor factory in Djakovica and then released. The men were held somewhere on the edge of the city along the Djakovica-Pec road. Some thirty men were released after six days, but the rest-an unknown number-were transferred to the jail in Pec.43 Many are believed to have been subsequently transferred to other jails inside Serbia just before NATO troops entered Kosovo on June 12. While some of these men have appeared on official lists of prisoners provided by the Serbian government, others remain missing. Approximately 1,200 Djakovica men were unaccounted for more than one year after the conflict.
In May 2000, 143 Djakovica Albanians were convicted as a group in Serbian courts for terrorist acts. Lawyers and human rights groups like the Humanitarian Law Center protested the fairness of the trials and the exceedingly high sentences. On April 23, 2001, the Serbian Supreme Court, citing "fundamental violations of criminal proceedings" and "erroneous and incomplete collecting of evidence," released all of the defendants pending a review of the case by the district court.44
A final wave of looting and burning took place around June 10-12 as Serbian and Yugoslav forces were withdrawing from the city. Human Rights Watch confirmed some attempted rapes during this time. A witness told Human Rights Watch how, on June 12, paramilitaries entered her apartment building where approximately 250 people were staying, and sexually abused six young girls. Among the victims was the witness's sister, who was spared being raped because she was menstruating at the time:
At 11:00 or 11:30 six paramilitaries with the insignia "ARKO" or "ARKAN" [on their uniforms] came. They entered the building. First they took the cars we had, then they went into every building. There were 250 people in my building. In every family they took young and beautiful girls. I was with my father's family. After they burned his house he took shelter in my building. They told my father to give them all our jewelry or, "I'll take your daughter." He [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. My father showed them a document that he was not allowed to work and they hit him. They took her in another room in the flat, locked the door, and told her to take off her clothes, "Because you look like a face that has money." She is seventeen. When my father got up to go after my sister they hit him and he fell and hit his head on the table. They hit my father in the chest [before this]. The second time they hit him was when he went to help his daughter. One of them took my sister and two went out with her. Another two were in the room with us. My father got up and they hit him with a fist-they were wearing brass knuckles. He fell and hit his head on the small coffee table made of thick glass.
I heard from my sister what happened and I heard everything through the wall. She looked pale and then she fainted. She looked like she had come back from the dead. She was gone for ten minutes. It felt like days. I heard this through the wall. The walls are thin. I got close to the door and I heard him say, "You have your period and you are worth nothing." I also heard my sister begging them, "Please in the name of God, if you have a sister or a wife, don't touch me."
My sister took off her T-shirt but they told her, "No, not that part, take off the lower part." She took off her pants and panties. She was having her period. My mother was hitting the door and yelling, "Release my daughter!" She offered them 100 DM-the last money she had. When my mother was banging on the door, she was yelling, "I have 100 DM." They said to my sister, "you have your period . . . You are worth nothing anyway. Get out!" My sister fainted and for a few hours she could not talk from the trauma and the stress.45
Rape in Djakovica was reported by reliable secondary sources as well. Dr. Sejoullah Hoxha, chief of the gynecology department at Pristina hopital, told Human Rights Watch that his department had treated two cases of rape from the war, one of which took place in Djakovica (the other was near Klina). Both women were raped by more than one man. The Djakovica rape took place, Dr. Hoxha said, on the street sometime between April 5 and April 15.46
Sexual abuse was also documented by a reliable NGO based in Albania, the Counseling Center for Women and Girls, which collected refugee testimony during the war and compiled twenty-eight cases of rape in Kosovo, as well as some unconfirmed reports of sexual abuse around Djakovica.47
On April 20, NATO claimed that, according to Kosovar refugee accounts, Serbian forces had established rape camps in the Hotel Karagac in Pec and at an army base near Djakovica.48 Neither Human Rights Watch nor foreign journalists were able to confirm the allegations in either city. (See March - June 1999: An Overview, section on Rape and Sexual Assault.)
One of the more notorious mass killings in Kosovo took place on April 27 in the small Catholic village of Meja, a few miles northwest of Djakovica.49 The precise number of ethnic Albanian victims remains unknown, although an estimated 300 men, ranging in age between fourteen and sixty, are believed to have been killed. Very few bodies have been recovered but, according to the ICRC, 282 men taken from Meja were missing as of May 15, 2000.50 The massacre was apparently revenge for the KLA killing of five Serbian policemen in Meja on April 21.
