Hyrje | Me Teper | Kosova | HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN KOSOVO 1990-1992 part (1)




Human Rights Watch


This report documents violations investigated by Helsinki Watch during missions to Kosovo and Serbia proper in May, June and December 1991. Participants in those missions included Jonathan Fanton, chair of Helsinki Watch, Elliot Schrage, a New York attorney, and Ivana Nizich, Research Associate to Helsinki Watch. Also, this report includes abuses Helsinki Watch has documented since January 1992.

This report was written by Ivana Nizich and was edited by Jeri Laber, the Executive Director of Helsinki Watch.

Helsinki Watch expresses its appreciation to the Open Society Fund for its invaluable support of our program in the former Yugoslav republics and Albania.


With the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, world attention has focussed on the brutal warfare that erupted first in Croatia and, more recently, in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Most of the human rights violations being committed in both conflicts stem from the use of force and terror by Serbian authorities to assert control over territory and to expel or marginalize the non-Serbian population.

These tactics, which now form a familiar pattern, were first used by Serbian authorities in Kosovo, a formerly autonomous province in southern Serbia in which ethnic Albanians comprise approximately 90 percent of the population. Since 1990, Serbian authorities in Belgrade have directly administered Kosovo, systematically violating the human rights of ethnic Albanians in the province. Yet little attention was paid by the international community. There is reason to believe that, had Serbian President Slobodan Milo_evi? been penalized for pursuing his course in Kosovo -- through the use of international sanctions and worldwide opprobrium -- the tragic warfare in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina might have been prevented. Even now, little attention is paid to the ongoing suppression of the rights of the Albanian population in Kosovo. Yet if the violence in the former Yugoslav territories were to spread to Kosovo, with the potential of involving neighboring Albania and Macedonia, it could lead to a conflagration that would threaten the entire Balkan peninsula.

After his rise to power as President of Serbia in 1987, President Milo_evi? embarked on a series of moves to extend his power throughout Yugoslavia, with little regard for the human rights of non-Serbs or those Serbs opposed to his policies. Milosevic's dogmatic communism gave way to strident nationalism. Through an incessant propaganda campaign in the press in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Serbian government repeatedly manipulated the patriotism of its people and exaggerated the scope and nature of human rights abuses against Serbs in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Although individual acts of violence against Serbs occurred in all three places to varying degrees, such abuse was by no means widespread nor did it amount to "genocide," a claim the Serbian government has asserted.1 Rather, the exaggeration and misrepresentation of human rights abuses against Serbs was used by Milo_evi? to stir up national passions and thereby to consolidate or extend his power in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.2

Milo_evi? developed what has become his distinctive pattern of aggression and repression when he imposed what amounted to emergency rule in Kosovo. He began in 1988 by proposing changes to Serbia's constitution which would effectively revoke the autonomy granted to the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina by Yugoslavia's 1974 constitution.3 In response, ethnic Albanians called for Kosovo's secession from Serbia and its creation as an independent, constituent republic of Yugoslavia. Strikes and protests organized by Albanians in Kosovo increased and, by February 1989, the federal Yugoslav government instituted "special measures" and assigned responsibilty for public security in Kosovo to the federal government. In April 1990, the federal authorities lifted the special measures in Kosovo and left matters to the Serbian government, which effectively extended emergency rule in Kosovo. In July 1990, the Serbian parliament dissolved Kosovo's predominantly Albanian legislature and government. In September 1990, a newly adopted Serbian constitution revoked the province's autonomy and provided for Kosovo's direct rule from Belgrade. Most functions of the provincial legislative and executive bodies were transferred to Serbian authorities in Belgrade and the province continues to be ruled directly from Belgrade.

On September 7, 1990, ethnic Albanian members of the dissolved Kosovo assembly met clandestinely and adopted a constitution which designated Kosovo as a republic within the Yugoslav federation. Thereafter, Albanian representatives of the provincial parliament established "underground" institutions of government. Most Albanians abide by the decisions of this shadow government and refuse to accept Belgrade's direct rule over Kosovo, in which they claim not to be represented. Many of the abuses in the past two years have been a result of the Albanians' refusal to accept direct Serbian rule and the use of repressive measures by Serbian authorities to force Albanian submission to Belgrade's rule.4

Since the government of Slobodan Milo_evi? assumed direct control of Kosovo's governance and security in 1990, the human rights situation has worsened dramatically. Although "ethnic cleansing" practices employed by Serbian forces in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina are not as brutally pronounced in Kosovo, the deliberate economic and social marginalization of Albanians in Kosovo has less overtly forced the emigration of Albanians from the province. While Albanians are being forced to leave, Milo_evi?'s government has provided incentives and encouraged the settlement of Serbs in the province -- a practice conducted throughout Serbian-occupied areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Indeed, Serbian policy in Kosovo has been described by Warren Zimmermann, the former U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, as "a typical colonial situation."5 Moreover, the increasing presence of the Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary groups and the arming of Serbian civilians in Kosovo raises serious concern that the province may be the next scene of bloodshed in the Balkans.

