Istok (Istog) Municipality
Istok was relatively quiet in 1998, compared to the other municipalities of Kosovo. Serbs made up between 15 and 20 percent of the area's 50,000 inhabitants.

Tension increased in early 1999, as the KLA increased its activities in Istok and the Serbian police responded with violence. During the NATO bombing, there was direct fighting between the KLA and the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police. Paramilitary forces were also present in the area. According to a UNHCR shelter survey, 5,049 of the 7,081 houses in Istok municipality were either heavily damaged or completely destroyed, although it is not clear how much of this damage was due to NATO bombing.1

According to the OSCE, thousands of ethnic Albanians in Istok were forcibly expelled from their homes and fled to Starodvorane (Staradran) and Zablace (Zablaq) villages, which was under KLA control. When the KLA retreated from the area in April, government forces robbed and beat many of the ethnic Albanians who had fled there as well as committed some extrajudicial exeuctions.2

The single largest killing in Istok municipality took place in the Dubrava prison, to the east of Istok town. Citing Serbian and military activity in the direct vicinity, NATO bombed the prison on May 19 and May 21, killing an estimated nineteen inmates. Over the following days, as many as ninety-six inmates were killed by government forces.

The Serbian police in Istok were under the jurisdiction of the Secretariat of Internal Affairs (SUP) in Pec, which covered the municipalities of Pec, Klina, and Istok. The commander of the Pec SUP during the war was Col. Boro Vlahovic.3

Dubrava Prison

One of the worst incidents of the war took place in the Dubrava prison, Kosovo's largest detention facility, when prisoners were massacred by security forces after a NATO bombing attack there. Since all of the survivors of the massacre were transferred to prisons in Serbia after the attack, reliable accounts of the killings did not emerge until after the war, when some of the prisoners were released.4 Human Rights Watch spoke separately with two survivors who had witnessed the killing. Their stories closely match the testimonies of four other survivors that have appeared in the Serbian, Albanian, or international press.5

Citing Serbian and Yugoslav military activity in the area, NATO bombed the prison on May 19 and again on May 21, 1999, killing at least nineteen ethnic Albanian prisoners and causing chaos in the facility. According to the Yugoslav government, some prisoners took advantage of the bombing and tried to escape the prison; the guards were struggling to maintain order. On May 22, prison officials ordered the approximately 1,000 prisoners to line up in the prison yard. After a few minutes, they were fired upon from the prison walls and guard towers with machine guns and grenades, killing at least seventy people. Over the next twenty-four hours, prison guards, special police, and possibly paramilitaries attacked prisoners who were hiding in the prison's buildings, basements, and sewers, killing at least another twelve inmates.

It is not clear precisely how many prisoners were killed by NATO bombs and how many were killed subsequently by prison guards and other government forces. Nor is it known to what extent the Albanian prisoners tried to escape or offered resistance. But the consistency of witness testimony, with specific details about times and locations, leaves no doubt that Serbian and possibly Yugoslav government forces deliberately and without need killed a substantial number of ethnic Albanians in the prison, probably more than seventy, and wounded many others. The Yugoslav government claimed that NATO bombs killed ninety-five inmates and injured 196.6 NATO admitted to bombing the prison, but never acknowledged any related civilian deaths.

The Prison

Located a few miles east of Istok, near the border with Montenegro, Dubrava prison had three pavilions with a capacity of more than 1,000 prisoners. The walled facility contained a cultural center, sports hall, health center, and a hotel for prisoners' visitors.

As with all of Kosovo's detention facilities, credible reports of torture and abuse emanated from Dubrava prison throughout 1998 and early 1999. According to the OSCE, at least four male prisoners died as a result of beatings sustained in Dubrava between October 1998 and March 1999. Defense lawyers reported restricted access to their clients in Dubrava, and the Kosovo Verification Mission itself was never allowed access to the prison.7

Former prisoners who were in Dubrava during the war told Human Rights Watch that there were between 900 and 1,100 prisoners in the prison when the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began on March 24, 1999, including approximately thirty ethnic Serbs. Some prisoners were transferred to Dubrava after the NATO bombing had begun. One former prisoner, R. T., transferred to Dubrava on April 30, said that approximately 165 ethnic Albanians from Djakovica came to Dubrava a short time after he had arrived.8 This was confirmed during the April-May 2000 trial in Nis, Serbia, of 143 Albanians arrested in Djakovica in May 1999, who testified that they had been transfered from Djakovica to prisons in Pec, Lipljan, and Dubrava.9 Another former prisoner, Bajrush Xhemaili, was transferred to Dubrava from Nis prison on April 29.10

Among the ethnic Albanians in Dubrava was one of Kosovo's most prominent political prisoners, Ukshin Hoti, who was finishing the last year of a five-year sentence.11 Three witnesses said that Hoti was released from Dubrava on May 16 because his sentence had expired. His current whereabouts, however, are unknown, and many former prisoners and human rights activists fear that he is dead.