Human Rights Watch first learned of the massacre on the early morning of April 28, as traumatized refugees were entering Albania from the Morina border crossing near Kukes, Albania.51 Tractors were pulling wagons carrying only women, children, and elderly men who reported how Serbian and Yugoslav forces had expelled them from their villages around Djakovica on April 27 and forced them into a convoy that went through Meja and then towards the Morina border crossing. In Meja, they said, the police and paramilitary forces robbed most of the Albanians, took many of the men off the tractors and wagons, and forced the convoy to continue. Later in the day, refugees entering Albania reported seeing men lined up along the road in Meja. By evening, and over the next days, refugees claimed that they had seen large numbers of dead bodies along the road in the village.
Human Rights Watch visited Meja on June 15, after NATO entered Kosovo, and saw the decomposing remains of several men, burned documents, and personal possessions that apparently belonged to the men who had been killed there, as well as spent bullet casings. A second visit was conducted on July 25, bringing the total number of interviewees regarding the Meja killings above twenty. The information provided during these two visits corroborated what refugees had originally reported two months before.
According to all of the witnesses, in the early morning of April 27 Serbian special police and paramilitary units, together with soldiers of the Yugoslav Army, systematically evicted all ethnic Albanians from the villages between Djakovica and Junik-the region near the Albanian border known in Albanian as Reka e Keq. Beginning around 6 a.m., the security forces forcibly expelled residents from the following villages: Pacaj (Pecaj), Nivokaz, Dobras (Dobrash), Seremet (Sheremet), Jahoc, Ponasevac (Ponashec), Racaj (Rracaj), Ramoc, Madanaj, and Orize. All of the witnesses interviewed from these villages, including people from other areas who had sought refuge there over the previous month, told Human Rights Watch that soldiers and special police forces surrounded their villages, rounded up the inhabitants, and forced them to flee along the road towards Djakovica, some in wagons drawn by tractors and some on foot. Many of the villages were then systematically burned. One eighteen-year-old woman from Dobras told Human Rights Watch:
The police and military came and forced us out. They burned the houses. They had a spray and a kind of pistol with fire. Everyone left Dobras and the surrounding villages. They took two men in Dobras, Iber Hasani and Avdyl Avdyli [both aged approximately forty-five]. The police told us to walk on and then we heard the shooting of automatic guns.52
This testimony about Dobras, including the killing of Iber Hasani and Avdyl Avdyli, was corroborated in a separate interview with a man from Sisman who had sought shelter in Dobras. He said:
On April 27, around 6:30 a.m., the army entered Dobras with police and paramilitaries. Iber, me, and another guy went to the upper part of the village to flee. Iber said, "I can't go with you because I'm afraid they'll rape my twenty-year-old daughter if I'm not there to protect her." So he returned to the village. My friend and I stayed in the mountain separated from our families. The family later told me that they heard lots of shooting when the army entered the village. My family and Iber's family took to the road, along with Avdyl Avdyli. Avdyl and Iber were separated from their families on the road in the village of Dobras, not far from their houses. They killed Avdyl with a knife, mutilating his body, and killed Iber with a bullet to his heart. I saw the bodies later. The families didn't see their men killed; the Serbs had told them to leave before they killed them.53
A nineteen-year-old woman originally from Orize, whose father was taken away in Meja later that day, told Human Rights Watch:
We were in Ramoc that morning, as we weren't able to stay around Djakovica because of the danger. An order to leave came at 5:00 a.m. The police came to the door. They knocked and said, "get out of your house because we're going to burn it." I had to leave immediately with my mother, father, and fifteen-year-old brother.54
The villagers from the region were all forced to follow the road to Meja. Their accounts reveal how, during the course of the day, the many police and military present at a checkpoint in the village center systematically robbed the displaced villagers of their possessions. One woman, thirty-six years old, told Human Rights Watch:
When we arrived in Meja, the Serbs stopped us; they wanted money and jewelry. They threatened my children, even my baby. They had beards, and wore masks. They took our necklaces, rings, earrings, identity papers, even our bags with clothing. They took everything. They threw our clothes in the bushes. They spoke to us harshly, and slapped one woman.55
More ominously, the security forces pulled hundreds of ethnic Albanian men out of the convoy and away from their families. As noted, ICRC records show 282 men who were reported abducted in Meja as still missing as of May 15, 2000.56 A nineteen-year-old man who arrived in Meja between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. described the scene to Human Rights Watch.