Helsinki Watch takes no position on the territorial or political construction of the former Yugoslav republics (i.e., Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia) or the current Yugoslav republics and provinces (i,.e., Montenegro, Serbia, Vojvodina and Kosovo.) Helsinki Watch takes no position on the political status of Kosovo within Yugoslavia or its secession from Serbia or the Yugoslav federation. Our only concern is that the human rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnic, national, religious, political or other affiliation, be respected. Helsinki Watch believes that actions taken by the Serbian government or its agents must be in accordance with internationally recognized standards of human rights. Moreover, as signatory to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, the Yugoslav government (including the Serbian republican government) is bound by the principles set forth in that document and subsequent documents adopted by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).6

Despite its obligations under international law, the Serbian government has blatantly and systematically violated the most basic tenets set forth in international human rights documents. Serbian authorities in Kosovo are responsible for the torture and killing of ethnic Albanians in detention. Adequate investigation, prosecution or punishment of those responsible for the murder, torture or mistreatment of Albanians in Kosovo is rarely undertaken. Albanians are arrested, detained, prosecuted and imprisoned solely on the basis of their ethnic affiliation, political beliefs or membership in organizations or institutions which are banned or looked upon with disfavor by the Serbian government. The Serbian government has promulgated laws which, either expressly or through implementation, discriminate against Albanians in Kosovo. Albanians indicted for criminal and civil crimes and petty offenses are often denied due process. Serbian authorities continue to restrict freedom of association, speech and peaceful expression. Freedom of the Albanian-language press is impeded and the persecution of Albanian journalists in Kosovo is commonplace. Serbian authorities in Kosovo have arbitrarily dismissed Albanians from their jobs because of their ethnic or political affiliations. Subsequently, some have been unlawfully evicted from their homes. In sum, since Serbia assumed direct jurisdiction over Kosovo, the violations against ethnic Albanians have been part of a systematic campaign to marginalize the ethnic Albanians socially, economically and politically and to force their emigration from Kosovo.

The Serbian government justifies its actions in Kosovo as necessary to maintain the territorial integrity of Serbia and to protect the rights of the Serbian and Montenegrin minorities in the province, which comprise approximately ten percent of Kosovo's population (or approximately 200,000 people). Serbs fear that Albanians, who compromise approximately 90 percent of Kosovo's population (or between 1.6 and 1.8 million people),7 have irridentist aspirations and that their call for secession from Serbia and creation of an independent republic is merely a mask for eventual union with neighboring Albania.

Serbs also consider Kosovo to be the cradle of Serbian civilization. Most Serbs believe that the Serbian government has a legitimate right to reclaim their ancestral land and heritage, which Serbs believe was taken from them when the Kosovo was granted autonomous status and self-rule in 1974. According to the Secretary for Education in Kosovo, Miodrag Djuri?i?:8

The 1974 [Yugoslav] constitution gave more power to the provinces than to the legitimate government in Belgrade. In 1990, when we took steps to unify Serbia, we also took steps to bring the educational and legal systems in conformity with Belgrade's law. Therefore, we took some steps that necessarily angered ethnic minorities in the provinces. Some of the steps we took were not democratic but necessary to establish the unity of Serbian national territory.

Serbs are often asked how they justify the suppression of various rights for Albanians in Serbia (who constitute approximately 18 percent of Serbia's population) when they demand the same rights for Serbs in Croatia (who constitute 12.5 percent of Croatia's population.) These rights include the use of their own language and alphabet in official government organs, maintenance of their own local government, courts and police force, and general territorial and governmental autonomy from the authorities in Belgrade or Zagreb.

Serbs justify such a position by explaining that they are a "nation" in Yugoslavia and the Albanians are a minority in that state; therefore, Albanians cannot expect to have the right to use their language in government institutions, nor can they establish any self-rule. In contrast to the Albanians' minority status, Serbs claim that they are a constituent nation of the former Yugoslavia and, therefore, they cannot be referred to as an ethnic minority in any of the former Yugoslav republics, including Croatia. As a consituent nation of Yugoslavia, Serbs believe that they are entitled to use their language, alphabet and other privileges throughout Yugoslavia; Albanians, as a minority, must conform to the rights of their host country, i.e., Serbia and Yugoslavia. Helsinki Watch is gravely concerned that the division of rights for "minorities" and "nations" of the former Yugoslavia has been used by Serbian authorities to suppress the rights of non-Serbs, in this case, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Serbian allegations of mistreatment of Serbs by Albanians, though somewhat true in the past,9 are no longer viable today. Morever, isolated cases of attacks against Serbs by Albanians do not justify repression against, and segregation and marginalization of, the entire Albanian population in Kosovo. Indeed, the same arguments used to justify repression in Kosovo were used to justify the use of force against civilians and "ethnic cleansing" of non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

During a visit to Kosovo in December 1991, Helsinki Watch representatives were alarmed by the increasingly hostile position of the Serbian government toward ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. In December 1991, Secretary Djuri?i? told Helsinki Watch representatives the following:

I came from Belgrade to seek a solution in the interest of all those who live here. We hope this can be achieved peacefully and in accordance with international trends [sic]. If that doesn't work, we will have a war.

I am a reserve army officer and the next time I come here may be with artillery. If intelligence and political reality do not prevail, we will have a greater hell in Kosovo than in Croatia.10 The rights of ethnic minorities in Kosovo will never be threatened. If Albanians have lost or will lose any of their rights, it will be their own fault.


After the imposition of "emergency measures" in 1990, the functions and duties of the Kosovo police were placed under the supervision of the Belgrade government. Since then, police brutality has increased in Kosovo. Many of the attacks are not provoked and some result in death.

The Killing of Mikel Marku

A 62 year-old lawyer, Mikel Marku, a former chairman of the Kosovo chapter of the Yugoslav Bar Association, lapsed into a coma after he was severely beaten by police officers in the town of Pe?. He subsequently died as a result of his injuries and was refused immediate medical attention.

According to witnesses interviewed by Helsinki Watch,11 Marku's mother-in-law, Suta Balaj, had died on October 31, 1991, and at 8:00 p.m., Marku travelled to the village of Stupa to extend his condolences. Marku's two nephews (Gjon Marku, age 36, and Pren Marku, age 40,) accompanied him. Marku's second cousin, Prek Mirdati (age 58), also was in the car.

