Kosovo Man Speaks of Village Killings
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||20 February 2009|
|Citation / Document Symbol||TU No 589|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Kosovo Man Speaks of Village Killings, 20 February 2009, TU No 589, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49a3a7d6c.html [accessed 7 July 2015]|
He says he survived Serb police execution of scores of Albanian villagers.
By Simon Jennings in The Hague (TU No 589, 20-Feb-09)
A Kosovo Albanian farmer told the war crimes trial of former Serbian police chief Vlastimir Djordjevic this week how he escaped a massacre in a cowshed in March 1999.
On March 26 that year, Serbian policemen forced 109 Kosovo Albanian men into a barn in the Kosovan village of Mala Krusa before opening fire on them, the witness told judges.
"Policemen came [to the barn]. They started to shoot inside. I saw a policeman wearing a helmet and others joined in. Some from the window, some from the door, they were shooting at us¦ Whoever lifted his head up, they would shoot with a pistol."
Lufti Ramadani was called to The Hague to testify for the prosecution against Djordjevic, who was in charge of the public security department of the Serbian interior ministry, MUP, from 1997-2001.
Ramadani has testified at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, twice before, in the trials of Slobodan Milosevic and Milan Milutinovic, both former Serbian presidents.
This week, the prosecution submitted as evidence Ramadani's testimony in the Milutinovic trial, given in September 2006, before asking him to elaborate on events in Mala Krusa.
Djordjevic is charged with taking part in a conspiracy to drive the Kosovo Albanian population out of Kosovo during 1999 - a process which allegedly led to the killing, persecution and forced removal of hundreds of thousands of people.
According to the indictment, on or about March 25, 1999, the villagers of Mala Krusa took refuge in a forested area "where they were able to observe the forces of the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] and Serbia systematically looting and burning their houses".
Kosovo Albanian men were later rounded up inside a building and "the forces of the FRY and Serbia opened fire with machine guns", says the indictment.
Ramadani explained to judges that on March 25, he and around 500 of his fellow villagers had fled into the woods in the middle of the night after Serb forces opened fire on their village.
Policemen were also setting fire to villagers' houses, he said. However, due to the cold, a group of them returned to the village the following day to seek shelter in a house.
"They started setting fire to the houses of Albanians," he told the court. "Initially, they went to the houses to carry out their looting after which they set fire to the houses."
At around seven in the morning of March 26, policemen arrived at the house where they were sheltering and sent one of them to fetch the people who remained in the woods before dividing them all up, said the witness.
"They separated the men from the women. They told the women to leave in the direction to the left and told us to go in the direction to the right," he said.
One policeman added the children to the group of men, but the women did not want to let their children go and started screaming, said Ramadani, and pleaded with the policeman, but to no avail.
"You can go and drown yourself in the Drina river or you can go to Albania. You make your choice," the policeman told the women, according to the witness.
The policemen then confiscated the men's valuables and documents before ordering them to form lines and walk along the road towards the barn, continued the witness.
After the shooting, the witness explained that the barn was set on fire. "Everything was on fire, the bodies and the walls," he said, before describing how he managed to escape.
"[The barn] was filled with bodies on all sides. So it was very crowded and I walked on bodies to get out."
But in front of the doorway, blocking his escape, was a man in a wheelchair who had already been killed, said Ramadani.
"I had to push it away to free passage for myself. He was dead and burning at this time."
The witness had compiled a list of people, including his two sons, who died in the massacre.
Confirming the names of the victims in court, he said he had given the list to tribunal investigators when he returned to his village after the war.
Djordjevic's defence team cross examined the witness at length, trying to cast doubt on his story.
Lawyer Dragoljub Djordjevic asked the witness why he returned to the village from the woods if he had been scared enough to flee the previous day.
Ramadani explained that there were elderly people and children with them who were very cold and that the house where they took shelter was on the edge, rather than in the main part, of the village.
Dragoljub Djordjevic also questioned the witness's description of police uniforms the men who attacked the village were wearing.
He pointed out that although Ramadani had told the Milutinovic trial that the uniforms he saw were green camouflage, this week he had said that they were blue.
Yet the witness said that both statements were true.
"The ones who attacked the village were policemen. The uniforms were various colours. They were green, others were blue, and they kept changing them," said Ramadani.
Djordjevic's defence team has argued that it was military forces, which wore green uniforms, rather than the police headed by his client, who carried out attacks against Albanians in the indictment.
Dragoljub Djordjevic then showed the witness a photograph of a woman he identified as the wife of the man in the wheelchair whose body Ramadani had said had blocked his exit from the burning barn.
Ramadani had told the court earlier that he knew the woman and confirmed who she was.
The lawyer pointed out, however, that when the witness had testified in the Milosevic trial he had said he did not know her.
Presiding judge Kevin Parker commented that the witness's evidence about the woman this week was "clearly in contradiction" of his testimony in the Milosevic case.
Dragoljub Djordjevic also asked the witness about an agreement between the Serbs and the Albanians in Mala Krusa to protect one another; the Albanians from the Serb forces and the Serbs from the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA.
In the Milosevic trial, Ramadani had testified that he was told such an agreement was made, yet this week he said he could not be sure.
"Even if an agreement was reached, the Serb side did not abide by it. They killed, they shelled, they burned," he said.
Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.