Many people were in the convoy with tractors. The ones who were walking were mostly let through, but some were taken. They [the police and military] stopped the tractors and began to hit people with pieces of wood and they broke the tractor windows. The men were stopped and taken away, about one hundred men, to a field near the road. The police screamed for us to keep moving so we left the hundred men and we don't know what happened to them.57
One witness originally from Nivokaz who did not give her name said she was forced out of Seremet village around 8 a.m. on April 27 and arrived in Meja with her family on a tractor around 10 a.m. "They took the men from the tractors," she said. "There were about forty people on our tractor, and they took twelve men. They took all of the men."58 Another witness said her husband was taken off their cart to join a group of Albanian men at the side of the road and forced to shout: "Long live Serbia! Long live Milosevic!"59
Other refugees who traveled through Meja that day confirmed that security forces took men as young as fourteen and as old as sixty out of the _convoy. Ray Wilkenson, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kukes who was on the border as the refugees arrived in Albania, told Human Rights Watch that, in his estimation, sixty tractors crossed into Albania on April 28, and people on "six out of seven" of them reported that some men had been taken from their vehicles.60 Journalists who were on the border at the same time told Human Rights Watch that the refugees repeatedly said that at least one hundred men had been killed.
Refugees who passed through Meja between 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. reported seeing large numbers of ethnic Albanian men in the custody of security forces, even as many as "hundreds." One witness, a thirty-eight-year-old teacher who passed through Meja around 1:00 p.m., told Human Rights Watch:
I saw a big crowd of people separated from their families: old and young men. I think it was more than 250. They were kneeling on the ground . . . along the road at a small forest on the side of a hill about twenty or thirty meters from the road. They were in the village center.61
Another witness who was in Meja at the same time, interviewed separately, provided a corroborating account, adding that the group of men was kneeling with their hands behind their backs, surrounded by soldiers.62
Other witnesses who were in Meja in the early afternoon provided largely consistent variations of this scenario with varying numbers. A forty-year-old woman who was in Meja around 12 p.m. said she saw "seventy men or more" squatting with their hands behind their heads in a small canal that ran parallel to the road.63 All of the witnesses said that Meja was full of police and special forces dressed in blue and green camouflage uniforms, respectively. Many members of the forces wore black ski masks, and some wore red bandanas on their heads, they said. Some reported seeing red patches with a double-headed eagle, a symbol of Yugoslavia, on the soldiers' sleeves.
Some refugees who passed through Meja in the afternoon reported seeing dead men near the road. One eighteen-year-old woman who passed through Meja around 12:00 p.m. claimed to have seen fifteen dead men on the right side of the road. She told Human Rights Watch, "The road was full of blood. On the right side of the road there were fifteen men. I counted them. They were lying face down with blood all around, and they were not moving."64
Another woman in Meja around 1:00 p.m. said:
[W]e saw dead young men, men with their hands tied behind their head. The Serbs said, "Look what we did to them. Do you want us to do that to you?" We saw a lot of blood. We were in shock, traumatized. There were about twenty young men lined up neatly in a row, face down, with their hands tied behind their heads. The Serbs said, "Look what we've done to these men; now give us your money." It was in the center of Meja. The bodies were about four meters away from the road, behind some thorn bushes. I saw some men who had died crouched; other people told us that blood had been taken from them.65
The refugees who passed through Meja later in the afternoon told of seeing many dead bodies in the village. An eighteen-year-old man and a nineteen-year-old woman, interviewed together, who arrived in Meja on foot around 5:30 p.m., said they saw a large pile of bodies about three meters from the right side of the road in the center of the village. The bodies, tumbled together, covered an area of ground about twelve by twenty feet, and were stacked about four feet high, they said. The witnesses admitted to being very scared and to being rushed along by the police, factors which prevented them from making any more than a rough estimate of the body count. Admittedly basing their estimate on the number of men that they believed were missing, they thought the number of dead totaled 300. Fifteen other men, they said, were sitting on the ground with their backs to the pile of dead bodies facing a group of security forces.66 The female witness said:
As we were walking through Meja we saw about 300 dead bodies piled up on top of each other in a pasture. It was a big pile of bodies heaped together in a mess, not laid out in any orderly way. The Serbs didn't let us look at them; they said "fast fast fast.". . .