According to Prek Mirdati:12

Gjon and Pren came to pick me up at my house and then we picked up Mikel at his home. He was still eating homemade bread when he got in the car, not having quite finished his dinner. When we got near the gas station on Mo_e Pijade street, the police stopped our car. Pren was driving a car with Ulcinj [Montenegro] plates. The car belonged to a friend from the village of Vladomir. The police asked for the car's registration and the driver's license. Pren presented the papers and told the police that the car did not belong to him but to his friend. The police asked him why he was driving someone else's car. Mikel, who was sitting in the back seat, responded that we were going to express our condolences because his mother-in-law had died. The police officer answered, "I'm not speaking to you." Mikel thought he recognized the police officer because he asked him if he was the son of a Mr. Balevi?. The police officer answered that he was Slavko Balevi? but I don't know if he really was who he purported to be or if he just wanted to disguise his identity.13

Mikel then asked Balevi? why he was bothering us -- that we were going to express our condolences to a deceased woman's family. Balevi? got angry and said, "You're not polite; you're speaking to me with you mouth full." Mikel again asked him, "Why are you bothering us?" The police officer told him to shut up and Marku cursed him in Albanian.

Balevi? then told all of us to get out of the car and another police officer with a gun approached us. When we got out of the car, Mikel tried to explain who we were but I told him to keep quiet and to let me do the talking.

In a few seconds, about 30 policemen approached us and several started to beat Mikel and Pren. They grabbed us and put us in two separate cars. I was in one car with Pren. The police officers punched Pren a few times in the car. Mikel and Gjon were taken away in another car.

The men were taken to the local police station in Pe?. Pren Marku and Mirdati arrived first. When Mikel and Gjon Marku got to the police station, the police officers pushed Mikel Marku against the wall. All four men were made to face the wall. Mirdati continued:

Mikel was tired and he eventually sat down. The police officer told him to get up but Mikel answered, "You can kill me but I can't stand up." The three of us kept facing the wall and, although we could not see Mikel being beaten, we heard him being tortured. When Mikel screamed, I turned around only to be hit in the face with the butt of a gun. Pren was then beaten and kicked in the head.

Mirdati claims that the men beating them were dressed in civilian clothing and that they were members of the secret police (Služba Državne Bezbednosti - SDB). Mirdati also was beaten and kicked. All four men were interrogated.

We were in the cell and they took us out separately for questioning. First they took Mikel, then Gjon, Pren, and finally me. My interrogation lasted only five minutes. The threats of abuse were more numerous than their questions. They told me that we had threatened the police and then handcuffed me. I was taken to another room where Mikel was sitting motionless on the floor, his back against the wall. Pren and Gjon also appeared to have been beaten but they were in far better condition than Mikel. Pren and Gjon told me that when they were brought into the cell, they found Mikel lying on the floor, face down, and they sat him against the wall. Mikel's face was bleeding and there was blood near his collar. We called out to him and he opened his eyes but then shut them immediately. After several minutes, we realized that Mikel was paralyzed.

Mirdati knocked on the cell's door. Through the window in the cell door, he told the police officers that Mikel Marku was ill and that he had started to vomit blood. According to Mirdati:

The first police officer answered, "He hasn't died yet" and left. Shortly thereafter, the same police officer came back again -- he only looked through the window and left again. He came back a third time and said, "When he's dead, let me know."

Some time after midnight, the behavior of the police changed. They occasionally asked us how we felt and we said terrible. I told them that Mikel was almost dead. They replied that they couldn't do anything because Mikel could not stand up.

The next morning, at 8:00 a.m., a doctor dressed in a police uniform came into our cell. A police officer told me to awaken Mikel. I replied that he was awake and that he had been awake all night. We dragged him from that cell into another room, where the doctor examined him. We then took Mikel back to the cell. We stayed in the cell for half an hour and then the police officers returned and told us to take Mikel to the second floor. We answered that we were not strong enough to carry him. The police officers said that we had to get him up to the second floor and we had to drag him upstairs. By this time Mikel was unconscious.

A neurologist had been summoned to examine Marku. The neurologist advised the police that Marku should be taken to the hospital. According to Mirdati:

We carried him downstairs again but the police made us use the back door --they did not want anyone to see Mikel. They told us that the exit through the back door was a "short-cut."

Marku was taken to the hospital in a police car. He was accompanied by Mirdati and Pren Marku. Two police officers in a second car followed. When they arrived at the hospital in Pe?, an intravenous was placed in Marku's arm. He was taken to the Pri_tina hospital in a car. According to Mirdati, the Pe? hospital refused to allow Marku's transfer to the better equipped Pri_tina hospital in an ambulance. Mirdati continued:

Marku's colleagues, Mustafa Radoniqi and Adem Bajri, learned of Marku's whereabouts and also arrived at the hospital. The two lawyers asked to speak with Dr. Vujosevi?, a Montenegrin. It was the same man who had examined him in the police station. The doctor was in tears because he knew Mikel. He suggested that some test be conducted but said that serious damage to the brain would most certainly remain. We then telephoned three other lawyers, all of whom were Mikel's colleagues -- Jusuf Hakai, Fazli Balaj and Bajram Kelmendi.14

At the Pri_tina hospital, it was determined that Mr. Marku was suffering from a brain hemorrhage. Dr. Talat Gjinolli drained fluid from Marku's brain but surgery was not performed. Marku's colleagues and family wanted to take him to Skopje, Macedonia, for medicaltreatment but doctors at the Pri_tina hospital advised against such a trip, claiming that Marku's internal bleeding would worsen and that he would not survive the 90-minute journey.

