Back to Archive Hope on the Balkans   Kosov@ Crisis 1999
Back to Kosov@
Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Kosovo Human Rights Flash #48 1806 hrw

Burnt remains of Korenica villagers found

(New York, June 18, 1999) In four homes in Korenica (Koronic in Albanian), a village some 15 kilometers west of Djakovica (Gjakove), a Human Rights Watch researcher examined the burnt remains of a number of Kosovar Albanians reportedly killed by Serb security forces on April 27. Burnt beyond recognition -- in some cases the remains were no more than charred bones -- the bodies were identified by relatives or neighbors familiar with the deceased persons' personal belongs, such as jewelry and eyeglasses. The homes, all within easy walking distance of each other, were visited by Human Rights Watch on June 16. Although Human Rights Watch has not been able to find an eyewitness to the killings, our own inspection of the site leads us to conclude that reports that ethnic Albanians were summarily executed in the town are highly credible.

The largest single group of bodies was found in the burnt, looted, and pillaged home of Daniel Berisha, where a third story room held the gruesomely burnt and broken remains of five men. According to Tom Dedaj, who lived in a neighboring house, these people were most likely killed on April 27. He described to Human Rights Watch how he saw a large numbers of Serb security forces, made up of army, police, and paramilitaries, arrived in the village on April 26 in several buses. Some members of the forces wore red bandannas 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. Tom Dedaj and his family managed to escape to the mountains on April 27, but many others were not so lucky.

Anton Dedaj, also interviewed by Human Rights Watch, stated that the bodies in the house were those of his brother Gjoke Dedaj, age 40; Muse Dedaj, age 61, Gjoke's uncle; Nikolle Dedaj, age 18, Gjoke's son; Kole Berisha, age 43, the brother of the house's owner; and Mark Berisha, age 68, the uncle of the house's owner.

Tom Dedaj relayed additional details regarding the night the slaughter occurred, which he claimed to have from Daniel Berisha, age 40, the owner of the house. Daniel reportedly told him that the Serb forces arrived at 7:30 a.m. and made everyone leave the house, then separated the women and children from the men. The Serb forces initially agreed to allow Daniel's sixty-eight- year-old uncle to leave with the women and children, but they ordered him to drive away on a tractor. When he responded that he didn't know how to drive a tractor, they reportedly made him return to the house and go up to the third floor along with the other men.

When the men reached the third floor they began to plead for their lives. A local policeman whom Daniel identified by name reportedly ordered the men to turn their backs to him and shot them at close range with an automatic weapon.

Daniel told Tom Dedaj that he fell first, being hit twice in his leg, and was covered by other bodies. He said that he pretended to be dead while the Serb forces brought blankets upstairs, lit them, and threw them on the bodies. He escaped from the blaze as the Serbs left, displaying burns on his arms and forehead, as well as bullet wounds to his leg, when Tom Dedaj saw him. That evening, he showed up in the mountains and told Tom his story. The next day, attempting to escape this hiding place along with other villagers, he was captured by Serb forces. Daniel's body was found the following day with five additional bullet holes in it -- two in the forehead and three in the chest -- Tom and another villager buried him close to where they had found him.

After inspecting the five bodies, the Human Rights Watch researcher visiting Korenica on June 16 was brought by Tom Dedaj to three nearby houses in which bodies, or in one instance, small pieces of burnt bones, were found. The researcher was told that these remains belonged to Gjergj Mala, age 59, Pal Kabashi, age 41, Kol Palokaj, age 80, and Mire Palokaj, age 45. They too were reportedly killed on April 27 during the Serb attack on the village.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Back to Archive | Back to Kosov@ Crisis 1999