The bodies in Meja were in a pasture on our left. The pile of bodies was about the size of a tent. Up to four feet high, piled on top of each other. I recognized a couple of men who were alive. There were about fifteen men with their backs to the bodies, facing the Serbs. I recognized Rame Mehmeti and his son Mehmet Mehmeti. 67 They're from Brovina but we stayed together with them in a house in Ramoc. We saw them taken off their tractor.68
On June 15, a Human Rights Watch researcher inspected Meja and found the decomposed remains of several men. The bodies were on the edge of a field next to the road that runs through Meja. One intact body and the top half of another were located on the side of a ravine adjacent to the field, roughly thirty meters up from the road. Another two bodies were a few meters further up the ravine, and the bottom half of another body was located in the field near the ravine. All of the bodies were in an advanced state of decay. The bones of some of the bodies were broken, and they _all appeared to be headless. Pieces of a skull were found next to one of the bodies.
Closer to the road, the Human Rights Watch researcher saw three large piles of straw and cow manure, which a villager claimed covered many more bodies. The villager also stated that the bodies of most of the men killed in the massacre had been collected by Roma street cleaners, which was also the case in Djakovica (see section on Djakovica).69
In the field were clusters of burned documents and personal possessions-items such as cigarette cases, keys, and family photos-that apparently belonged to the dead men. Spent bullet casings were also littered about. There were four recently dug graves located in a small Catholic cemetery further up the hill which, according to one villager, held the remains of four local men who had been killed in the massacre.
Human Rights Watch collected the names of twelve men whom witnesses claimed had been taken from Meja by the Serbian security forces on April 27. Eight of the twelve are included in the ICRC's list of persons missing since their detention in Meja on April 27. Villagers in Meja also reported to Human Rights Watch that eight men had been killed in the village on that day. All eight men are on the ICRC's missing list, which suggests that bodies were removed from the site.
Motives: Five Policemen Killed
One possible motive for the killings was the KLA's ambush of a Serbian police car one week before the massacre, in which five policemen were killed. Numerous witnesses from the area told human rights watch that the KLA had killed the five policemen in their car near the center of meja. One policeman, Milutin Prasevic, was known by many villagers in the area.70 one villager from Meja told human rights watch:
the five [policemen] were killed in one car, a brown Opel Ascona. They came to us a few minutes before they were killed, asking, "Where is the KLA?" an Albanian policeman was driving. They left and then we heard the bazooka. We heard that the albanian in uniform was from ratis.71
Human Rights Watch saw the badly damaged car lying on one side of the road in the village on June 15, 1999.
Other sources also mentioned the killing of the serbian policemen. Marie Colvin, a reporter for London's Sunday Times, and Ian Fisher from the New York Times, separately told Human Rights Watch that the KLA had boasted to them about killing a Serbian commander and his bodyguards in meja during the third week of April.72 Villagers also told Jonathan Landay from the Christian Science Monitor that the attack on Meja was "in revenge for the KLA killing a senior serbian policeman, Milutin Prasevic, and four other policemen."73
Indeed, on its website, the Serbian Ministry Of Internal Affairs lists three policemen who were killed in "a terrorist attack" in Meja on april 21, including prasevic, for whom there is a photo. Born on august 6, 1968, in Vranic, Kosovo, Prasevic is said to have worked in the police since 1990. The two other policemen killed in Meja who were identified are named as Ljubodrag Lazarevic, born November 1, 1973, and Boban Lazovic, born February 25, 1976. They were policemen for one and two years, respectively.74
Witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch identified some of the Serbian policemen who were present in Meja on April 27, although none of these policemen were seen killing or committing other abuses. Three people claimed to have seen a Serbian policeman they knew as "Stari" ("Old Man") at the checkpoint on the day of the killing; and one of these witnesses believed his real first name was Milutin.75 Another man, a villager from nearby Koronica who was not in Meja, told Human Rights Watch that Stari was a policeman active in the area whose name was Milutin Novakovic.76 The three witnesses independently said that Stari, who used to work in Ponasevac, was tall with a thin face, dark skin, and black hair. He is approximately forty years old and has two brothers. One witness claimed that Stari's father was Vucko, and his brother was Miladin, but this could not be confirmed.
One witness identified another policeman who he claimed was in Meja on April 27: a man known as "Guta," who was the police commander of Ponacevac village.77 The villager from Koronica mentioned above independently claimed that Guta was the police commander in Ponacevac. His real name is not known.