The prison authorities claimed that many of the ethnic Albanian prisoners in Dubrava were KLA members, including at least eleven commanders.12 In November 1999, Human Rights Watch interviewed two ethnic Albanian men who had been in Dubrava during the NATO bombing, and both of them admitted to having been in the KLA, but it is not known whether the government's claim holds true for other prisoners.

One of the former prisoners who spoke with Human Rights Watch, A. K. (initials changed),13 said there were approximately 1,100 prisoners in Dubrava by March 1999. While the treatment in Dubrava was generally acceptable before then, he said, the prison guards beat the prisoners every day once the NATO bombing began.14

A.K.'s testimony about events in the prison is highly consistent with Human Rights Watch's other interviewee from Dubrava, B.K. (initials changed), who, like A.K., was serving a one-year sentence for "terrorist activities against the state."15 As stated above, these two testimonies match interviews with four other former prisoners that were published in the Serbian, Albanian, or English-language press to paint a consistent picture of the events in the prison between May 19 and May 25.

The NATO Bombing

According to all of the witnesses, as well as Yugoslav government and NATO sources, NATO aircraft first bombed Dubrava prison without warning on the morning of May 19. B.K., who was being held in Pavilion C, told Human Rights Watch that four bombs hit the prison, two striking Pavilion C, one an adjacent pavilion, and antoher the prison director's building. He said:

When the rockets fell, we called on the guards to open the doors but they left. When we saw that they had run, we started to break down the doors. It took us about one and a half hours to break them down. In my pavilion, three people died and fifteen others were wounded. The Serbs sent three of the wounded to Pec. We went outside into a courtyard within the prison. They came and took the bodies two hours later.16

A.K. claimed that four or five prisoners were killed in Pavilions B and C, and some others were hit by shrapnel when running into the prison field. Both former prisoners, interviewed separately, said that, once gathered in the courtyard, the prisoners tried to contact the NATO jets flying overhead by spelling out the word "HELP" with long florescent light bulbs.

In Brussels, NATO spokesmen acknowledged the bombing and said Dubrava was an "army facility." At a press conference on May 20, Major General Walter Jertz explained:

It [Dubrava] is a militarily significant target, we know it is a military security complex and this target has been attacked because it was a legitimate military target and we have no evidence that any weapons did go someplace else or the crew was wrong. I can add that we used precision-guided munition and, to sum it up, it was a military security complex, a military legitimate _target.17

According to the Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NATO bombed Yugoslav Army and Serbian police forces near the prison at 1:15 p.m. on May 19, killing three civilians. Three weapons also reportedly hit the penitentiary, killing two prisoners and a guard.18

A.K. and B.K., as well as the four other former prisoners whose interviews were published in the press, all said that the prisoners spent the next two nights sleeping outside, but within the walls of the prison. Then, on May 21, prison guards ordered the prisoners to line up in the courtyard. As they were gathering, however, a second wave of NATO bombing began. B.K. told Human Rights Watch:

On May 21, they lined us up again in the courtyard. We were surrounded by the structures of the prison. The guards did not shoot at us. We were sitting in the grass, all of us-about 900 people. They said, "don't be afraid, NATO won't fire." Around 10 or 11 a.m. the planes started flying. The first rocket fell on the kitchen. Others fell nearby. One of them fell inside the walls near us. Sixteen people were killed when a chunk of land five meters wide blew apart near us. They included: Fadil Bezeraj from Rasic, Naim Kurmehaj from Srellc e Eperme, Ali Kelmendi from Kosoriq, Qaush Ahmeti from Shereme-taj, and Mete Osmajaj from Isniq.