Marku lapsed into a coma and died ten days later. A commission of three doctors performed an autopsy the day of Marku's death. Marku's colleagues were told that they had to wait two weeks to obtain the autopsy reports because the doctors had to complete a histological examination. Marku's colleagues have requested that another autopsy be performed by other pathologists. That request was denied and the autopsy reports have not been released to Marku's family.

The day Marku was taken to the hospital, the police filed charges against Pren and Gjon Marku and Prek Mirdati. They were brought before the municipal court for petty offenses in Pe? and were charged with "attacking the police" under Article 18, paragraph 5, of the Law Governing Public Law and Order in Kosovo.15 Criminal charges also were filed against the men under Article 214, paragraph 2, of the Serbian criminal code for "attacking an offical person carrying out his formal duties."16 The three men submitted statements and were released. They were then summoned back to the police station on the same day and held for five hours. Pren and Gjon Marku went into hiding to avoid imprisonment. Although court proceedings have not begun, the charges against the three men remain in force.

Marku's colleagues and family initiated proceedings calling on the authorities to investigate the circumstances of Marku's death. An official investigation of the murder of Mikel Marku has not been conducted.

The Killing of Ali Sahit Haxhiu

Less than four weeks after Mikel Marku's death, Ali Sahit Haxhiu also was beaten to death by police in Kosovo. Haxhiu had been living as a refugee in the village of Sazli near Uro_evac, Kosovo. He was the father of ten children and originally from the village of Salaj in the Kukes district of Albania. According to Amnesty International,17 Haxhiu was sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment for a petty offense in May 1990 but was not immediately sent to serve his sentence. At 7:00 p.m. on November 25, 1991, Haxhiu was arrested by police in Uro_evac and taken to the local police station, where he allegedly was beaten. Amnesty International reports that Haxhiu's family was informed by the authorities that he had been sent to a prison in Pri_tina on November 26 to serve his sentence and that he had been found dead by a prison guard 15 minutes after his arrival. On November 27, his body was delivered to the family, who contends that his entire body was heavily bruised and that several of his teeth had been broken.

The Killing of Sami Babaj

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), with which Helsinki Watch is affiliated, has reported that 25-year-old Sami Babaj was shot and killed by three Serbian police officers in the town of Srbica on April 30, 1992.18 At approximately 10:30 a.m., Sami Babaj (born November 2, 1967) and his cousin, Abdullah Babaj, were stopped by three police officers on foot patrol duty in the town's center. At the request of the police officers, both men presented their identification papers. Abdullah Babaj's papers had been issued by the local authorities and Sami Babaj's papers had been issued in Vinkovci, Croatia, where he had been employed prior to the outbreak of war in that republic.

Eyewitnesses reported that the police began to beat Sami Babaj while they interrogated him. This incident took place in full view of bystanders on an elevated platform in front of a department store. The police officers repeatedly asked Sami Babaj if he had been a member of the Croatian armed forces and threatened to draft him into the Yugoslav army and send him to the front lines. Reportedly, the police threw Sami Babaj's identification papers to the ground and forced him to pick them up.

The police officers than contacted their police headquarters via walkie-talkie. The discussion was heard by many bystanders. The police officers were instructed to wait for a police car which would be dispatched to take Sami Babaj to the police station. Upon hearing this, Sami Babaj began to run down the right stairway. Eyewitnesses report that the police officers immediately reached for their machine guns. One of the police officers -- who was described as approximately 165 centimeters tall with black hair and a moustache and believed to have been named Petrovi? -- shot at Sami Babaj from a 20 meter distance. He was wounded in the left shoulder. Reportedly, Sami Babaj stumbled but stood up again, whereafter all three police officers fired their machine guns at him until he had fallen to the floor. Then, the police officers reportedly surrounded the body, kicked it several times, held their machine guns overtheir heads and congratulated each other. Witnesses report that Sami Babaj was not told to halt before he was shot.

After the incident took place, the police sealed off the area and other police officers who arrived in armored cars conducted an on-site investigation and took photographs. The body of Sami Babaj was brought to the Mitrovica19 hospital, where an autopsy reportedly was conducted. The body was returned to the family at 8:00 p.m. on the same day. According to the doctor who examined the body, Sami Babaj had been hit by eight bullets. Salespersons at the department store reported that bullets hit two side windows of the store but that no one was hurt. Several bullets reportedly hit a parked yellow van. To our knowledge, there has been no investigation, arrest or prosecution of those responsible for the murder of Sami Babaj.

Police Abuse of Mentor Kaci

Mentor Kaci was arrested on November 19, 1991, and was taken to the Djakovica police station, where he was tortured for five days. On the third day of his detention, Kaci was taken to his home by several police officers, who sought to confiscate his passport. When they arrived at the Kaci home, a family member, Resmija Kreyezi, was in the house. According to Ms. Kreyezi:20

My sister lives in the same house as Mentor, who is my cousin. My son and I had gone to visit my sister and her three-year-old child the day Mentor was brought to the house by the police. Twelve police officers armed with AK-47s came into the house with Mentor. My cousin was badly bruised; he had been so badly beaten that he could not speak. The police demanded that we give them Mentor's passport. I screamed at the police officers and demanded to know why they had beaten him and what they intended to do with Mentor. They ignored me and searched the house. They couldn't find his passport and left with Mentor again.

Kaci was taken back to the Djakovica police station and subsequently taken to the jail in Pe?. According to Kreyezi:

I went to the prison to visit Mentor but the prison officials did not let me see him. I did manage to speak to the prison doctor who told me that Mentor had, in fact, been abused in custody.

