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Flori Bruqi
Postuar nė: 19.01.2007, 02:48
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WAR CRIMES IN KOSOVA
A Population-Based Assessment of Human Rights Violations of Kosovar Albanians by Serb Forces

Purpose of the Study


The Kosova crisis has resulted in the largest population displacement in Europe since the Second World War. Journalists and human rights researchers have investigated, documented and reported many individual accounts of human rights violations taking place in Kosova. There has been no previous human rights-oriented, epidemiological study of Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia-the two countries hosting the most refugees. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Program on Forced Migration and Health of Columbia University's Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health designed this study to establish patterns of human rights violations among Kosovar refugees by Serb forces using a population-based approach.



The team deliberately did not seek out and select victims of abuses or witnesses to massacres to interview for this study. Rather, the study was designed to assess the pervasiveness of violence and abuses suffered by the refugee population from Kosova. To this end, we randomly sampled 1,209 Kosovar refugees in 31 refugee camps and collective centers in Albania and Macedonia between April 19, 1999 and May 3, 1999. The survey assessed human rights abuses among 11,458 household members while living in Kosova.



Survey participants were from 23 of the 29 districts within Kosova. The average age of participants was 40. Two thirds of the respondents were men and one third were women. Nearly all participants were ethnic Albanian (99%) and Muslim (98%).



Summary of Findings

The findings of this study indicate that Serb forces have engaged in a systematic and brutal campaign to forcibly expel the ethnic Albanians population of Kosova throughout the province. In the course of these mass deportations, and over the past year in Kosova, Serb forces have committed widespread violations of human rights against ethnic Albanians including: killings, beatings, torture, sexual assault, separation and disappearances, shootings, looting and destruction of property, and violations of medical neutrality. These abuses were experienced on the individual level by a substantial number of refugees. A striking one in every three households (31%) reported among its members at least one of these abuses in the past year. The majority of these abuses (58%) occurred in March and April of 1999. Among the 598 incidents of human rights abuses reported among respondents and their household members, the location where these abuses occurred included 23 of the 29 municipalities of Kosova. In general, the highest frequencies of abuses were observed in municipalities with the largest population size.



It is clear from this study that until Serb forces departed, to be an ethnic Albanian in Kosova was to be vulnerable to theft, destruction of property, separation from family members, sexual violations, killing, beating, torture, and/or deportation for no reason other than one's ethnic identity. Such was the lot of many of those whom PHR interviewed. Such accounts of suffering, individually and collectively, are a powerful testimony to the cruelty, thoroughness, and extraordinary breadth of Milosevic's war against unarmed and helpless Kosovar Albanian men, women, and children.



Forced Expulsions

The extent and nature of forced expulsions of ethnic Albanians from Kosova by Serb forces is abundantly clear from this study. PHR's survey findings demonstrated that virtually all (91%) participants were forced, directly or indirectly, to leave their homes simply on the grounds that they were Kosovar Albanians.



Overall, 68% of participants were forcibly expelled by Serb forces. More than one third of survey respondents experienced Serb police or soldiers coming to their homes (36%), demonstrating the pervasive manner in which terror interrupted individual and family life at home. Others were forcibly expelled due to Serb bombing (25%), Serb police or soldiers harming people (4%), and Serb police or soldiers destroying people's property (3%). Furthermore, nearly one quarter (23%) of respondents reported that they left Kosova because they feared Serb forces.



Only 5 of the 1,180 participants (0.4%) cited the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) as the cause of their displacement. Contrary to Serb media reports, not one survey participant cited NATO bombings as a reason for displacement from their home.



Individual case testimonies demonstrated that the expulsions by Serb forces were done in a methodical and ruthless manner. They often included Serb forces coming to homes of Kosovar Albanians and ordering all inhabitants to leave within hours under threat of death. Such expulsions were often associated with destruction of one's home and personal property, and/or physical harm to household members. A.B., a 65-year-old farmer from Degan, reported:



I was tending my cows when the police and VJ soldiers came to my house and told us we must leave in two hours. 'This is not your place. We will burn all of your houses,' they said. They made me lie down on the ground and started to beat me. They did this for the rest of my family to see. As we left, I saw smoke coming from my village. We then went to the village of Ismig, but had to leave there because of the Serb bombings. As we passed through the town of Strelle on our way to the Albanian border, I saw mosques and schools that had been burned. Once we reached the border, the Serb soldiers destroyed all of our documents.



