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Well over one hundred ethnic Albanians have “disappeared” in Kosovo since February 1998, approximately half of whom were last seen in the custody of the police. The precise number, however, is impossible to determine since the Yugoslav authorities do not make public the number of people they have in detention, despite requests from Human Rights Watch and other organizations.62 Some of the “disappeared” may be in prison, while others are in hiding, have fled Kosovo, or joined the KLA; others may have been secretly executed.

The most comprehensive report on missing persons, both Albanians and Serbs, was published in August 1998 by the Humanitarian Law Center.63 According to the center, 119 ethnic Albanians have “disappeared” in the Kosovo conflict. Forty-four of these “disappearances” are directly attributable to the police, while seventy-two occurred in unclear circumstances. The Humanitarian Law Center documented three cases of ethnic Albanians who were detained and held without acknowledgment by the KLA; the actual number is believed to be much higher. The center also documented 112 cases of ethnic Serbs who are unaccounted for and may have been seized — or killed— by the KLA. (See section on Abuses by the KLA.)

Below are some cases of “disappearances” of ethnic Albanians believed to have been carried out by government forces:

Dr. Hafir Shala

On April 10, 1998, Dr. Hafir Shala, a doctor with the Health Care Center in Glogovac, was taken into detention by the police, along with two friends, Hetem Sinani and Shaban Neziri. The latter two were interrogated and released but Mr. Shala was held. He has not been seen or heard from since.

The three men were traveling in Shaban Neziri’s car to Priština when the traffic police stopped the car near Slatina village around 8:00 a.m. As the police were checking their identification, three men in plain clothes emerged from a black jeep that was parked nearby and told Dr. Shala to come with them to Priština, while Mr. Sinani and Mr. Neziri were instructed to follow in their car. All three men were taken to the police station in Priština and interrogated in separate rooms until 2:00 p.m.. At that time, Mr. Sinani and Mr. Neziri were released. They told their lawyer, Destan Rukiqi, that they heard Dr. Shala screaming from pain from an unknown room in the police station as they left.64

Mr. Rukiqi told Human Rights Watch that he had taken various measures to locate Dr. Shala, all to no avail. On April 16, he wrote to the Serbian Ministry of Justice, the Serbian Prosecutor’s office, and the district prosecutor in Priština. The next day, the Priština prosecutor, Slavko Stevanovic, said the State Security office in Priština had no information on Shala’s whereabouts. Letters written by Human Rights Watch to the Serbian and Yugoslav Ministries of Interior and Justice on July 20, 1998, on Dr. Shala’s case remain unanswered.

Fourteen Members of the Jashari Family

Fourteen members of the Jashari family remained unaccounted for after the March 5 police attack on their family compound in Donji Prekaz (see section on Abuses in Drenica). Ten people were buried by the police on March 10 without proper identification, so it is possible that the missing Jashari family members are among those buried at that time.

Jakup Qerimi

According to the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, the police detained Jakup Qerimi, a twenty-seven-year-old ethnic Albanian who is mentally handicapped, in Urosevac on June 20, and he has not been seen since. The police allegedly told his mother that she would never see her son again.

Idriz Idrizi

According the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Humanitarian Law Center, Idriz Idrizi from Srbica was taken by the police on January 23 from near the ammunition factory outside of Donji Prekaz. As of September 1998, he was still unaccounted for.65 (See section on Abuses in Drenica.)

Nine Men from Novi Poklek

On May 31, 1998, Serbian special police forces attacked the village of Novi Poklek near Glogovac. Ten men were taken by the police: the body of one of them, Ardian Deliu, was found the next day. The other nine men are still “disappeared.”

A witness told Human Rights Watch that he saw the police shoot five men dead, three of whom he identified as Sefer Qorri, Hajriz Hajdini, and Ahmet Berisha, although his account could not be confirmed by Human Rights Watch. The nine missing men from Poklek are: Ahmet Berisha (40), Hajriz Hajdini (48), Muhamet Hajdini (45), Sahit Qorri (60), Sefer Qorri (55), Ferat Hoti (39), Rama Asllani (60), Fidel Berisha (17), and Blerim Shishani (15). (See section on Novi Poklek.)

62 Human Rights Watch letters to Yugoslav Minister of Internal Affairs Zoran Sikolovic and Yugoslav Minister of Justice Zoran Knezevic, July 20, 1998. 63 Humanitarian Law Center, “Disappearances in Times of Armed Conflict,” Spotlight Report Number 27, August 5, 1998. 64 Human Rights Watch interview with Destan Rukiqi, Priština, June 3, 1998.

65 Spotlight Report Number 27, “Disappearances in Times of Armed Conflict,” Humanitarian Law Center, August 5, 1998.

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