Helsinki Watch interviewed Resmija Kreyezi several days after she had returned from the Pe? prison. Kaci was subsequently tried for having "committed terrorist acts."21

Use of Force in U?ka

Amnesty International has reported that at 8:00 a.m. on January 31, 1992, in the village of U?ka near the town of Istok, police opened fire on a group of ethnic Albanians who were accompanying their children to school.22 The parents appear to have been taking their children to a school where they could be unofficially educated in the Albanian language.23 Reportedly, Bajram Hoxhaj (age 55) and one other person were killed, and at least four persons were seriously wounded. One person later died as a result of his wounds. Following the incident, the police reportedly brought in reinforcements and surrounded the village.

Beating of Delegates from Croatia

On May 24, 1992, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo held multi-party elections for members of their unofficial parliament and government. A delegation from the Republic of Croatia, including some delegates from other countries, were invited to monitor the elections, which were held in semi-secrecy throughout Kosovo. Members of the delegation included Neven Jurica, the Chairman of the Croatian Parliamentary Committee for the Protection of Human Rights; Ante Kari?, a member of the Croatian parliament; and Zdravko Gavren, an editor for the Croatian news agency HINA. According to information received by Helsinki Watch, the members of the delegation arrived in Kosovo via Macedonia and entered Serbia with Croatian identification papers. When they arrived in Pri_tina, they were arrested and taken to the police station, where they reportedly were verbally abused and hit with truncheons for one hour. They were detained for nearly four hours and were then escorted to the Macedonian border and expelled from the country. When they arrived at the Serbian-Macedonian border, the three men claim that the police robbed them of all their foreign currency.

According to medical records dated May 27, 1992, and signed by Doctors Ilija Petru_i? and Zvonimir Marekovi? in Zagreb, Zdravko Gavran suffered from bruises to the back, shoulder and head; Ante Jari? was bruised by a blunt object in the abdominal and genital areas and the left shoulder; and Neven Jurica suffered from bruises to the back, lip, left shoulder and left side of the rib cage.


Eleven-year-old Afrim Prebreza was killed in the village of Kuzmin, near Kosovo Polje, on May 27, 1991, at approximately 5:00 p.m. by three unidentified Serbs. According to his father, Mitush Prebreza:24

My son returned from school that Monday and then went to tend cattle in the field. I had to go to Pristina and while I was waiting for the bus to take me home at 5:10 p.m., someone told me that a boy had been killed while tending cattle. My brother and cousin came to pick me up at the bus station in Pristina. They told me that my son had been taken to the hospital but they didn't tell me that he had died. They said that Serbs from the village of Kuzmin had attacked him. I later learned that my son died en route to the hospital.

Sixteen-year-old Bajram Kodra was in the field when Afrim was attacked. According to Bajram25:

Several of us were playing soccer and some were tending cattle in the field, including Afrim. In total, about 20 youths were in the field that afternoon and we were playing soccer against youths from a neigboring village. At one point, three Serbs from a nearby village started to approach us. One of them had a shovel in his hands, another had a long stick and a third had his hand in his jacket. Two of the men walked together, while the third followed behind them. They were all approximately 30 years old.

The youths from the opposing team had quarrelled previously with the three Serbs who were approaching. When the players saw the three men, they started to run away. The Serbs started to run toward us and then we all started to run from them but Afrim couldn't keep up with us. When the three Serbs saw that we were out of their reach, they turned to run after Afrim, who fell to the ground and into a ditch. We saw them hitting Afrim with the shovel and sticks. Eventually, the three Serbs stopped hitting Afrim and started to walk away. We saw them walk up to Pllana, an Albanian from our village, and they appeared to have asked him something.

According to Ramadan Pllana, age 23,26

The three men wanted to know in which village the boys lived. I told them that I did not know and then they walked away. I was 50 meters away from where Afrim had fallen and then I and the other youths went to see what had become of the boy.

According to Bajram Kodra:

We went to the ditch into which Afrim had fallen. His forehead was most badly bruised, but he had been beaten all over his face. We thought that he was unconscious so we got some water from a nearby trough and poured it on his face. Then Pllana carried him back to the village and the villagers took him to Pri_tina hospital, where he later died.

According to Pllana, the police came to the village the day after Afrim died. They asked Pllana to accompany them to the scene of the crime, where he recounted what he had witnessed. According to Pllana:

I told the police that I had been on the outskirts of the field that day but that I could see the three Serbs running toward Afrim, kicking him and then beating him with the shovel and sticks. Three plainclothes inspectors and one police officer told me to go to the police station in Kosovo Polje the next day and I made a statement there. Two or three weeks later, they summoned me to the district court and I submitted another written statement. I was told that I would be called to appear before a court; however, I was never summoned again.

According to villagers, the local police visited the scene of the crime twice but, of those in the field that day, only Pllana was questioned. At the time of Helsinki Watch's visit, Mr. Prebreza, Afrim's father, said that charges had been filed against a mentally-retarded minor. Prebreza believed that the handicapped youth was being used as a scapegoat so that the police could avoid prosecuting those who were responsible for Afrim's murder. Helsinki Watch is not aware that anyone has been prosecuted or arrested for the murder of Afrim Prebreza.



Human rights abuses against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have been legalized over the past two years. After the Serbian government assumed direct control over Kosovo in 1990, it promulgated a series of laws and decrees that specified the ways in which "special measures" were to be implemented in Kosovo. Serbian authorities have used such laws to benefit Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo by disenfranchising Albanians in the province. Indeed, such laws and decrees provided the legal justification for mass dismissals of Albanian workers, arbitrary detentions, restrictions on freedom of association, expression, speech and the press and other serious human rights abuses in Kosovo. Other laws provided economic incentives to Serbs and Montenegrins, but such incentives were denied Albanians, either expressly or in practice.

