Acknowledged and Unacknowledged Kosovo Albanian Graves
By Natasa Kandic
Humanitarian Law Center
November 11, 2004
Nenad Canak, leader of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina
and former speaker of the Vojvodina Assembly, said recently there were
17 mass graves in Serbia containing the bodies of Kosovo Albanians.
Neither the Serbian political elite nor the public in general appear to
have been upset or moved in any way by this statement. The competent
authorities, in particular the Parliament and Government, act as if
the mass graves have nothing to do with them. The subject is one that
has yet to be raised here.
Are there more than the eight acknowledged sites containing the remains
of Kosovo Albanians who went missing in 1998 and during the NATO bombing?
The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has learned that six bodies were
transferred from Kosovo to Nis in 1998 and burned in the local
crematorium. Several bodies were taken to the smelting plant in Bor
during the NATO campaign. At approximately the same time, three
more lots of bodies were transported to the Trepca mine and one
to Obilic, both in Kosovo itself, two to the iron and steel works
in Smederevo, two refrigerated trucks packed with bodies were dumped
into the Danube River near Kladovo, and another close to the border
with Romania. Information gathered by the HLC indicates the existence
of a mass grave in the vicinity of Raska.
The remains of 836 Kosovo Albanians have been exhumed from the known
mass graves in Serbia thus far: five in Batajnica just outside Belgrade,
two in Petrovo Selo in eastern Serbia, and one at Perucac on the
Drina River. The remains of 331 identified victims were handed over
to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) while US representatives claimed
the bodies of three Albanians who had US citizenship.
Two hundred and ninety victims - 14 women, 257 men, and 19 whose sex
was not determined - were exhumed from one of the graves at Batajnica,
designated BA-05. The victims included at least 10 boys between the ages
of 15 and 19 and one under 15. The personal papers of Alija, Shaban,
Dafina, Aida, and Emina Melenica, Ferki Kadriu, Kemal Trnava, Afrim
Bajrami, Idriz Hasani, Arsim Sejdiu, Bajram Islami, Sekina Uka, and Mensur
Ferguri, all of Vucitrn, were found in this grave site. On 12 March 2004,
the Serbian authorities handed over to UNMIK the remains of 15 identified
victims from BA-05. International Red Cross documentation shows that
these persons were last seen on 22 May 1999 in Vucitrn: Murat Tiriqi (born
in 1975), Muzafer Muhaxheri (1957), Serhat Tiriqi (1977), Ajdin Shaqiri
(1980), Ibrahim Zeqiri (1962), Ferki Kadriu (1981), Lulzim Bajrami (1972),
Shaban Melenica (1950), Ali Melenica (1941), Shefki Melenica (1977),
Sekine Uka (1976), Irfan Zhilivoda (1962), Bujar Krasniqi (1980), Bedri
Kutllovci (1962), and Fatmir Keqolli (1973).
Documentation on record with the HLC shows that the identified victims
as well as those whose papers were found in the mass grave were among
68 Albanians killed on 22 May 1999 by Serbian forces in the house of
Xhezair Pasoma in Vucitrn. The HLC interviewed 15 people who were
the last to see these victims. The following is the statement made
on 21 March 2000 by Shaban Merovci, a neuropsychiatrist whose son
and son-in-law were taken by the police:
"On 22 May, at about 8 in the morning, two uniformed men, reservists,
broke down the gate and came into our house. They ordered the men to get
out of the house and the women and children to stay inside. We went out -
me, my son Driton, and my son-in-law Mensur. They didn't search the house
nor did they ask for money or jewelry. They led us off in the direction
of the town's cemetery and, when we reached Xhezair Pasoma's house,
ordered us to halt.
"I saw a lot of men in front of the house, all standing facing the wall.
There were many police and soldiers. I saw Dragan Mihajlovic, a police
inspector who hails from Novoselo. He was in charge. He hadn't masked
his face and I saw him clearly. I also recognized Zoran Vukotic who
was a clerk at the Municipal Court. He was in uniform and his face
was not masked either. They ordered me to continue and put Driton and
Mensur with a group of men who had already been separated out. I asked
Mihajlovic and the others why they were being separated from us and told
them we had the green cards and Vucina, the police commander, had given us
permission to stay in Vucitrn. Mihajlovic replied: 'Just you continue
to the cemetery. We'll do some brief interrogations and let them all go.'
I had to go on.
"The whole town was around the cemetery. We stood in a field, surrounded
on all sides. I saw regular soldiers, police, and paramilitaries. Two
policemen, Safet and Zoran Dancetovic, the son of Dusko who was the
manager of the Cicavica company, came up to me at noon and asked what
I was doing there. They said I was free and told me to go home. I was
the only one they let go and I don't know to this day why. It was hard
for me to be the only one to go, but I kept thinking how I had to get
my son and son-in-law freed. The police did not allow any movement
in the street in which Xhezair Pasoma's house is located so I went home
in a roundabout way.
"I heard from my wife and daughter that the police had returned Driton
and Mensur and then taken them away again. Zoran Vukotic, the clerk, was
with the police who first returned them and then took them away again.
They took Driton's car and 10,000 marks. Neighbors told me they led them
straight into Xhezair Pasoma's house. I talked to people who went into
the house at night. They said it was burning and the bodies had been
taken away. They saw blood stains and spent shells all over the place.
The tub in the bathroom was full of blood. They also saw blood and shells
in the house of Xhezair Pasoma which shares the same yard, as well as
about 15 identity cards smeared with blood. The bodies simply vanished.
"I went to see Slobodan Doknic, the mayor, the next day to ask for his
help. He said to me: 'Shaban, seven were killed in Xhezair Pasoma's house
last night. But not your son or son-in-law. I'll check out what happened
to them and let you know.' Two days later he called to say that Mensur
and Driton weren't in the prison at Smrekovnica but that they were alive.
I tried through some connections to find out what happened to them.
I can't tell you now the names of the people I am in contact with.
Everyone has told me that they are alive and well, not only Driton and
Mensur but the other 66 too. They said my son and son-in-law would be
released if I gave them 188,000 deutsche marks. I agreed on condition
that they brought my children back home, to where they took them from.
They are important people, in high places in Serbia. When it's all over,
I will reveal the details."
See also Mass Graves Found All Over Kosovo (June 1999)
See alsoOn the question of deaths in Kosovo due to war