Three times they [NATO] bombed. When it began, we just lay there all day. When the guards heard the planes, they left the prison. We stayed in the courtyard until about 12:00 p.m., then we retreated to places in the yard about 300 meters away where there were fewer buildings. . . . Around 2:00 p.m., some four armed guards came near. We thought they came to shoot us, but the planes roared overhead and they ran away. We slept in the field that night. . .19

The May 21 bombing of Dubrava was confirmed by western journalists who had been escorted to the prison by Serbian authorities on the same day, ostensibly to see the damage from NATO's May 19 bombing. Jacky Rowland, a correspondent for the BBC, saw some of the corpses from the May 19 bombing before having to flee the prison as NATO continued its raid. She wrote in Scotland on Sunday:

We walked across the grass, stepping between the bodies covered by blankets. One man was still alive, his blood-spattered body shaking convulsively. Then we heard the drone of planes overhead: the bombers were returning. It was time to leave. As we sped down the dirt track away from the prison, the bombs fell. Three of them in close succession.20

Paul Watson from the Los Angeles Times, who spent most of the war inside Kosovo, was also in Dubrava that day. "At least nine bodies lay scattered on the grass and in shrubs," he wrote. "All had shaved heads, indicating they were inmates." He wrote further:

During two previous hours of morning attacks [on May 21] ending at 10:20 a.m., two blasts breached the high outer wall and left large craters on either side. Angry Yugoslav guards, who were trying to keep inmates locked in the yard while coming under attack, said they thought the North Atlantic Treaty Organization warplanes were attempting to spring scores of KLA fighters from jail.21

Watson quoted a man he identified as the prison warden, Aleksander Rakocevic, as saying: "The prisoners are still inside the walls but we cannot put them back into the cellblocks where they're supposed to be because NATO is hitting the buildings as well. . . . Maybe some have already escaped because there are several holes in the walls."22

An Associated Press article did not provide a first-hand account of the May 21 bombing, but asserted that reporters "saw seven bloodied corpses covered by blankets in the jail's grassy courtyard, as well as shrapnel-pocked buildings, and nervous-looking guards with automatic weapons keeping prisoners at bay."23

As with the previous attack on Dubrava, NATO acknowledged bombing the prison, and claimed that it was a legitimate military target. In a morning briefing on May 22, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said:

As you know already, in Istok, Kosovo, NATO forces attacked a barracks and an assembly area that has been in use for a long time by both the Yugoslav Army and the MUP special police forces as part of their operations against the KLA and also against Kosovar civilians, and this military facility abuts a prison, but I want to stress, as I did yesterday, that it is a military facility, the prison is part of this but it is only a small part of what is quite a major military facility.24

The international journalists who visited Dubrava on May 21 did not see any military activity in the area, although this does not prove that military troops and equipment were not near the prison when the bombing occurred. Paul Watson wrote that the press, "found no evidence of military vehicles or equipment amid the rubble, although it was difficult to confirm what might have been at the site during the earlier attacks."25

Some of the former prisoners claim that they saw anti-aircraft fire coming from near the prison during the NATO bombing. According to an article in the Serbian-language Beta News Agency, former prisoner Bajrush Xhemaili claimed to have seen "constant provocation from a strong anti-aircraft base set up near the prison."26 Ahmet Ahmeti, who gave an interview to the Serbian- language daily newspaper Danas, said that an air defense system was near the prison.27

The Yugoslav government claimed that the second round of NATO bombing had caused further civilian casualties. On May 21, the state news agency Tanjug reported that at least nineteen prisoners had been killed and ten wounded in the May 21 attack, including the deputy warden, Nedzmedin Kalicanaj, aged forty-one. This was in addition, the report said, to the two prisoners who had been killed in the May 19 bombing.28 The next day, Tanjug reported that nineteen prisoners and guards had been killed and more than ten were wounded.29 Another Tanjug report that same day claimed that, "dozens of inmates and guards" had been killed.30

The Massacre

The day after the second round of bombing, May 22, according to all of the witness testimony available, the prison guards ordered all of the inmates to assemble in the prison's main courtyard. B.K. explains what happened next:

In the morning, 5:40 a.m., May 22, we heard a megaphone from the guard tower. Some commander said, "Get in a line because we want to move you to Ni_ for your own security." They put us in a line. Around 6:10 a.m., they said we have ten minutes to get in a line. The line was not clean, but had four to six people in a line, about 200 meters long. After a few seconds, we were twenty to twenty-five meters from the walls, they threw some three or four hand grenades. At the same time, they began shooting with RPGs [rocket propelled grenades], and snipers [sniper rifles]. Whoever could manage just fell to the ground.31

A.K. told a similar story:

We were made to stand in a line on a cement football field surrounded by guard towers. About 100 people were in one line. We stood there about ten minutes until we were all in a line. Then a guy named "Ace" climbed up one of the towers and gave the order to shoot. We saw that. It was something like twenty minutes of constant shooting from the five meter-high walls-it was all prepared. They had hand-held RPGs, sniper rifles, machine guns, AK47s, hand grenades, and mortars. They were shooting from the walls. The bombs fell on everyone and people were flying.32

In the Beta News Agency interview, Bajrush Xhemaili33 explained his version of the May 22 attack: "The Serbian forces opened fire from the watchtowers on the northern and western parts of the prison walls. They used sniper rifles, automatic weapons, and portable grenade launchers. The shooting lasted about thirty minutes."34

Chaos ensued as prisoners ran for cover in the various buildings of the prison, their basements, or the prison's sewer system. B.K. said:

Me and a group who was closer to the wall, heard them reloading. I screamed "Get up and run!" Whoever wanted to, or could, started to run. We went into the basements, into manholes, into the pavilions, and behind mounds. They continued shooting. From all the towers there was sniper and automatic rifle fire. It lasted ten to fifteen minutes.

We went back to the field in the middle of the buildings to try and get the wounded. After one hour, we went to check who had died. They were still there but they didn't shoot. We counted approximately ninety-seven dead. Among them were: Sahit Ibrahimi from Kotradic, Agim Elshani from Klina, Zahir Agushi, Iber Gergoci, and Zeke Hasan Metaj from Strellc. We collected the dead and covered them with blankets. Those we knew, we wrote their names on paper which we stuck somewhere in their clothes. Then we organized some food for ourselves. We broke into the medical clinic for supplies.35

A.K. explained:

People were running. Since the prison is so big, there are many sewers. We opened a grate and five to ten of us jumped in. . . . We went into the destroyed buildings and took things to defend ourselves. Since NATO hit the kitchen, there was food, so we cooked for ourselves.36

That evening, all of the witnesses say, a group of special police or paramilitaries entered the prison and tried to reassert control. The assault lasted approximately twenty minutes, during which time hand grenades were thrown into the school building, allegedly killing at least two people. The prisoners remained hidden during the night, some of them preparing to defend themselves with makeshift weapons made from broken furniture or garden tools.37 B.K. said:

Around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., some paramilitaries entered the prison. They demolished the prison school. That night they killed everyone who was hiding in the sewers. Three or six, up to twelve people were in there. They opened up the manholes and shot them.

I was in Pavilion C. Others were in the kitchen basement. We organized ourselves for the night so they could not come and kill us. We took shovels, sticks, whatever we could, even furniture legs. We prepared some traps and I filled two big canisters with water. We had the wounded in the Pavilion C basement. There were about 120 or 150 of them.

That night, one person, twenty-five-years-old, hung himself with a rope. Another was found hanging in the school. On May 23, around 5:00 a.m., they began shooting and bombing. From the twenty-two people hiding in the cultural center, they killed nine people, one by one. Zef Keqiraj from Zhub-his brother saw this. Kabeshi from Zahaq was killed too.

A.K. explained what happened the next morning, around 6:00 a.m., when another group of special forces entered the prison. He told Human Rights Watch:

We were hiding in the basements and small rooms, and we didn't know if they wanted to kill us or take us away. I saw "Grga," "Mladja," and some others from Pec. When they caught us, they grabbed us by the hair and hit people in the head.

I was behind a heating pipe in the basement with eighteen others. We were hiding. The fiberglass around the pipes was scratching us. Some twenty-eight others came but they couldn't get in because there was no room. Then the forces saw us and surrounded us. I saw them come with machine guns and big knives and they hit the twenty-eight guys in the basement. People's organs were spilling out everywhere. They stabbed people. At that spot, all of the twenty-eight people were killed, including: Zef Kqira, Lush Prelazi, Nikolle Bibaj, Jonus Krasniqi, and Arsim Krasniqi.