Many of the "special measures" instituted in schools, hospitals and government institutions were aimed at codifying Kosovo's administrative structure and regulations with Serbia's. For example, prior to the imposition of "special measures" in Kosovo, either the Albanian or Serbian languages could be used in government and civic institutions, including schools, courts and hospitals. After Serbia reasserted its jurisdiction over its provinces, Serbian was made the official language throughout the republic, including the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. Some doctors, teachers and other government workers interviewed by Helsinki Watch were fired because they refused to abide by the new rules which stipulated that Serbian was the official language of the entire republic, including the provinces.

After Serbian authorities imposed "special measures" in Kosovo, "temporary emergency management teams" were established in many public enterprises. In most cases, the emergency teams replaced the existing management and assumed a supervisory role in a given enterprise. Emergency management teams were established in factories, schools, universities, hospitals and government bodies. The teams are responsible for hiring and dismissing workers and for ensuring that regulations promulgated in Belgrade are successfully implemented in Kosovo. Most of the members on the emergency management team are Serbs, many of whom are not indigenous to Kosovo but have been sent from Serbia proper, primarily Belgrade.27

Although the management teams are stationed in Kosovo temporarily (i.e, until the "special measures" are fully implemented), no date for their withdrawal and replacement with local management has been set. The emergency management teams often refer to recently promulgated laws which discriminate against Albanians to justify the dismissal of, or disciplinary action against, Albanian workers.

The Law Concerning the Functioning of Republican Government Bodies under Special Circumstances28 places all public administration and publicly-funded enterprises and institutions in Kosovo under the direct control of the Serbian authorities. The law was used as the basis under which a panoply of further laws, decrees and administrative regulations were issued to justify the purge of Albanians from all institutions of government and professional and public life in Kosovo. For example, the Law Concerning Labor Relations under Special Circumstances29 provided the legal basis for mass dismissals of Albanian workers in Kosovo. The Law Regulating Real Estate30 has been used to restrict the sale and rental of property in Kosovo by or to Albanians by requiring the approval of the Serbian parliament. Albanians claim that permits of approval are readily available for Serbs and Montenegrins but that they are rarely, if ever, issued to Albanians. The Law Regulating Real Estate was declared unconstitutional by Yugoslavia's constitutional court in 1990. Nevertheless, the Serbian government has refused to recognize the decision of the constitutional court and continues to enforce this law in Kosovo.

Many believe that the aforementioned laws aim to encourage the settlement of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo while marginalizing ethnic Albanians in the province. Western diplomats and ethnic Albanians to whom Helsinki Watch has spoken regard such laws as vehicles for the "colonization" of Kosovo by Serbs and the relegation of ethnic Albanians to second-class status in the province.

Abuse of the Law on Petty Offenses

Since Serbian authorities assumed direct control of Kosovo in 1990, prison terms for political offenses have been shortened but there has been a dramatic increase in the number of ethnic Albanians imprisoned for petty offenses in Kosovo. In the past, opponents of Yugoslav or Serbian rule frequently were convicted of criminal offenses and jailed for prolonged periods of time.31 In recent years, the Serbian law on petty offenses,32 which allows up to 60 days ofimprisonment, has been grossly abused by Serbian authorities in Kosovo to justify the repeated arrest and detention of Albanians accused of so-called "verbal crimes" or political offenses. Hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Albanians have been indicted, prosecuted and imprisoned under various clauses of Serbian petty offense laws33 for their non-violent political expression in the past two years.

Lack of an Independent Judiciary

The independence of the judiciary, especially local courts, remains precarious in Kosovo. In some cases, police and government authorities determine the verdict, punishment and the duration of imprisonment; a local court subsequently affirms a decision based on political criteria rather than the rule of law. When decisions of a lower court are overturned by a higher tribunal, the police and judicial officials do not always abide by the decisions of the higher court. According to Fazli Balaj, a lawyer in Kosovo:34

On December 3, 1991, an appellate court overuled the decision of a lower court against my client Bljerim Shalji. The decision was overturned due to a procedural technicality. The higher court required that my client be released but the local judge refused to issue the release order. On December 4, 1991, at approximately 4:00 p.m., I asked that the judge be recused35 and that another judge be assigned to the case. The judge refused to enter my request into thecourt record36. I asked to speak with the judge in her chambers, only to have her rebuff my request again. My client was then sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment despite the fact that a higher court had required his release.

Serbian law prohibits the removal of judges except in cases where the judge is found to be incompetent or biased. Since 1990, Albanian judges in Kosovo have been removed without a hearing or investigation. In one case, the Serbian government published an announcement that dismissed several Albanian judges in the federal registrar (službeni glasnik). The names of the Albanian judges were published in one column and the names of their replacements -- all Serbs or Montenegrins -- were published in an adjoining column. The reason for their dismissal was not given.


Serbian authorities have taken measures to prevent meetings of persons affiliated with the underground Albanian government. In many instances, representatives to the Albanian government have been arrested before such meetings to prevent their attendance or after such meetings to dissuade them from attending future gatherings. In other instances, the police have disbanded the meetings. Those in attendance have been detained or imprisoned. Serbian authorities also have taken steps against ethnic Albanians who have expressed their support for the underground Albanian government and have dispersed peaceful demonstrations.

Arrests in June 1992

On May 24, 1992, ethnic Albanians held elections in which they voted for representatives to the clandestine Albanian parliament and government. The Serbian authorities declared the voting to be illegal. On June 23, 1992, the opening session of the newly-elected Kosovo legislature was to have taken place in an Islamic religious school. The police prevented the meeting from being held and several persons were arrested.

