Articles on the Kosovo Conflict



Human Rights Watch Compiles List of 32 Victims
April 13, 1999


Additional information about executions emerged today from refugees fleeing the brutal "ethnic cleansing" in Djakovica (Gjakove in Albanian), an ethnic Albanian-majority city with approximately 100,000 inhabitants in southwestern Kosovo.

Based on separate interviews with fourteen ethnic Albanian refugees in northern Albania, Human Rights Watch believes that Yugoslav security forces killed at least forty-seven ethnic Albanian men during the violent depopulation of Djakovica between April 1 and April 4. The actual number may be much higher.

Four witnesses independently told Human Rights Watch that they had personally seen Yugoslav security forces execute fourteen different men, whom they identified by name (see list below). Ten other witnesses said that they had seen, in total, the bodies of thirty-three civilian men lying in the streets of their neighborhoods, presumably killed by security forces. The witnesses identified eighteen of these victims by name (see below). All ethnic Albanians who had been killed were civilian men; they appeared to have been shot at close range.

While Human Rights Watch has not been able independently to confirm these killings, the detail and consistency of the witnesses' testimony gives powerful evidence that Yugoslav security forces, including special police, army, and paramilitary troops, executed these ethnic Albanian men.

The witnesses' reports are also highly consistent with testimony provided earlier by other refugees who had fled Djakovica. On April 2, newly-arriving refugees, mostly women and children, told Human Rights Watch that they had seen a large number of corpses lying in the city streets, sometimes in clusters of one to six bodies. Many refugees reported that a large number of families had suffered at least one execution in their homes. (See Human Rights Watch Flash #16, April 3).

One witness, Bardhi Vula, interviewed on April 10, told Human Rights Watch how Yugoslav soldiers knocked on the door of her family's house on April 1 at about 5 a.m. When the family did not answer, she said, the soldiers shouted that they knew the family was inside and that they should come out. When the family opened the door, the soldiers pulled Mrs. Vula and her children out into the yard, but kept Hajdar Vula, her fifty-two-year-old husband, inside. Hajdar Vula pleaded with the soldiers to let him accompany his family, emphasizing that he had worked his whole life with Serbs, and finally they let him go. As the family fled into the street, however, three policemen stopped her husband and "shot him immediately" as Mrs. Vula ran away. About ten minutes later, Mrs. Vula returned to the spot where her husband was killed. She found him lying dead in the street "with a bullet shot through his temple." According to Mrs. Vula, the bodies of four other men -- Mahmut Vula (her brother-in-law), Shpetim Morina, Hazur Lusha, and one unknown man -- were lying near her husband. All of the men had been shot, and Hazur Lusha's throat had also been cut, she said. Other witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch also reported having seen the same men's bodies.

In addition to the reports of killings, as described above, many refugees said that their homes had been looted and set on fire or destroyed by government forces.

It is unknown how many ethnic Albanians remain in Djakovica. Most refugees report that the city was largely emptied. As Human Rights Watch previously reported, there are numerous unconfirmed reports that some men of military age were taken out of a refugee column as they tried to flee. Their whereabouts are unknown.

Yugoslav forces began destroying homes and neighborhoods in Djakovica around March 24 but the intensified depopulation of the city began in earnest on April 1. According to refugees, Yugoslav tanks and mortar fire destroyed ethnic Albanian homes in a systematic, neighborhood-by-neighborhood manner. Residents were typically ordered out of their homes before troops wearing green or blue camouflage opened fire on their residences. Ethnic Albanians were then ordered to walk to the Albanian border at Qafe Prushit, where their identity documents were destroyed and they were expelled from the country.

The violent "ethnic cleansing" in Djakovica is a marked departure from the forced depopulations that have taken place over the past two weeks in large cities such as Pristina, Pec, and Prizren. Although some killings took place in those cities, most military-age men were allowed to accompany their families out of Kosovo. (See Human Rights Watch Flash #9).

Djakovica and most other cities in Kosovo were generally exempt from violence since the Kosovo conflict began in March 1998. Fighting between the KLA and Serbian/Yugoslav forces took place predominantly in rural areas, often followed by a reprisal attack by government forces against the nearby villages. Forcibly displaced civilians often went to the urban centers for protection.

Witnesses claim to have seen Yugoslav forces kill the following people:

1. Hasan Haxhiu (49)
2. Nyzafere Haxhiu (49)
3. Adem Haxhiu (46)
4. Berat Haxhiu (17)
5. Fadil Krasniqi (31)
6. Wife of Ali Hajdari (from Lapsheve, near Malisevo)
7. Nexha Zherka
8. Hajdar Vula
9-12. Four brothers of Fejza family
13-14. Two brothers of Haxhim family
Witnesses claim to have seen the bodies of the following people:

1. Nazim Nagovci (about 45)
2. Bujar Tetrica (about 32)
3. Hasan ?
4. Iset Hima
5. Son of Iset Hima
6. Zec Kuci
7. Fehmi Vula
8. Shek Midini
9-10. Two sons of Shek Midini
11. Tahir Daci
12. Hajdar Daci
13. Hazur Lusha
14. Shpetim Morina
15. Mahmut Vula
16. Astrit Spahija
17. Qumil Spahija
18. Ali Spahija

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

For further information contact:
Fred Abrahams: 1-917-293-3090
Holly Cartner (New York): 1-212-216-1277
Jean-Paul Marthoz (Brussels): 322-736-7838


Balkan Witness Home Page

Articles index




Contact Balkan Witness

Report broken links