Naser Husaj, a prisoner in Dubrava who relayed his story to the New York Times, said that he spent the night hiding with a group of other prisoners in a laundry room beneath the cafeteria. The police attacked the building in the morning, he said, "with rocket-propelled grenades and shot through the windows straight into the basement."38 Visiting the spot with Husaj on December 7, the Times journalist, Carlotta Gall, noticed the "overpowering" stench of death. She wrote:

The green linoleum floor is still sticky with blood, which has been smeared around in an attempt to clean it. Mr. Husaj moved quickly in the dark, showing a familiarity with the underground rooms. But even he gagged as he showed where he saw six people gunned down in one corridor.39

Another prisoner, Remzi Tetrica, told his story to the Kosova daily newspaper Kosova Sot. About the morning attack on May 23, he said:

On May 23, in the early hours, a massacre was carried out by the paramilitaries. We were again attacked by the same arsenal of weapons, just like the day before. They killed many prisoners in cellars, shafts, and in rooms, where they would be caught. They also wounded many other prisoners. I was wounded by the bombs as well. That same day, Xhemail Alimani was killed. . . . I personally know about 108 killed and ninety-eight wounded prisoners.40

Later in the morning, the security forces had reasserted some control over the prison, and they issued an ultimatum for the prisoners to emerge from their hiding places within fifteen minutes. With no other options, the prisoners revealed themselves, and were then gathered in the prison's sports hall, which was still undamaged. According to the witnesses, VJ soldiers were present this time, and they were more friendly to the surviving prisoners, even giving them cigarettes in the name of "Miki"-a man two of the interviewees identified as the prison warden, although they didn't know his full name. According to A.K., he recognized a policeman from Pec nicknamed "Bata."

The injured were taken away in trucks, while the remaining prisoners were transported in approximately ten buses to Lipljan prison in south-central Kosovo. All of the former prisoners claimed to have been beaten in Lipljan. A.K. and Bajrush Xhemaili, claimed that the new arrivals had to walk through two cordons of police wielding batons and metal sticks, who beat the prisoners as they passed.41

On the morning of June 10, just after NATO and the Yugoslav Army signed the Military Technical Agreement that ended the war, all of the ethnic Albanian prisoners in Lipljan were transferred to other prisons inside Serbia proper, such as Sremska Mitrovica, Nis, Prokuplje, or Pozarevac. According to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center, in October 1999, wounded prisoners from Dubrava were being held in the prisons at Sremska Mitrovica, Zabela and Nis.42

Human Rights Watch interviewed three other prisoners who had been in Lipljan prison at this time, in addition to the two men who were in Dubrava, about the transfer. All of the men said that the inmates had their hands tied and were then transferred in buses out of Kosovo. B.K. said:

On June 9, at 10:00 p.m., they woke us up. They tied us with ropes and put us in groups of fifty. We could not sit. They started withdrawing and shooting in the air. We were afraid they would kill us there. At 6:00 a.m., June 10, they held us until 12:00 p.m. without food or water. Then they put us onto buses with our heads down. Half of us were on the floor. It was cold. They beat those who moved. There were two policemen and a driver in each bus. We realized that the army and police were withdrawing from Kosovo. We got to Nis, where we stayed one hour in the bus. They untied us and put us in the prison.43

Other prisoners stopped at Nis prison, but were then moved on. B. Z., an eighteen year-old who was not a prisoner from Dubrava, told Human Rights Watch:

On June 10 we were transferred out. First they said we would go to Nis. But they said there was no room there, so we changed buses and went on. From Lipljan, I was in the first bus with my hands tied behind my back. The bus was full. They took us to Sremska Mitrovica. We were about 300 people.44

All of the former prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch had been released between September and December 1999, usually because their prison terms had expired. But, as of April 2001, at least 70 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo remained in Serbian prisons, among them some survivors of the Dubrava massacre (see section on Kosovar Albanian Prisoners in Serbia Since War's End in Abuses After June 12, 1999).

The precise number of Dubrava inmates killed by the two NATO bombing raids and by prison guards and special police remains unclear. After initially reporting on May 21 that at least nineteen inmates had been killed, the Yugoslav government's figures rose sharply four days later, without, however, attributing killings to measures to control rioting or escaping priosiners. Serbian authorities, in contrast, attributed the new deaths to the bombings in stark contradiction to survivor testimonies. A May 25, 1999, Tanjug report said that "in days-long bombardment of the Penitentiary Institute Istok, some 100 prisoners died, and some 200 were wounded."45 On May 27, Tanjug quoted Vladan Bojic, investigative judge in the Pec district court, as saying that ninety-six corpses had been pulled from the ruins and that forty wounded were in critical condition.46 On May 29, the Yugoslav government stated that "the number of casualties in the Correctional Institution in Istok is increasing. Out of 196 people wounded in the vandal bombing of this institution another three persons died, and seven more were taken out from under the rubble, while the search for the dead continues."47 On May 30, Tanjug reported that seven more bodies had been found, bringing the death total to ninety-three.48 The final Yugoslav government figures were published in a July report by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called "NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia: Documentary Evidence, 25 April-10 June 1999." NATO bombs had killed ninety-five inmates and injured 196, the report said.49