In general, witnesses described the Serbian forces at the checkpoint in Meja as wearing dark blue or green camouflage uniforms. Some of the men had black masks covering their faces, and some had red bandanas. One woman described the two Serbian men who took away her father at gunpoint:
The two Serbs were wearing black masks that covered their head and hair; you could only see their eyes and mouth. It was ninja style. They had dark blue police uniforms with loose red stripes on the arm just below the shoulder, I believe on the right arm.78
Another woman, forty years old, provided this description:
The Serbs were wearing camouflage uniforms, black masks, black gloves, and carrying automatic weapons. You could only see their mouth and two eyes. They had stripes with the colors of the Serbian flag falling loose. Some had their heads covered; some uncovered. Some had bandanas; I don't remember the color. Some had short hair; some had long hair. They carried knives in their hands: straight knives that were bent at the end, about as _wide as one's arm, and two feet long. . . . To look at them was scary. The _Serbs weren't driving military vehicles; they were driving cars stolen from Kosovars.79
On the same day as the killing in Meja, April 27, Serbian police forces violently expelled the inhabitants of the nearby village of Korenica, another predominantly Catholic village near Djakovica. At least thirteen men were killed at this time, according to villagers, and 120 people from the area were abducted and remained missing as of August 1999.
Upon their return to Korenica in June, villagers found the remains of the thirteen men, twelve of them largely burned. But another sixty-seven people from Korenica remain missing, as well as fifty-three other villagers from the surrounding area who were seeking refuge in Korenica (twenty-six of them from Guska and twenty-seven from the following villages: Duznje, Babaj Boks (Babaj i Bokes), Brekovac (Brekoc) and Djakovica.80
It remains unclear precisely what happened to the missing villagers, or how the thirteen Korenica men were killed, since no direct eyewitnesses are known to have survived. But, based on interviews with villagers after their return in June and a Human Rights Watch inspection of Korenica, a relatively clear picture emerges of forced expulsions and summary executions by the Serbian police.
According to villagers, Serbian security forces first entered the village on April 4. Five or six policemen, led by Alexander Micunovic and Milutin Prasevic (who was later killed in Meja by the KLA-see above), ordered all of the villagers to leave Korenica, but then allowed them to return. The village was then quiet until April 27, when the police returned. One villager, M.M., explained:
[On April 27] at 6:00 a.m. we heard shooting at the beginning of the village and we saw some houses on fire. In the two first houses a ninety-six-year-old man was shot who was later found burned-Kole Palokaj. They [the police] continued to burn and kill until they got near the center. I was in my house with my family and some twenty-five refugees from other places, about fifty-three people in total.81
The witness and his family fled through the nearby fields to the road, which they took in the direction of Meja. In Meja around 11:00 a.m., they encountered the police checkpoint where they claimed to have recognized some policemen from Djakovica, even though they were wearing masks. The police separated out two brothers from the family, aged thirty-five and thirty-six, as well as four men from Guska, five men from Duznje (Duxhnje), one man from Brekovac (Brekoc), and ten other men from Korenica. As of July, all of these men were still missing. The witness said:
They took the twenty-two men and made them lie down and shout "Serbia! Serbia! Slobodan is master!" Then they shot above their heads. I didn't see them killing anyone because they made us move on for Djakovica . . . Of the twenty-two men taken in Meja we have no news.82
Another villager, Anton Dedaj, also escaped Korenica on April 27. He described the scene:
Huge numbers of Serbs-army, police and paramilitaries-arrived in the village on April 26 in several buses. Some wore red bandanas on their heads or tied on their arms. The following day, in the early morning, the Serb forces surrounded the area and began burning homes. A local policeman came inside the house [where I was staying]; the owner knew him and invited him for coffee. The policeman said, "It's too late for you now." They took 9,000 DM from my brother before they killed him.83
Yet another villager, Tom Dedaj, was in his house as the Serbian forces arrived. He said:
The Serbs arrived in the early morning, all kinds of Serbs, army, paramilitaries, police, local police. The local police gave information to the outside security forces. Five bus loads of Serbs arrived in the upper part of the village, and two more were near this house. Police were everywhere, every twenty meters on the road. About ten villages were surrounded. They lied to us; they told us that they were going to Ponosevac [a nearby village]. The local police wore masks. Some paramilitaries wore green camouflage trousers and T-shirts, with red bandanas tied on their arms.84
Tom Dedaj fled into the forest with his family. That evening, he told Human Rights Watch, he met Daniel Berisha, aged forty, another man from Korenica who had been shot that morning in the ankle and knee and had burns on his arms. Berisha told Dedaj that the police had captured him and four other male members of his family, all of whom were shot in Berisha's house. Berisha miraculously survived and escaped to the forest.
