HUMAN RIGHTS FLASH 50
(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 ó and widespread reports of others throughout Kosovo ó demand immediate action by the highest levels of the KLA leadership, who should order that abuses cease and discipline and punish perpetrators.
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.
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.
After the NATO deployment many Serb civillians were killed by UCK extremists
in the West seen as freedom fighters and allies