Killings

The PHR study also documented numerous reports of killing of Kosovar Albanian civilians by Serb police, soldiers and paramilitary forces.



Overall, over one third (35%) of survey respondents either witnessed Serb police or soldiers killing someone (14%), or saw dead bodies they believed were killed by Serb police or soldiers (21%).



While participants reported a total of 59 killings among all household members, they also reported witnessing (97), or seeing physical evidence of killings (273) among 370 non-household members. Of all killings reported, there were 160 accounts of the killing of 3 or more individuals.



These killings were part of a brutal pattern by the Serbian forces of causing fear and intimidation. The case testimonies indicated that many of the killings by Serb forces were committed in public places, and that witnesses were prevented from removing the bodies for days so that other Albanians could contemplate the possibility of a similar fate. Individuals suspected of being affiliated with the KLA were also targeted and executed.



For example, S.K. a 39 year-old housewife from Medvec reported that on March 20 in the village of Pirane, she saw approximately 5 dead bodies on the side of the road.



The bodies were in a line, every 100 meters. They each wore the white Albanian caps on which crosses with blood had been made. I think this was done by the Serbs so that the blood would be seen by other people.



Beatings/Gunshot Wounds/Threats at Gunpoint

PHR found that Kosovar civilians were routinely beaten by Serb police, soldiers, and paramilitary. Among survey participants, 372 incidents of beatings were reported for the participants and all household members. An additional 28 beatings were reported among non-household members even though this information was not formally solicited. PHR's case testimonies clearly demonstrated that individuals were targeted for beatings simply on the basis of their identity as ethnic Albanians.



Also, PHR identified a number of cases in which civilians suffered from serious injuries as a result of gunshot wounds. Sixteen cases were reported among survey participants and their family members, including many women and children. In addition, respondents reported that 31 household members were threatened at gunpoint by Serb forces.



Torture/Sexual Assault

More extreme forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment were documented in this study as well. PHR documented 44 cases of torture and 4 cases of sexual assault by Serb police, soldiers and paramilitary among survey participants and their household members. Individuals suspected of having arms or connections with the KLA were often targeted for torture.



As our case testimonies demonstrate, the purpose of torture and sexual assault (in the context of war) is not only to cause physical and mental suffering of individual victims, but to undermine the trust and unity of entire communities. Reports of sexual assault were likely underreported in the PHR study due to shame and embarrassment of respondents.



Separation and Disappearances

Among survey participants, 33 incidents of separation and disappearance by Serb forces were reported for the participants and all household members. An additional 13 incidents of separation and disappearance were reported among non-household members even though this information was not formally solicited. While the reports of separation and disappearance by Serb forces were limited in this study, separation from household members for other reasons were very common. On average, respondents were separated from 1.8 household members in the course of fleeing Kosova. Such separations represent profound disruptions in the lives of many Kosovar Albanians.



Case testimonies of the participants demonstrated that Serb authorities in Kosova forcibly separated ethnic Albanian men from women and children, and subsequently, the fate of these men was often unknown. These separations and disappearances commonly occurred at the time of forced expulsion from Kosova as the following cases illustrates:



M.A., a 20-year-old housewife from Kllodernice, described the following chain of events in her village on April 13:



It was early in the morning at about 7:00 a.m. when our village began to be grenaded by police, paramilitary and VJ forces. At about 9:00 a.m., the police forces came into my yard and told us to go to the school yard. In the school yard, they separated the men from women. I mean all males above 15 years old. We were separated and all the females were started to Albania by force. But from that moment on, we don't know anything for our males. I mean my father, my brother, my uncles and all our cousins.