According to Dedaj, Berisha told him that the Serbian forces arrived at his home around 7:30 a.m., made everyone leave the house, and then separated the women and children from the men. The Serbian forces initially agreed to allow Berisha's sixty-eight-year-old uncle, Mark Berisha, to leave with the women and children, and told him to drive away on a tractor. When he responded that he didn't know how to drive a tractor, they made him return to the house and go to the third floor, where the other detained men were being held.
When the men reached the third floor, Berisha told Dedaj, they began to plead for their lives. A local policeman whom Berisha said was called "Bajo," ordered the men to turn their backs, and then shot them at close range with an automatic weapon. According to Dedaj, who was relaying Berisha's story:
The Serbs lined them up on the third floor. Daniel's uncle pleaded with them. He asked the Serbs, "Aren't you people just as we are? Aren't you human? Why would you kill us?" He said a prayer and made the sign of the cross. Bajo said, "It's too late for you now." He ordered the men to turn their backs to him and shot them at close range with an automatic weapon. They said, "Fuck your mothers; it's too late for you."85
Berisha told Dedaj that he fell first, after being hit twice in his leg, and was covered by other bodies. He then pretended to be dead while the police brought blankets upstairs, lit them, and threw them on the bodies. Berisha escaped from the blaze as the police left, and made his way to the forest, where he met Dedaj.
The next day, April 28, Berisha attempted to escape this hiding place in the forest along with some other villagers, but was captured by the Serbian forces together with a man named Kolë Merturi, another woman, and some children. All of these people were released except Berisha, Merturi later told Dedaj. Berisha's body was found the following day by another villager. Dedaj helped bury Berisha and told Human Rights Watch that, in addition to the wounds Berisha had the night before in the forest, he had five more bullet wounds-two in the forehead and three in the chest. They buried him in the forest near where his body had been found.
On June 16, a Human Rights Watch researcher inspected Daniel Berisha's house, which had been looted and burned. On the third floor were the gruesomely burned and broken remains of what appeared to be five men. Anton Dedaj, a relative of Tom Dedaj, told Human Rights Watch that the bodies in the house were those of his brother Gjoke Dedaj, age forty; Musa Dedaj, age sixty-one, Gjoke and Anton's uncle; Nikolle Dedaj, age eighteen, Gjoke's son; Kole Berisha, age forty-three, the brother of the house's owner; and Mark Berisha, age sixty-eight, the uncle of the house's owner.
After inspecting the five bodies, the Human Rights Watch researcher visited three badly burnt houses nearby in which bodies, or in one instance, small pieces of charred bones, were found. The bodies were burned beyond recognition, but were identifiable by relatives or neighbors familiar with the deceased persons' personal belongs, such as jewelry and eyeglasses. According to Tom Dedaj, the houses contained:
· House one-Gjergj Mala, age fifty-nine and Pal Kabashi, age forty-one;
· House two-Mire Palokaj, approximately forty-five (whose husband, Muse Palokaj, is missing);
· House three-Kole Palokaj, age eighty, and Brahim Kamberi, approximately sixty-seven.
In the nearby forest, Dedaj also claimed to have found the body of Ded Sadriaj, a mentally disturbed man from Nec village who was approximately twenty-three years old.
Human Rights Watch visited Korenica a second time on July 26, the day the villagers were exhuming some graves in the village cemetery with the help of Italian KFOR. After a landmine team declared the area safe, the villagers found one body that had been wrapped in a blanket and buried. According to the villagers, Roma from the area told them that they had buried thirty-four people in Korenica around May 7, but that they police had taken the bodies away.
Human Rights Watch spoke with one ethnic Rom, who said that he worked for the state mortuary as a driver. He said:
I was present when bodies were picked up and buried. Every day we picked up a few bodies, five, six, or ten. The Serb police would come and tell me where there were bodies. There were proper procedures: the police would take photos of the body; they'd write down the name of the dead; they'd attach a number to the corpse and put it in a grave with that number. They were very organized. They'd take photos before the burial; sometimes they'd even film the bodies. My sector worked in street cleaning and road maintenance; we were forced into this job. The week after NATO started bombing they made us start doing this.