According to information received by Helsinki Watch from the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms in Kosovo, the June 23 meeting was to have been held at the "Alaudin" religious school in Pri_tina. Qazim Qazimi, the director of the school, was arrested at 11:10 p.m. on June 22, the night before the meeting was to have taken place. The following persons were arrested at the "Alaudin" school at midnight: Ismet Ismaili and Jakup Gashi, receptionists at the school; Sulejman Osmani, a nursery school teacher; and Ilmi Sinani, Ismail Gashi, Emrush Madzumi and Hasan Gashi, all workers at the schools. According to reports received by Helsinki Watch, mosques in Pri_tina were not permitted to hold services the morning of June 23. During the morning of June 23, Fehmi Agani, vice-president of the Democratic League of Kosovo,37 was arrested. On June 23 at 3:00 p.m., the following members of the Independent Trade Union of Kosovo were arrested: Jamiz Trstema, Seremet Ahmeti, Hajrullah Trnava and Hasan Abduli.

Reportedly, the police did not allow the commencement of the June 23 meeting and those who had come to attend dispersed peacefully. Several members of the Kosovo parliament were arrested en route to their homes in the town of Prizren. Skender Berisha, a member of the underground Kosovo parliament, was arrested and sentenced to 40 days of imprisonment. Western news agencies claimed that five ethnic Albanian legislators were jailed for 60 days for having committed "an anti-constitutional act endangering the territorial integrity and constitutional order of Serbia."38

University Demonstrations in July 1991

On July 3, 1991, Albanian professors at the University of Pri_tina organized a demonstration to protest the new laws on "special measures." Reportedly between 5,000 to 6,000 students and professors participated. On July 15, Rexhep Osmani, President of the Association of University Professors, and many of his colleagues were dismissed from their jobs. According to Professor Osmani:39

I went to work on July 15 and the porter handed me my notice of dismissal. The police came to speak with me and interrogated me for two and a half hours. They asked me why I organized the demonstration and why I advocated autonomy of the university system from government authorities.

According to Hamit Mehmeti, professor of metallurgy:40

Once the school year began, Albanian professors were fired for having participated in the July 3 demonstration in front of the university. Several were fired on October 4th, 19 were fired on November 4th and three more were fired one week thereafter. Those who had been on leave were dismissed once they returned to work. Of those fired, seven were fired on the grounds that they were surplus labor at the university. No Serbian professors were fired.

According to Radivoje Papovi?, Rector of Pri_tina University:41

The organization of demonstrations since the early 1980s has been disruptive. A professor's job is to educate students, not to organize demonstrations. Emergency measures were instituted in the university in July 1991, because the Albanians were holding demonstrations every day. The special measures are to serve as a means to force Albanians to respect the law.

When asked by Helsinki Watch representatives if any professors had been fired because they participated in demonstrations, Papovi? replied, "Unfortunately, no one was arrested and many of those professors were not fired; rather, they left of their own accord." Since June 1991, Helsinki Watch has interviewed scores of ethnic Albanian university professors in Kosovo --none of those interviewed claimed that they had left of their own accord; instead, they insisted that they had been dismissed.

Arrests of Albanian Politicians in Late 1990

After ethnic Albanians had formed an Assembly in September 1990, Serbian authorities arrested elected members to the newly formed institution. Four members of the Assembly (i.e.,Raif Rambaja, Nazif Matoshi, Ismail Sahiti and Fatos Pula) were arrested on September 17. Jusuf Zejnullahu, Seladin Skeja, Muhamet Bicaj, Jusuf Karakushi, Isa Mustafa and Lek Vuksani were arrested on September 21. Agim Maljaj, a former director of Pri_tina Television, also was among those arrested.42 Although most of the men had been released by late October 1990, Seladin Skeja and Leke Vuksani remained in detention and faced charges of "associating for the purpose of unconstitutionally changing the borders within Yugoslavia."43 The men were never tried before a court and remained in jail for several weeks until their release.

Arrest warrants were issued for most of those who were elected in 1990 to serve as representatives to the underground Albanian parliament. Most of these representatives fled Serbia (mostly to Croatia and Slovenia) to escape imprisonment. Those who had been arrested were charged with having formed a group that sought to endanger the territorial integrity of Serbia and Yugoslavia. Although some deputies have since returned to Kosovo, many remain abroad.



Trial of "Terrorists" in Pri_tina and Pe?

Helsinki Watch has received reports that persons have been arrested and indicted for acts of terrorism by Serbian authorities in Kosovo. Helsinki Watch is gravely concerned that the defendants were denied due process of the law and that they may have been arrested and are facing trial because of their Albanian ethnicity and/or because of their political beliefs. Moreover, Helsinki Watch has documented an instance in which one of the defendants was brutally beaten while in police custody.44 Helsinki Watch is concerned that the other defendants also may have been tortured or otherwise mistreated while in detention.