Destruction / Looting of Property

PHR documented numerous reports of destruction of property owned by Albanians and looting by Serbian police, paramilitary and VJ forces throughout Kosova. Much of this destruction took place in the context of the forced expulsions, and appeared to represent a "scorched earth policy" so that ethnic Albanians would not return to Kosova.



The vast majority of those interviewed (89%) witnessed the Serb police or soldiers burning of homes or saw the homes after they had been torched. Furthermore, 186 respondents (16%) saw Serb police or soldiers burn their own home, and an additional 150 participants (13%) saw the after-effect of their house being burned. Nearly half (48%) of all participants witnessed Serb police or soldiers destroying peoples' property, and Serb police or soldiers demanded money or valuables from nearly half (49%) of survey respondents.



Destruction of Social and Cultural Identity

PHR found that Serb forces engaged in acts that represent an attempt to destroy the social and cultural identity of Kosovar Albanians. For example, nearly two thirds (60%) of survey respondents observed Serb forces removing or destroying personal identification documents. The intent of Serb forces to destroy the social identity of Kosovar Albanians is also reflected in the number of places of worship, schools and medical facilities that have been destroyed by Serb forces. Nearly half (47%) of the respondents had seen places of worship destroyed, and 456 respondents (39%) had seen schools that had been destroyed.



Landmines

In addition, refugees also reported seeing landmines being laid by Serb forces. Overall, 134 respondents (11.4%) observed landmines being laid in various regions of Kosova. The following perpetrators were identified: V.J. soldiers (76%), Serb police (31%), paramilitary forces (12%), or civilians. Survey participants reported more than 50 sites where they had observed landmines being laid by Serb forces between March 24 and May 1999. Study respondents did not report seeing landmines laid by members of the KLA.



Violations of Medical Neutrality

A second part of this study involves PHR's investigation of violations of medical neutrality, that is, the deliberate destruction of medical infrastructure and attacks on medical practitioners in Kosova. The experiences of ordinary Kosovar Albanians again illuminates the thoroughness and pervasiveness of Serb forces' destruction and violence in Kosova. Nearly 50% (537) of the 1180 individuals surveyed by PHR reported witnessing a distinct incident of a violation of medical neutrality by Serb authorities or health personnel. For example, 23% of the refugees interviewed saw destroyed Albanian medical facilities; 20% of survey participants observed Serb police or soldiers forcing medical workers or patients from medical facilities; and 21% observed the misuse of medical facilities by Serb military forces. From the experiences of these randomly selected survey participants, PHR learned of the destruction of 100 medical clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals.



Implications of the Study Findings

The findings of this population-based survey have wide-ranging implications. They established patterns of human rights violations against Kosovar refugees by Serb forces that will be important in the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes. Knowing the prevalence of such human rights violations among Kosovar refugees also is important to medical and mental health professionals providing care to the refugees now and in the future. Furthermore, the findings of the survey provide knowledge of the primary reasons for refugee flight. This is crucial information to policy-makers and humanitarian workers concerned about the conditions under which the refugees could return. Clearly, the participation of Serb forces throughout Kosova in abuse of one form or another of the vast majority of Albanian with whom they had contact should preclude their presence within Kosova in any numbers in the future. Additionally, the extent of destruction of health facilities and the targeted abuse of Albanian doctors offer a strong basis for adding to the indictment of President Milosevic and others the charge of violating medical neutrality, which is a war crime.



Summary of Methods

The PHR survey specifically assessed the proportion of people witnessing or experiencing: forced expulsions, killings, beatings, torture, separation and disappearances, shootings, sexual violations, destruction of personal identification documents, burning of homes and other personal property, use of medical facilities for military purposes, expulsion of patients and doctors, destruction of schools, religious objects and medical facilities, and the laying of landmines by Serb forces.



Additional insight into abuses reported in the survey was provided by individual accounts of human rights violations by study participants. Qualitative, narrative information was provided by 801 (68%) of the 1,180 survey participants. Fifty additional semi-structured interviews were conducted with health professionals and other individuals regarding violations of medical neutrality by Serb forces.





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