Bodies that we could identify we buried in their village cemetery. Other bodies, those without identity cards, went into the cemetery of this village [Korenica]. I saw lots of dead bodies in Korenica: one day we found eight [bodies] underneath a bridge, near a stream. There are thirty-five or forty bodies buried in the Korenica burial site. We didn't bury any women, except one old woman. The bodies that I've seen were killed with automatic weapons. It was disgusting to look at them. I've only found burned bodies once.86
Witnesses from other villagers also saw dead bodies
in Korenica. One married couple, R.R. and S.R. from Sisman (Shishman),
near Djakovica, told Human Rights Watch that they went through Korenica
on April 27. S.R. said: "We saw twelve dead men in Korenica. They were
laying in the street with their hands over their head. It was about 1 or
2 p.m. [on April 27]."87
Chapter 6. Djakovica (Gjakove) Municipality
Human Rights Watch interviews with Dr. Juniku, Djakovica, Kosovo, July 26, 1999, and Dr. Burim Sahatqija, Djakovica, Kosovo, August 4, 1999.
17 Between March 24 and June 12, six workers of the Mother Theresa Society in the Djakovica municipality were killed. Two others were wounded, and nine are missing. Another eight were temporarily detained and beaten, and the office was burned on March 25.
Human Rights Watch interview with Sadik Polloshka and Peter Quni, Djakovica, Kosovo, July 23, 1999.
19 Finn, "On Polloshka's List, A Record of Horror".
20 List of Persons Killed in the Period March to May, 1999, Council for the Defense of Human Rights, July 1999.
21 See Human Rights Watch, "Violent Ethnic Cleansing in Djakovica," Kosovo Flash no.16, April 3, 1999.
22 Human Rights Watch interview with X.K, Krume, Albania, April 2, 1999.
23 Human Rights Watch interview, name unknown, Krume, Albania, April 2, 1999.
24 Human Rights Watch interview with N.C., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
25 Human Rights Watch interview with A.N., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
26 Human Rights Watch interview with G.J., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 25, 1999.
27 Human Rights Watch inspected the hole in the bricks of the attic, from which one could indeed see down the street.
28 Human Rights Watch interview with A.N., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
29 See Finn, "Sudden Death in Kosovo's `Heart of Darkness'." According to the article, the killings took place in this order:
2. Rexh Guci, 43, and his brother
3. Fehmi Lleshi, 46, butcher, and his wife
4. Hysen Deda, 77, his wife, Saja, 65, daughter Drita, 33, and her son, 6
5. Twenty people from five families, including twelve children (see below)
6. Jonuz Cana, 65, wife, daughter and son
7. Hasan Hasani, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law
8. Hasani's brother, son and daughter
9. Melahim Carkaxhiu, 36
10. Gezim Berdeniqi, 40.
11. Osam Dika, 70, and three sons
12. Skender Dylatahu, 34, and his brother
13. Myrteza Dinaj, 55, his son and four refugees
31 Human Rights Watch interview with N.C., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
32 Human Rights Watch interview with A.N., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
33 Human Rights Watch interview with G.J., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 25, 1999.
34 Human Rights Watch interview with Faton Polloshka, Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
35 Human Rights Watch interview with V.V, Krume, Albania. April 10, 1999.
36 Human Rights Watch interview with R.R., Djakovica, Kosovo, June 15, 1999.
37 Human Rights Watch interview with Hekuran Hoda, Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
38 Human Rights Watch interview with L.V. Djakovica, Kosovo, July 23, 1999.
39 Human Rights Watch interview with B.E., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
40 Human Rights Watch interview with Faton Polloshka, Djakovica, Kosovo, July 24, 1999.
41 Human Rights Watch interview with S.G., Djakovica, Kosovo, June 15, 1999.
42 Human Rigts Watch interview with Fuat Haxhibeqiri, Djakovica, Kosovo, June 20, 1999.
43 Among those men released, according to the council, are Nezhdet Mejzini, Tomor Dyla, Afrim Gala, Nevruz Bakida, Ahmet Bakida (brother of Nevruz), Gezim Qela, Afrim Qela (brother of Gezim), Mirsad Qela (brother of Gezim and Afrim), and Hazmi Morina.
44 Fredrik Dahl, "Serb Court Orders Release of 143 Kosovo Albanians," Reuters, April 23, 2001.
45 Human Rights Watch interview with A.H., Djakovica, Kosovo, July 20, 1999.
46 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Sejoullah Hoxha, Pristina, Kosovo, July 21, 1999.
