Articles on the Kosovo Conflict
Serbs, Not NATO Strike, Killed Inmates, Hague Court Hears
By Marlise Simons, The New York Times
August 28, 2002
Slobodan Milosevic seldom looks pleased at his war crimes trial, but he seemed briefly and positively content today as the court heard about one of his favorite subjects, the havoc and destruction caused by the NATO bombing of his country, Yugoslavia.
A former inmate of the large Dubrava prison in Kosovo told judges that repeated NATO airstrikes in May 1999 left at least 19 prisoners dead, and the testimony brought a small I-told-you-so smile to the face of the former president.
But Mr. Milosevic scowled at the next testimony, a chilling account of how Serbian guards and police officers turned on the prisoners the day after the bombing, threw grenades at them and sprayed them with bullets from watchtowers and prison walls. More than 100 men died in that incident, the witness said.
''They woke us at 5:30 with megaphones,'' said the witness, Musa Kraniqi, a Kosovo Albanian physics teacher who was serving a one-year sentence because of his activities as a separatist. ''We started lining up on the sports field, about five or six lines of men. The hand grenades started falling. There was a bazooka. And machine guns started firing.''
He and other prisoners crawled from the field and hid behind buildings, in basements and in sewage holes in the vast complex. That was on May 22, 1999, he said. The next day, the guards opened the drains and other places where inmates were hiding and attacked them with guns and grenades.
Journalists taken to the prison later by Serbian authorities were shown bodies on the sports field and piled up in the prison. They were told that NATO had killed all of them.
The full account of what occurred in those days at Dubrava in northern Kosovo is still unknown. From 900 to 1,000 inmates were widely believed to have been in the prison at the time, a mix of common and political prisoners, mostly Kosovo Albanians.
This week, prosecutors at Mr. Milosevic's trial plan to present more witnesses to testify about events at the prison. The prosecutors say the killings by the Serb guards and the police, subsequently attributed to NATO, are another example of Mr. Milosevic's having ordered his forces to cover up evidence of war crimes.
The tribunal does not investigate wartime deaths caused by NATO. Officials of NATO have never provided details about the air attacks on May 19 and 21 that damaged parts of the compound. The strikes were near the end of the 11-week bombing campaign in response to Belgrade's large-scale repression in Kosovo.
Mr. Kraniqi, who spoke today, said that on being transported to another prison on May 24 he saw Serbian tanks and antiaircraft guns in the vicinity of the prison.
Spokesmen for NATO in Brussels said at the time that its aircraft had attacked the site, which was ''a military and police installation.''
Other witnesses to testify for the prosecution include a BBC correspondent, Jacky Rowland, who saw the prison compound and a doctor who attended wounded inmates.