On or around January 21, 1992, the following persons were arrested and charged with making preparations to separate Kosovo from Yugoslavia through terrorist activity, including bombing military and police installations:

· Xhavit Gubetini, guard at a private firm, born 1967, from the village of Devet Jugovi?a, near Pri_tina;

· Faton Gajtani, student of English literature and language, born 1966;

· Nazmi Bajrami, unemployed, born 1961, from the municipality of Srbica;

· Sami Tahiraj, engineer, born 1965, from the municipality of De?ane;

· Shkelzen Gjonaj, a biology student, born 1965, from the municipality of De?ane;

· Xhafer Zejna, jeweler, born 1962, from Pri_tina, father of three children;

· Salih Zeqiri, farmer, born 1964, from the village of Devet Jugovi?a, near Pri_tina; and,

· Deme Tolaj, farmer, born 1956, from the municipality of


The aforementioned individuals are accused of having visited Albania and of having received instruction in terrorist actions from officers of the Albanian army.45 They also are alleged to have brought weapons (including automatic rifles and explosives) from Albania intoKosovo. The men have been charged under Articles 116,46 125,47 12648 and 13849 of the Yugoslav criminal code and are being held in Pri_tina prison.50 On January 29, an investigatory judge of the Pri_tina court approved, on the grounds of national security, a January 23 proposal of the district public prosecutor that the defendants' lawyers be denied access to their clients' files and other forms of evidence and that they be denied the right to be present while their clients and witnesses were interrogated during investigation proceedings.

In the town of Pe?, the trial of 19 persons began on May 11 and 12, 1992. The trial was postponed and re-convened in early July. The 19 people were arrested in December 1991 and have been charged with various offenses, including "association for the purpose of carrying out hostile activities" and "directing and infiltrating armed groups, arms and munitions into the territory of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."51 Their names are Sailh Caka, Seljajdin Dolji, Gezin Ejendiu, Mehdi Hasi, Paljus Paljusi, Nazim Kepuska, Sali Dahsyla, Nuhi Bytyci, Sukri Dzerdza, Zemelj Sadiku, Gerkin Pe?i, Naim Krasniqi, Sokol Dobruna, Sadrik Mulja, Mentor Kaci, Fatlik Lika, Deli Haxhocaj, Sejdo Veselji and

Afrim Morina.

The defendants' lawyers claim that the accused were denied access to counsel during initial questioning by an investigatory judge. Access during questioning was denied to the lawyers on the basis of a December 21, 1991, decision by an investigatory judge of the district court of Pe?. The lawyers claim that this decision cited "national security" as a reason for refusal but that no further explanation was given. For almost one month, the defendants were denied access to, or communication with, their lawyers. Moreover, the defendants' lawyers were denied access to legal documents and written evidence.52 In late January 1992, the defendants were allowed brief visits by their families and lawyers, but they were not allowed to discuss the detailsof their cases due to the aforementioned December 21 decision of the Pe? court.53 Both the Pri_tina and Pe? cases have been postponed and neither group has been brought to trial as of this writing.

Indictment of Numan Bali?

Numan Bali?,54 head of the Kosovo chapter of the predominantly Muslim Party of Democratic Action (Stranka Demokratske Akcije - SDA)55 was charged on November 27, 1991, for "spreading false information and disturbing the public order" under Article 218 of the criminal code of the Republic of Serbia.56 According to Bali?, at a founding meeting of the Kosovo branch of the SDA on October 14, 1990, 10,000 people were present. Bali? told Helsinki Watch:

At the meeting, I set forth the party's platform and called for the equality of Muslims in Kosovo. I presented various arguments about the violation of the rights of Muslims in Kosovo. I did not mention a word about the territorial make-up of Serbia nor did I directly attack the Serbian government. I only said that the Muslims are not proportionally represented in the Serbian government. I stated that non-Serbs live under police terror and that the rule of law is absent in Serbia. I also asserted that Muslims had been dismissed from their jobs because of their national and religious affiliation.

On April 23, 1991, Bali? was tried and acquitted of the aforementioned offense. The district public prosecutor appealed the decision to a higher court,57 which overuled the decision of the lower court and ordered a re-trial. The new trial took place in November 1991. According to Bali?:

[At the November trial,] the prosecution presented three witnesses who, in my opinion, had been instructed as to what they were to say on the stand. They claimed that I said that Kosovo must belong to the Albanians and that all Serbs must be evicted. The witnesses also claimed that after the meeting, participants burned and destroyed Serbian property but this is not true. I have witnesses and videotapes of the speech but the court has refused to accept this as evidence.

I asked that my lawyer, Adem Ajri, be present during the trial but the presiding judge, Slobodan Nikoli?, refused my request. I was not entitled to legal representation. I was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail, which is where I am supposed to be now.58

Arrest of Veton Surroi

Veton Surroi, president of the Parliamentary Party and a leading opposition figure in Kosovo, was arrested and sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment for having breached the peace by organizing a non-violent demonstration against Serbian rule on June 13, 1991, which reportedly included 50,000 participants. At the demonstration, Surroi told the protesters that a major rally had been organized for July 2 to mark the first anniversary of Kosovo's declaration of sovereignty by the Kosovo Assembly.59 According to Surroi:60

At 3:00 in the morning on June 26, eight Serbian police officers dressed in riot gear and armed with automatic weapons and machine guns came to arrest me --they told me that we were going to the police station for an "informative discussion." In fact, I was kidnapped and sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment for having "breached the peace" and for having "disturbed the tranquility of Serbs and Montenegrins," allegedly because I made a speech that the authorities disliked at the [June 13] demonstration.

I was taken before a judge who charged me for having committed a petty offense. I refused to answer any of the judge's or police officers' questions without my lawyer. Because I refused to answer the judge, I was kicked out of the courtroom and waited for my lawyer to arrive. When my lawyer, Bajram Kelmendi, arrived at the courthouse, the judge insisted that I remain outside the courtroom and I was convicted without having been presented before the judge. I served only two days of my sentence because the foreign governments issued protests to the Serbian authorities.

The U.S. State Department and members of the U.S. Congress and German government issued protests on Surroi's behalf. Kosovo's provincial court overruled the lower court's decision and Surroi was released on June 29, 1991.

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