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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Three Days of Horror in Pec

by Natasa Kandic

Natasa Kandic, Director of the Fund for Humanitarian Law offered testimony for VREME: "My three months interest in Kosovo was motivated by my desire to see what happened in the Region while it was exclusively in the hands of the Yugoslav Army, Police and various other formations. What I can say on the basis of this and on the basis of many interviews held with displaced Albanians in Montenegro, information behind which I fully stand and which I can prove with facts, is what happened in Pristina, in Pec, in the villages around Pec, in Istok and in Kosovska Mitrovica. There is virtually no village around Pec and between Pec and Prizren where initially many people were killed (from 20 to 350, as was the case in Ljubenic and Velika Kursa), after which the place was torched. There is information which could prove that some wounded people were burnt alive. I am strictly speaking about civilians. THE CASE OF PEC: This is a city which was destroyed the most. The most classic sort of ethnic cleansing took place in this city. During those three days, March 26, 27 and 28, members of the regular police, as well as from some other police units, from special units to reinforcements, entered houses. No one mentioned that the regular army or soldiers serving the army were located in the city at the time. This was not the case. The command issued was for all the houses to be vacated within ten minutes. People were channeled toward the center of the city. According to my estimates, according to command, around 20,000 people were driven out of their homes within three days. These people were from Kapesnica, a part of Pec populated exclusively by Albaninas. Beside entering houses, the other typical occurrence was looting, and then terror: during those days we registered over 30 murders. Homes were entered, money was sought and then people were killed. Facts and testimonies indicate that there was not criteria being followed: the killing was sporadic, intended to strike fear and in order for them to join the convoys of refugees. Under such situations some attempted to leave the convoys and to find refuge in some street, or in some neighborhood which was still not being targeted. Witnesses I spoke to claim that this was not possible because both sides of the street were being guarded by police and the army. Several hundred of them were loaded onto tractor trailers and driven toward Albania. This was done in a brutal manner. Mass separations of families occurred. On May 28 and 29 some Albanians were taken from the center of the city into the sports facility in Pec where they were detained until the next day. According to testimony by those interviewed, members of the regular Army with their commanding officers came and told them to go back to their homes, for there would not be any more molestation. People went back to their homes and once they arrived the whole process began anew: the police, additional groups and formations and units driving them out of their homes, all of it accompanied once again with looting to the very end. That means that people must give up all their possessions: money and gold were being taken away from them, along with their vehicles. Everyone participated in this, both the police and the army. There is even information that certain military officers participated in the looting. What is sure and what can be stated with certainty is that there is no single statement suggesting that no young army recruits participated in any of the violence. Albanians even tell that along many spots during their being driven out they saw uniformed youths, and upon meeting with them they saw grief, confusion and disorientation on their faces. The soldiers gave them their rations from their army bags food, bread, pate... They usually told the refugees "I know nothing, please don't think that I'm doing anything here. I am ordered to stand here." Those were regular soldiers serving their military duty. I came to Pec for the first time on June 16; it was impossible to go there before that. The road was being controlled by special police formations which were the scourge, right up to special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) of Serbia. Three days after the coming of KFOR I saw something there which reminded me of the destruction in Vukovar. The objective was clear: to destroy everything which was Albanian. Houses were empty and burnt. I visited with an Albanian family which remained behind with another 1500 people. All of them stayed hiding deep within their houses or the houses of friends which they considered more secure. At the beginning of June, prior to the signing of the agreement, a family with three kids was murdered. It was a very poor family which thought that it could survive somehow with those three kids. If they left, they would have absolutely nothing. The mother had some determination as soon as some formations showed up she would come ! out with her kids. And she always said "I have nothing but my children." At the beginning of July they were all murdered. Several such cases occurred at the very tail end of that general wave of violence, from the air and on ground. At the beginning of July I found myself in the position for the first time to find out what is happening in Pec. After several day hikes through mountain ranges, some women managed to reach Montenegro and there they spoke to me about mass killing of men in Pec. CUSK, PAVLJANE, ZAHAC: In the middle of June we went to the village of Cusk. I returned there several times. When all data is gathered it emerges that for the entire three months the population of that village remained locked in that village located at the entrance to Pec. They did not have any weapons, the army reconnassance came several times and found only two pistols and a gun in the entire village, all of which they handed over. On April 17 the Army told them that no one would bother them, only for an Army troupe to enter the village on May 14 they wore cowboy hats, others had their faces painted and some