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Appendix C: Incidents Involving Unsubstantiated Reports of Civilian Deaths

March 25

In an attack on a Prizren Ministry of Interior (MUP) building or headquarters in Kosovo, Dragan Barac and Dragan Renic are reported killed. Though the Ministry of Health provided photographs of the bodies,154 they are mentioned nowhere else in the press or the Yugoslav government's White Book and it is doubted whether these two casualties were civilians.

The field (war) headquarters of the 3rd Army in Kursumlija in southern Serbia is hit "on the first night of the campaign and ... badly damaged." According to the British government, "This is the HQ from which the Yugoslav Army is controlling its Kosovo campaign and this will give the Yugoslavs key command and control problems. We know that their army has been badly rattled by this attack."155 The Yugoslav government initially reports that a refugee center was bombed, killing eleven "refugees" from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, and wounding twenty-four.156
Human Rights Watch was unable to verify Yugoslav claims of civilian casualties in this incident, the bombing of a refugee center, and it suspects that those killed were not refugees but military or MUP personnel. The Kursumlija refugee center incident is not reported in the Yugoslav government White Book, nor does it figure in later Yugoslav compilations.157 In the May 29, 1999 "espionage" verdict for three Care Australia workers (Steve Pratt, Peter Wallace, and Branko Jelen) handed down by the Military Court of the 1st Army command in Yugoslavia (No. I.K.14/99), the court stated that a March 29 report compiled by Pratt refers to the initial bombing of Kursumlija. In that report, according to the verdict, Pratt stated that "what was hit in Kursumlija and Pristina were not refugee camps, but Army depots and a paramilitary police headquarters."158

March 29

Tanjug reports that refugee camps near Nis in southern Serbia and Pristina in Kosovo are "bombed," killing fifteen refugees.159 The refugee camps are managed by CARE Australia on behalf of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Steve Pratt of CARE Australia is quoted by Australian ABC radio as saying that his staff could confirm that nine refugees died when NATO hit buildings in Pristina near the agency's refugee centers. Pratt is later arrested by Yugoslav authorities for espionage, and it is later learned that the attacks were actually on police facilities. The Ministry of Health reports that in an attack on the Pristina MUP building on March 29, Radoica Kovac is killed.160 The death is not reported again in the press, is not mentioned in Yugoslav government compilations, nor in the White Book. Human Rights Watch accordingly concludes that Kovac was likely not a civilian.161

April 6

At 8:45 p.m., in an attack on the Sjenica airfield in eastern central Serbia, one person is killed in the village of Stavaljska breza.162 Civilian buildings were reported struck with cluster bombs at Dubinje in the vicinity of Sjenica causing substantial damage to the management building of the agricultural complex "Pester," as well as to the dairy, workers' accommodation facilities, and a number of auxiliary buildings and motor vehicles. Telephone, power, and water supply lines are reported hit, cutting water and power supply and telephone service.163

The Yugoslav White Book reports the bombing in Dubinje and Sjenica at 8:45 p.m. on April 6, but do not report any civilian casualties.164 The Yugoslav press states that a "person" was killed in the attack, not a "civilian."165 Human Rights Watch concludes that it is likely that a member of the military or police was killed.

April 11

Yugoslav authorities claim that in a 5:00 a.m. attack on the village Turekovac near Leskovac in southeastern Serbia, "there were some damages on civilian objects and some civilians have been killed."166 The Yugoslav White Book mentions the attack, which it says "heavily damaged a large number of family houses," but it does not include any further reports of civilian casualties.167 Human Rights Watch thus doubts that there were any civilian casualties.

April 26

Tanjug reports that civilians are killed in an attack on a bridge on the outskirt of Kastrat just east of Kursumlija. "The number of civilians killed in Kursumlija as a result of air strikes rose up to 17," Tanjug reports.168 The incident on April 26 is not mentioned in the Yugoslav government White Book, nor is there any further corroboration or reporting in the Yugoslav press. The Tanjug reference to "up to 17" killed in Kursumlija area likely refers to deaths from attacks on March 25, April 2, and April 10 (see above and Appendix A).

May 21

In an 11:00 a.m. attack on the Smederevo "Jugopetrol" depot in eastern Serbia, seven people are reported killed. The depot is reportedly targeted with three weapons for the sixth time. One weapon hit the grounds of "Trudbenik-Buducnost" factory and the other Godominsko Polje near the Smederevo medium wave (MW) radio transmitter.169

NATO reports attacking the petroleum storage facility in Smederevo on May 21,170 but the Yugoslav government White Book does not mention any civilian deaths in the attack, nor was there any reporting of the deaths in the Yugoslav press. Human Rights Watch visited Smederevo and was able to verify the attack, but could not verify any civilian deaths in this incident.

See also Appendix A, incident 65.

Table 1
Leading Incidents involving Civilian Deaths

Date Location Civilians Killed

May 13 Korisa, Kosovo 48-87
April 14 Djakovica-Decane, Kosovo 73
May 1 Luzane, Kosovo 39
May 30 Surdulica, Serbia 23
April 12 Grdelica Klisura, Serbia 20
May 21 Istok (Dubrava), Kosovo at least 19
May 3 Savine Vode, Kosovo 17
April 23 Belgrade, Serbia 16
May 7 Nis, Serbia 14
April 27 Surdulica, Serbia 11
May 31 Novi Pazar, Serbia 11
April 5 Aleksinac, Serbia 10

154 FRY, MOH, "Photo Documentation of Civilians Who Were Killed By NATO Attacks, from 24.03 until 20.05.1999." 155 Statement by Gen. Charles Guthrie. See Briefing By the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. George Robertson, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir Charles Guthrie, London, March 27, 1999. 156 Yugoslav press reports; FRY, MFA, "Consequences of NATO aggression against the FRY," Belgrade, March 27, 1999. 157 For instance, the incident is not listed on the compilation of the Committee for Compiling Data on Crimes Against Humanity and International Law ( cwc/fejmel_nato.htm). 158 Judgment of the Military Court of the 1st Army Command, I.K. No. 14/99, May 29, 1999. 159 Tanjug, "Chronology of Crimes and Dishonor of NATO," June 5, 1999. 160 FRY, MOH, "Photo Documentation of Civilians Who Were Killed By NATO Attacks, from 24.03 until 20.05.1999." 161 Ibid. 162 Yugoslav press reports. 163 FRY, "Aide-Memoire," May 15, 1999. 164 FRY, MFA, NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia, vol. I, p. 129. 165 Vecernje Novosti, April 6, 1999, p. 4. 166 Information provided by Yugoslav civil defense authorities. 167 FRY, MFA, NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia, vol. I, p. 141. 168 Tanjug, "Chronology of Crimes and Dishonor of NATO," June 5, 1999. 169 FRY, MFA, "NATO raids on manufacturing and civilian facilities on May 21 and in the night between May 21 and 22, 1999." 170 NATO, Operation Allied Force Update, May 22, 1999, 0930 CET.

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