Ostensibly to help make its case that all of the prisoners had been killed by NATO bombs, the Serbian authorities again escorted a group of foreign journalists to Dubrava prison on May 24. Reporting for the BBC, Jacky Rowland said that the prison had clearly been struck again since the journalists' first visit on May 21. "One building was smouldering while the dining hall and several cell blocks were badly damaged," she reported.50 However, it was less clear to Rowland how the victims in the prison had died:

Walking around the prison we counted forty-four bodies, about half of these appeared to be the victims of the first bombing raid on Friday [May 19], still lying under blankets on the grass. Then we were taken to a room in a damaged cell block where there were twenty-five corpses. The men appeared to be ethnic Albanians, some of them had shaved heads, others had longer hair. A couple of the corpses had their trousers pulled down around their knees. We were told they had died between Friday and Sunday although it was not clear how all of them had met their deaths, nor why they were all in one relatively undamaged room.

Another reporter who visited the prison on May 24, Daniel Williams with the Washington Post, also questioned the government's version of the deaths:

This time, the official version-that bombs again were to blame-did not match what reporters saw at the scene, where twenty-five more ethnic Albanian corpses were on display. The corpses were piled in the foyer of a clinic. Except for a ruined dining hall, however, no new bomb damage was visible inside the prison, and none of the newly dead had been crushed, or touched by the concrete dust that covered the dining hall floor.51

Williams visited Dubrava again on June 12, after NATO troops had entered Kosovo. He wrote:

Once inside, it didn't take long to see that ugly things had happened-things that had nothing to do with bombing. At the clinic where the twenty-five bodies had lain, mattresses and pillows lined a hallway I had not been able to see before. Some had bullet holes and dried blood where heads might have rested. Bullet holes and splattered blood marked walls. A copy of the Hippocratic oath hung at an angle in one office.

In a cellblock, bullet holes marred inner walls and more mattresses bore dried bloodstains. At the rear of the compound, piles of clothing filled a cowshed. Again, walls bore bullet pockmarks. Mattresses and clothing were stuffed into open manholes.52

Visiting the prison in early November with former prisoner Naser Husaj, Carlotta Gall from the New York Times saw evidence that suggested many people were killed inside the prison's buildings and basements. She wrote:

And in the basements of the buildings, the blood lies still sticky on the floor, bullet holes scar the walls, and impact marks of grenade explosions crater the floors . . . In the basement of the cultural center, under insulated heating pipes and industrial washing machines, the weapons still lay around: a spade, metal spikes, wooden bars and stretches of metal piping, wrapped with rags for a better grip. Pools of dried blood still stained the floor, and discarded clothes. Two small round craters from a hand grenade pockmarked the concrete floor.53

The Exhumations

On August 13, a Spanish forensic team began exhuming ninety-seven graves that were found outside the village of Rakos/Rakosh near Dubrava prison.54 A legal advisor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Karl Koenig, claimed that the bodies appeared to have "been here since the 26th or 27th of May." All of the graves were marked "KPD," which stands, in Serbian, for Kazneno Popravni Dom, or Penal Correctional Facility. In her November 10, 1999, report to the U.N. Security Council, ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that ninety-seven bodies had been found at the Rakos site, although no details on the cause of death were provided.55


Precisely who was in charge during the killings in Dubrava prison remains unclear. Still, from witness testimonies and press accounts, a few leads have emerged.

According to an article in the Washington Post, then-Serbian Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic, claimed that "his people" were not in charge in Dubrava between May 19 and 25, meaning, ostensibly, the Serbian Ministry of Justice. The article said that, "He [Jankovic] does not know what happened during the bombardment, and seemed to suggest that if any atrocities occurred, it was others-special police, paramilitaries-who were responsible."56

Journalist Paul Watson, who visited Dubrava on May 19 and May 21, quoted one official from the prison-Aleksander Rakocevic-whom he identified as a warden.57 Former prisoners told Human Rights Watch that they recognized a few of the Serbian security personnel in the prison, although they did not know their full names. Both of the former prisoners who spoke with Human Rights Watch said that the director of the prison was known as "Miki"-a dark-skinned man who spoke perfect Albanian. According to A.K., the deputy director was known as "Ace," and he was the one who allegedly gave the order to fire on the assembled prisoners on May 22. A.K. and B.K. both also claimed that the prison guards had released and armed some of the ethnic Serbian prisoners after the first NATO raid on May 19. Both witnesses said they saw some of these people back in the prison attacking the Albanians with whom they had, until recently, been incarcerated.

