Articles on the Kosovo Conflict



April 4, 1999


Human Rights Watch interviewed six refugees late on April 2 who reported that Yugoslav forces shot and killed forty male ethnic Albanian villagers in the town of Velika Krusa (Krusha e Madhe in Albanian) on Friday, March 26. The village, on the main road between Dakovica and Prizren, was reputed to have had sympathies for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) over the past year. Human Rights Watch fears the men may have been slain in reprisal for their village's suspected support for the Albanian insurgents.

The six witnesses -- three men and three women -- had driven through the mountains on a tractor for seven days before crossing into Albania at the Morina crossing point near Kukes in northern Albania, where they were interviewed by Human Rights Watch. One of the men was wounded, having suffered shrapnel wounds in his legs and lower back.

The refugees said Yugoslav infantry raided their village on the afternoon of Thursday, March 25, the day after the NATO air campaign began. One of the witnesses, who was in the fields tending cattle, was shot and wounded as he ran towards the village. He hid that night with the five others, he said, who were discovered early the next morning by Yugoslav security forces wearing green camouflage uniforms.

"They gathered us together with the rest of the people from the village," said X.S., aged sixty-four. "Then, at about seven in the morning, they separated out forty younger males and shot them with machine guns."

The five other witnesses -- C. R., a forty-seven-year-old male, N. G., a seventy-seven-year old male, R. R., a fifty-year-old woman, Z. R., a fifty-year-old woman, and X. G., a sixty-five-year-old woman -- told similar stories.

On April 3, the BBC broadcast exclusive footage of an alleged massacre in Velika Krusa. The video, smuggled out by an amateur cameraman and edited because of its graphic content, shows the bodies of several young men who were, according to the BBC, "killed with a single bullet to the head after trying to escape." According to the cameraman, more than one hundred people were killed when Serb forces shelled the area. He told the BBC: "A group of Serbs were on top of the hill. Others came from behind. Our men were captured and the Serbs killed them one after the other." The cameraman gave the BBC a list of twenty-six victims, many of whom were known to him, which is reprinted below. He claimed that there were thirty-one bodies in total, but five of the corpses were burned beyond recognition.

The consistent and credible reports of killings at Velika Krusa supplement the testimonies of three other refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch on March 30 and 31, who said that they had seen at least fifteen ethnic Albanians killed on the road around Velika Krusa (see Human Rights Watch Flash #14). According to these refugees, the killings took place near a police and army checkpoint on the main road between the villages of Zrce and Velika Krusa.

In recent days, two international journalists have gathered the testimonies of eyewitnesses from Mala Kruse (Krushe e Vogel in Albanian), another village located a few miles to the southeast of Velika Krusa. CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour interviewed a badly burned refugee late last night form the village, who said he had been placed in a pile of 112 bodies that were covered with petrol and set on fire by Yugoslav forces. The witness survived, however, and made it out to the border.

New York Times correspondent John Kifner interviewed another witness from Mala Krusa on March 30. The refugee, N.Z., reported having seen a mass killing, although no details were provided ("Kosovars Flee to Beat Serb Deadline of Death," The New York Times, March 31). The article said that her claims "conformed with other accounts given by refugees" and with accounts heard by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Based on its own research, as well as the coverage of the international media, Human Rights Watch believes that two separate massacres may have taken place in the two villages, Velika Krusa and Mala Krusa. It is possible the the killings were security force reprisals or "revenge killings" for the villages' suspected support for the KLA. Human Rights Watch researchers have determined that such a pattern of reprisal killings is indeed underway in south-western Kosovo, and it has been a pattern over the past year of the Kosovo conflict.

Reportedly Killed in Velika Krusa:

1.Ramadan Krasniqi
2.Ramadan Shait Hoti
3.Eqrem Jemin Duraku
4.Ibrahim Myrteza Duraku
5.Gjevgjet Syljman Duraku
6.Fahri Haxhilaf Hoti
7.Bajram Ali Duraku
8.Haxhi Halim Hoti
9.Hasaf Nexhat Hoti
10.Habib Haxhilat Duraku
11.Fraidin S. Dina
12.Flyrin S. Dina
13.Nimetullahli i Hoxhes
14.Shaban Rasim Duraku
15.Ali Selim Duraku
16.Azem Jonuz Duraku
17.Haxhi Arif Shala
18.Jeton Abdyl Duraku
19.Faredin Shemsedin Hoti
20.Kresnik Faredin Hoti
21.Sami Sadik Nalli
22.Sali Sadik Nalli
23.Selim Bajrami
24.Dahim Bajrami
25.Qamil Bajrami
26.Ismet Jemin Duraku

Kosovo Human Rights Flash is an information bulletin from Human Rights Watch. It includes human rights updates on the situation in Yugoslavia generally and in Kosovo specifically. For further information contact Fred Abrahams at (212) 216-1270.


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