spoke with Bosnian accents. The villagers could not recognize them. The entire action began at the entrance to the village. There, beside the road lived the Ceku Family, the Family to which the KLA Commander, Agin Ceku, belongs, a man who served in the former Yugoslav National Army. However, all this was happening on May 14 when all Serbian formations were in p! ossession of the knowledge that this village had been searched and that no weapons were found. Therefore, the Ceku Family merely served as an excuse. They killed Agim Ceku's father and one more relative, proceeding on into the village. Several houses were burnt and the entire population of the village began gathering in a section of the village close to the village cemetery. And there they were besieged. A hundred men managed to flee into the woods above the village, while the better part of the village residents gathered with their families. Men were taken away and made to stand up against the cemetery wall, facing the home of the Gasi Family. On the other side stood the women and children. The looting began. Everyone had to take out whatever they had with them: money, jewelry, and to show their car keys. Those who had tractors were ordered to bring them. The houses of the Gasi Family were burnt. The women and children were taken to the yards of houses if they did not give up what they had. It is a fact that Albanians learned during the three months of looting to hide valuable objects in different parts of their clothing because they knew that they will survive as long as they have anything to give. In looted houses women took off their jewelry. They were then ordered to sit into tractors with their children and to head toward Albania. There are cases where seven-year-old children sat into tractors and drove, despite never having done that before. They would arrive to the police point which was being held by the regular police. One of the women told what happened to them. "We have nothing to do with that; those are some paramilitary units, but you can go no further; children do not have the right to drive your tractors." They were returned to the village. They went into their homes, they closed themselves in, with no ! one knowing what happened to the men until the next day when several women summoned the courage to visit the cemetery and the surrounding houses. In the houses of the Gasi Family they founded charred bodies, recognizing their husbands and relatives by their belts and pieces of clothing. Of that group of 40 men, only three survived. I spoke to two of them. According to them, they were divided into groups of 12 to 13 and were taken to different houses. As soon as they entered a house, a soldier would hand this man who survived a lighter with the instruction "Light it!" This man does not remember what he did with the lighter, but he remembers hearing shots. He looked to the right and saw the door to the next room open and rushed through the open window and into the adjacent forest where he hid until the night, when he returned home. The other survivor was wounded. The scenario was identical. At only moment he was two bodies on top of him and saw how the soldiers were throwing burning sponges on top of them. He managed to cast off two bides which lay on him and to jump through the window. He only realized once ! he reached the forest that he was wounded in both legs. I found him in the village in a room, rapped up in cardboard. He spent more than ten days in those forests because he was afraid that the army might return and discover that he has been wounded. On the same day around thirty people were murdered in the same way in the villages of Paljan and Zahac. I did not manage to interview anyone in Ljubrenic. The village is a sight of horror. There is certain information indicating that over 300 people were murdered and burnt in that village. I saw the yard of a house in which the murdering took place, a place where there are still bones with five to six different spots where bodies were burnt. I never saw a more horrid sight from that pile of bones. When I returned to Pec on June 18, Serbs had already deserted that city. There were merely two hundred who stayed behind. I came across twenty Serbs in the Patriarch's Residence in Pec. No one dared to exit that place. There I met a woman who enjoyed a very good reputation among the Albanians and who managed to salvage several neighbor's houses during the three months of the NATO aggression. Even in Pristina there was mention of Mitra. Her husband and relatives left and she stayed behind, no longer in her house, still waiting for some news of her husband and relatives. Despite her facing the fact that her husband was missing, she still said that horrible things took place there. "I could have kept guard all day and night, taking care of those houses so that they would not be looted. I remained in Pec because my conscience is clear and I want to wait for my neighbors. I lived here peacefully. Certainly it is very difficult for me to face the fact that the city has be! en looted and destroyed." Her husband went missing on June 18, after the coming of KFOR, when there were many revenge killings taking place against those who stayed behind. Common, innocent people footed the bill. I spoke to several people whose relatives went missing, and all of them started with the premise that they did not do anything. All of them lived on good terms with their Albanian neighbors, but it came to pass that they suffered. Those who committed crimes, those who carried out orders and who took part in all of that, they left with their loot and jewelry. The rest of them remained in the Patriarch's Residence in Pristina hoping that their loved ones who were kidnaped would return alive. The local branch of the KLA issued a statement that it supports its leadership and that it does not wish for an ethnically cleansed Kosovo, and that they will not commit a single crime against Serbs. I believe that there is considerable data pointing to the fact that it is precisely in Pec that the KLA is responsible for the kidnaping of Serbs.

Source: Vreme news

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