Lastly, the Kosovo Liberation Army has claimed to possess further information about the Dubrava killings. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, KLA spokeswoman Faton Mexhmeti Ramusij said that the KLA possesses Serbian police documents that portray all the deaths in Dubrava as having been the result of NATO bombing. The names of four policemen who allegedly compiled the report were provided to Human Rights Watch, although the original document was not seen.58

1 UNHCR GIS Unit, Pristina, Kosovo, "UNHCR Shelter Verification: Agency Coverage," November 9, 1999.
2 OSCE/ODIHR, Kosovo/Kosova: As Seen, As Told, Part I, pp 208-210.
3 M.Manic and S. Kovacevic, "Will and Readiness to Carry Out All Security Tasks," Policajac, No. 18/98, October 1998.
4 By mid-2000, many more Dubrava survivors had been released. In September, seventy-nine of them held a hunger strike in front of Dubrava prison to highlight the plight of the Albanian prisoners still in Serbian custody.
5 See interviews with Ahmet Ahmeti (Izabela Kisic, "Tukli su nas, mucili elektrosokovima i pucli," Danas, November 5, 1999); Bajrush Xhemaili ("Former Kosovar Prisoner Says Serbs `Massacred' Over 100 Inmates," BBC Worldwide Monitoring of Beta News Agency, August 26, 1999); and Remzi Tetrica ("We Were Attacked With Automatic Weapons, Snipers and Bombs in Dubrava Prison," Kosova Sot, September 30, 1999); and information from Naser Husaj (Carlotta Gall, "Stench of Horror Lingers in a Prison in Kosovo," New York Times, November 8, 1999.)
6 "NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia: Documentary Evidence, 25 April-10 June 1999," Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgrade, July 1999, p. 319.
7 OSCE/ODIHR, Kosovo/Kosova: As Seen, As Told, Part I, pp. 213-214.
8 "We Were Attacked With Automatic Weapons, Snipers and Bombs in Dubrava Prison," Kosova Sot, September 30, 1999.
9 "Report on the Trial of the So-called `Djakovica Group'," Group 484, Volunteer Center for Direct Human Rights, April 2000.
10 "Former Kosovar Prisoner Says Serbs `Massacred' Over 100 Inmates," BBC Worldwide Monitoring.
11 Hoti (age fifty-six), head of the Party of National Unity (Unikomb), was arrested on May 14, 1993, and subsequently sentenced to five years in prison.
12 Paul Watson, "NATO Bombs Ignite Prison Chaos-KLA Officers Reported to be Among Inmates," Toronto Star, May 22, 1999.
13 A.K. was arrested in Pec in August 1998, and sentenced in November 1998 to one year in prison for "terrorist acts." Human Rights Watch inspected A.K.'s verdict from the Pec district court, signed by Judge Goran Petronijevic, but the document number and precise court dates are not provided here to protect the identity of the witness. A.K. told Human Rights Watch that he had joined the KLA in June 1998, and had fought in Glodjane under Ramush Haradinaj, the KLA's regional commander in the area.
14 Human Rights Watch interview with A.K., Pec, Kosovo, November 17, 1999.
15 B.K. was arrested in September 1998 and sentenced to one year in prison that March 1999 for terrorist activities. He admitted to Human Rights Watch to having been a KLA battalion commander. The precise dates of his arrest and sentencing are not provided to protect the identity of the witness.
16 Human Rights Watch interview with B.K., near Pec, Kosovo, November 17, 1999.
17 NATO press conference, NATO Headquarters, Brussels, May 20, 1999.
18 Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NATO Raids on Manufacturing and Civilian Facilities on May 19 and in the Night Between May 19 and 20, 1999.
19 Ibid.
20 Jacky Rowland, "Bombs, Blood and Dark Despair," Scotland on Sunday, May 23, 1999.
21 Paul Watson, "Dispatch from Kosovo: 20 Killed, 10 Wounded as NATO Targets Prison," Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1999.
22 Ibid.
23 "NATO Hits Kosovo Jail Again Friday Night," Associated Press, May 21, 1999.
24 NATO Morning Briefing, NATO Headquarters, Brussels, May 22, 1999.