47 Human Rights Watch interview with Silvana Mirija, Tirana, Albania, July 24, 1999.
48 NATO press conference by Jamie Shea and Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani, Brussels, April 20, 1999.
49 Meja was also the site of a NATO attack on a convoy of internally displaced Albanians on April 14.
50 International Committee of the Red Cross, "Persons Missing in Relation to the Events in Kosovo from January 1998," First Edition, May 2000.
51 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kukes, Albania, April 28, 1999.
52 Human Rights Watch interview with V.A., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
53 Human Rights Watch interview with R.R., Kukes, Albania, June 4, 1999.
54 Human Rights Watch interview with A.S., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
55 Human Rights Watch interview with M.B., Kukes, Albania, June 4, 1999.
56 International Committee of the Red Cross, "Persons Missing in Relation to the Events in Kosovo from January 1998."
57 Human Rights Watch interview with M.Z., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
58 Human Rights Watch interview, name not provided, Kukes, Albania, April 29, 1999.
59 Human Rights Watch interview, Kukes, name not provided, Albania, April 29, 1999.
60 Human Rights Watch interview with Ray Wilkenson, Kukes, Albania, April 29, 1999.
61 Human Rights Watch interview with M.J., Kukes, Albania, April 29, 1999.
62 Human Rights Watch interview with L.J., Kukes, Albania, April 29, 1999.
63 Human Rights Watch interview with F.S., Kukes, Albania, April 29, 1999.
64 Human Rights Watch interview with V.A., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with M.B., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
66 Human Rights Watch interview with K.S., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
67 Rame Mehmeti (aged forty-three) and Mehmet Mehmeti (aged nineteen) are both on the ICRC's list of missing people from Meja. According to the list, which was last updated on May 15, 2000, the two men, who were originally from Brovina, were last seen in Meja on April 27, 1999.
68 Human Rights Watch interview with A.S. Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
69 The man in charge of the Roma street cleaning crews was Faton Polloshka, director of the Djakovica Public Works Department (see section on Djakovica). According to Polloshka, interviewed by Human Rights Watch on June 19, the municipal workers took approximately thirty bodies from Meja, although many more are believed to have been killed, whose whereabouts are unknown.
70 Milutin Prasevic's name also came up in interviews in Koronica (see section on Koronica). One man claimed that Prasevic was among the policemen harassing the villagers in early April. Human Rights Watch interview with M.M., Koronica, Kosovo, July 26, 1999. On June 7, 1999, officer Prasevic from the Djakovica police was posthumously awarded the Order of Merit in Matters of Defence and Security of the First Degree. Politika, October 15, 1999.
71 Human Rights Watch interview with K.H., Meja, Kosovo, July 25, 1999.
72 Human Rights Watch interview with Marie Colvin, Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999. Human Rights Watch interview with Ian Fisher, Korenica, Kosovo, June 16, 1999.
73 Jonathan S. Landay, "Evidence Mounts of War Crimes," Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 1999.
74 See http://www.mup.sr.gov.yu/domino\mup.nsf/pages/index-e, January 21, 2000.
75 Human Rights Watch interview with K.H., Meja, Kosovo, July 25, 1999.
76 Human Rights Watch interview with M.M., Koronica, Kosovo, July 26, 1999.
77 Human Rights Watch interview with K.H., Meja, Kosovo, July 25, 1999.
78 Human Rights Watch interview with A.S., Kukes, Albania, April 30, 1999.
79 Human Rights Watch interview with F.B., Kukes, Albania, April 29, 1999.
80 Among the missing from Guska are: Gjon Dedaj, aged approximately fifty-five, Pjeter Dedaj, aged approximately fifty-two, and Martin Dedaj (Pjeter's son), aged approximately twenty-nine.
81 Human Rights Watch interview with M.M., Korenica, Kosovo, July 26, 1999.
83 Human Rights Watch interview with Anton Dedaj, Korenica, Kosovo, June 16, 1999.
84 Human Rights Watch interview with Tom Dedaj, Korenica, Kosovo, June 16, 1999. The fact that some paramilitaries were wearing red arm bands suggests a possible central command.
86 Human Rights Watch interview with K.M., Korenica, June 16, 1999.
87 Human Rights Watch interview with R.R. and S.R., Kukes, Albania, June 4, 1999.