Hope on the Balkans Kosov@ Crisis
Human Rights Watch Kosovo Flash #50
Violent abuses by KLA members
Beatings, killings and rape taking place in Kosovo
(New York, June 25, 1999)-Human Rights Watch has compiled telling evidence that some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are committing violent abuses against ethnic Serbs and, in some cases, ethnic Albanians and Roma in Kosovo. A week of investigations in Orahovac, Prizren and Pec revealed KLA soldiers' involvement in five murders, four abductions, one rape, and fourteen detentions, twelve of which included physical abuse.
The abuses are apparently motivated both by a desire to retaliate for wide-scale atrocities committed by Serbian security forces, and a desire to force the remaining ethnic Serbian minority out of Kosovo. Ethnic Serbs continue to leave the province every day out of fear.
The evidence available to Human Rights Watch to date is insufficient to prove a policy of revenge or forced expulsion on the part of the KLA. But these documented abuses - and widespread reports of others throughout Kosovo - demand immediate action by the highest levels of the KLA leadership, who should order that abuses cease and discipline and punish perpetrators.
KILLINGS In Prizren, two elderly ethnic Serbs, Trifa Stamenkovic, an eighty-five-year-old man, and Marija Filipovic, a fifty-nine-year-old woman, described the June 21 murders of their respective spouses, allegedly by KLA soldiers. Stamenkovic and Filipovic, close neighbors in a traditionally Serbian area of Prizren, both went out to run errands in the mid-morning. When they returned home, Stamenkovic's seventy-seven-year- old wife, Marika, and Filipovic's sixty-three- year-old husband, Panta, had both been killed: they were stabbed, and their throats had been cut. The week prior to the killings, the couples had both received three threatening visits from uniformed KLA members armed with AK47s who demanded their weapons and money. Panta Filipovic was struck with a gun butt when he claimed not to possess any weapons, Marija said. The Stamenkovic family was robbed according to Trifa. Although neither Stamenkovic nor Filipovic witnessed the killings of their spouses, Filipovic's ethnic Albanian neighbors told her that the KLA was responsible.
Other apparent KLA killings took place recently in the village of Belo Polje (Bellopole in Albanian) near Pec. A Human Rights Watch researcher in the village viewed the bodies of three ethnic Serbian men, each of whom had been shot between the eyes, apparently at point blank range. The men were Radomir Stosic, age fifty, his uncle Steven Stosic, age sixty, and their friend Filip Kosic, age forty-six, all of whom were killed at approximately 5:30 p.m. on June 19.
Two ethnic Serbian villagers told Human Rights Watch that they saw ten uniformed KLA soldiers enter Belo Polje and execute the three men. Other villagers gave the same account to foreign journalists: one man was killed on the street in front of the Stosic home, another was killed by the front door of his house, and the third was killed inside his house, on the second floor. A fourth ethnic Serbian man, Milco Stosic, the brother of Radomir, was seriously injured in the attack. He was reportedly brought by helicopter to a hospital in Pristina by Italian KFOR, but Human Rights Watch was unable to ascertain his condition.
Local ethnic Albanian villagers interviewed by journalists claimed that the ethnic Serbian victims belonged to a paramilitary gang that had burned Albanian homes in the area. Ethnic Serbs from Belo Polje denied the allegation, insisting that no paramilitaries lived in the village.
ABDUCTIONS, DETENTION AND ABUSE Certain members of the KLA are also responsible for abductions, forced disappearances, and beatings of ethnic Serbian and Albanian civilians. Human Rights Watch has interviewed fourteen people who were abducted and detained by the KLA - one man was held for thirty-three days. Most of the detainees were men over fifty years old.
Twelve of these detainees, most of them ethnic Serbs, described being beaten by KLA soldiers while in their custody. These victims, including four women, one of whom is seventy-seven years old, showed a Human Rights Watch researcher their black eyes and extensive purple bruising that was consistent with their allegations of abuse. Two of the victims displayed puncture wounds in their legs from being stabbed. Representatives of humanitarian organizations providing medical care in Prizren told Human Rights Watch that they have treated approximately twenty-five civilians for similar injuries, including apparent knife wounds, which the victims claimed had been inflicted by men in KLA uniform. Most of the victims were older men.
The KLA has also detained and abused some ethnic Albanian men. On June 18, German KFOR forces released approximately fifteen people from the police station in Prizren, among them some ethnic Albanians. The KLA had reportedly used the building as a detention center for a short period between the departure of Serbian troops and the arrival of NATO.
Some of the former detainees described brutal beatings and other mistreatment by KLA members. One badly beaten man was found dead in the building, according to German KFOR forces. The ethnic Albanian detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch claimed that KLA members had accused them of collaborating with or working for the Serbian authorities. One man stated that he had worked as a clerk in a government registry office handling marriage and birth certificates.
Four different ethnic Serbs from Orahovac and Prizren told Human Rights Watch that male members of their families had been forcibly abducted by members of the KLA, and that the men's whereabouts are currently unknown. Unconfirmed stories of many more abductions are common.
In some cases, ethnic Serbian men have simply disappeared, but Human Rights Watch has also interviewed several eyewitnesses to KLA abductions. In once case, an ethnic Serbian young man was abducted in front of his elderly mother by men in KLA uniforms with automatic guns. They had returned to their home in Prizren to pack their belongings before leaving town. One Albanian man released from the Prizren police station by German troops on June 18 stated that the KLA took his wife and four children away from the station just hours before the Germans arrived. He has no news about their whereabouts.
RAPE In the interest of protecting the identity of victims, Human Rights Watch is unable at this time to provide precise information about a rape allegedly committed by five masked men dressed in KLA uniforms. The victim, a young ethnic Albanian woman, provided a detailed and credible account of the attack, stating that the men abducted her from her house at 1:00 a.m. and took her to another house where they raped her. A female relative, interviewed separately, who was together with the victim when the abduction occurred, corroborated the victim's account and gave further details about the incident. She explained that, although the men were dressed in KLA uniforms and she believed them to be KLA members, they had said that they were members of an "international revenge organization." Both women agree that the rape was committed as a means of punishing the family for the activities of a male relative who had worked as a policeman under the Serbian authorities.
Source: Human Rights Watch
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