25 Watson, "NATO Bombs Ignite Prison Chaos."
26 "Former Kosovar Prisoner Says Serbs `Massacred' Over 100 Inmates," BBC Worldwide Monitoring.
27 Izabela Kisic, "Tukli su nas, mucili elektrosokovima I pucli," Danas, November 5, 1999.
28 "At Least 19 Killed in NATO Bombardment of Prison In Istok," Tanjug, May 21, 1999.
29 "NATO Aircraft Attack Prison In Istok Six Times in One Day," Tanjug, May 22, 1999.
30 "Dozens of Inmates Killed in NATO Air Strikes on Istok Prison," Tanjug, May 22, 1999.
31 Human Rights Watch interview with B.K., near Pec, Kosovo, November 17, 1999.
32 Human Rights Watch interview with A.K., Pec, November 17, 1999.
33 Bajrush Xhemaili was head of the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedom's sub-council in Urosevac/Ferizaj, as well as a member of the council's presidency in Pristina. He was arrested in 1993 and sentenced on August 5, 1993, to eight years in prison. He was released on June 8, 1999, and is currently active in the Party for Democratic Prosperity, the new political party headed by Hashim Thaci, former political director of the KLA and current prime minister of Kosovo's self-appointed Provisional Government.
34 "Former Kosovar Prisoner Says Serbs `Massacred' Over 100 Inmates," BBC Worldwide Monitoring of Beta News Agency, August 26, 1999.
35 Human Rights Watch interview with B.K., near Pec, Kosovo, November 17, 1999.
36 Human Rights Watch interview with A.K., Pec, November 17, 1999.
37 A New York Times reporter, Carlotta Gall, who visited Dubrava prison on November 7, 1999, saw weapons in the basement of the cultural center, including a spade, metal spikes, wooden bars and metal piping. ["Stench of Horror Lingers in a Prison in Kosovo," by Carlotta Gall, The New York Times, November 8, 1999.]
38 Gall, "Stench of Horror Lingers in a Prison in Kosovo."
39 Ibid.
40 "We Were Attacked with Automatic Weapons, Snipers and Bombs in Dubrava Prison," Kosova Sot, September 30, 1999.
41 Human Rights Watch interviewed another former prisoner who was in Lipljan prison from May 24 to June 9 but was not in Dubrava who also reported having to walk through a cordon of policemen. Human Rights Watch interview with R.M., Glogovac, Kosovo, November 5, 1999.
42 Humanitarian Law Center Communique, October 10, 1999.
43 Human Rights Watch interview with A.K., near Pec, Kosovo, November 17, 1999.
44 Human Rigths Watch interview with B. Z., Glogovac, Kosovo, November 5, 1999.
45 "Number of Persons Killed in NATO raids on Istok prison Still Uncertain," Tanjug, May 25, 1999.
46 On May 24, Vladan Bojic was quoted on the state-run Belgrade Radio as saying that NATO had "committed the biggest mass murder of inmates in the history of modern civiliazation," and that the court would begin to investigate the crime.
47 FRY MFA, NATO Raids on Manufacturing and Civilian Facilities on May 29th and in the Night Between May 29th and 30th 1999.
48 Yugoslav press reports; "Identifikovano 86 mrtvih," DAN, 27 May 1999, p. 2; "Jos sedam leseva," DAN, 30 May 1999.
49 "NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia: Documentary Evidence, 25 April-10 June 1999," p. 319, Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgrade, July 1999.
50 "Istok Prison's Unanswered Questions," BBC World News, May 25, 1999.
51 Daniel Williams, "Kosovo Revisited; At War's End, Old Places Seen in New Light," Washington Post, June 26, 1999.
52 Ibid.
53 Gall, "Stench of Horror Lingers in a Prison in Kosovo."
54 "Spanish Teams Excavating Mass Burial Site," Associated Press, August 13, 1999.
55 Remarks to the Security Council by Madame Carla Del Ponte, Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, New York, November 10, 1999.
56 William Booth, "Doctor Tells of Life Among Serbia's Captives," Washington Post, July 19, 1999.
57 Paul Watson, "NATO Bombs Ignite Prison Chaos-KLA Officers Reported to be Among Inmates," Toronto Star, May 22, 1999.
58 Human Rights Watch interview with Faton Mexhmeti Ramusij, Babaloc (Baballoq), July 17, 1999.