The Fighting at Gornje Obrinje
In mid-July, 1998, the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police began a major offensive against the KLA, which had assumed loose control of an estimated one-third of Kosovo. The offensive, which involved heavy artillery, tanks, and occasional air power, was highly effective in driving the KLA from most of its established positions into pockets in the mountains and woods.
In the end, however, very few KLA fighters were killed or captured. The brunt of the suffering was borne by ethnic Albanian civilians who lived in the areas of conflict. More than two hundred villages were destroyed and at least 300,000 people were internally displaced. Most of the estimated 2,000 people killed through September were civilians.
The dangers faced by civilians in the Kosovo conflict were articulated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in a public statement issued in September:
At this very moment, as has been the case for several weeks now, tens of thousands of civilians are caught up in a devastating cycle of attacks and displacements. They are exposed to violence, including threats to their lives, destruction of their homes, separation from their families, and abductions. Thousands of them have nowhere left to go and no one to turn to for protection.
From a humanitarian perspective, it has become apparent that civilian casualties are not simply what has become known as collateral damage. In Kosovo, civilians have become the main victimsif not the actual targetsof the fighting.1
By mid-September, international pressure was building on Miloevic to halt the offensive. By that time, however, the government had virtually succeeded in destroying all the towns and settlements in which the KLA was present, driving the fighters into the woods. The campaign of destruction remained unfinished in one important area: central Drenica, where some of the most intense fighting between the KLA and government forces had taken place.
There is little doubt that the final days of the offensive were a carefully calculated gamble. President Milosovic and his military planners knew that they had little time left to complete their objectives in Kosovo and then avert a Western military response by ordering a rapid and dramatic pull-back of forces. The underlying motives for the brutality of the Yugoslav offensive remain difficult to discernthe Yugoslav security forces certainly succeeded in sending a message to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo that brutal repression would follow any attempts to assert ethnic Albanian control in Kosovo.
The village of Gornje Obrinje is located in Drenicas Glogovac municipality. The 500-year-old village has approximately 300 houses divided up among several large family compounds separated by fields and woods, including the family compounds of the Delijaj and Hysenaj families where many of the atrocities discussed in this report took place. Three kilometers to the north is the hilltop village of Likovac, which served as a regional KLA headquarters prior to the Yugoslav offensive and was recaptured by Yugoslav forces around September 13.2
During the month of September, government forces mounted an offensive in the Drenica region, attempting to dislodge the KLA from its Drenica stronghold. The police and army attacked from the direction of the town of Klina, southwest of Glogovac, as well as from the Cicavica mountains in the east, and effectively surrounded KLAforces in the hilly Obrinje region. According to Naim Maloku, a senior commander of the KLA and a former Yugoslav Army officer interviewed by the New York Times, the Yugoslav forces faced stiff resistance from the KLA in the Likovac-Obrinje area:
[T]he guerrillas, caught in a Serbian pincer movement, had decided to fight rather than surrender. The fightingsometimes house to house, even room to roomtook an unusually heavy toll among the Serbs ... [T]he guerrillas fought, using land mines and rocket-propelled grenades. Mr. Maloku said that he knew from a report made by rebel headquarters that at least 47 Serbian soldiers and police officers were killed in the fighting between [Obrinje] and Bajinca, three miles east. We took weapons from 47 Serbs, he said.3
After taking Likovac, the government forces moved on to Obrinje. According to Zejnije (Zora) Delijaj, who was in Gornje Obrinje with her family at the beginning of the offensive, government forces began shelling the Delijaj compound from the direction of Likovac at around 8 a.m. on Friday, September 26, with various types of artillery and mortars.4 Most of the inhabitants of the compound fled to the forest to escape the shelling. Bashkim Delijaj, twenty-one, was one of the only civilians who remained behind in the Delijaj compound at the time of the attack in order to care for his elderly father, the ninety-four-year-old Fazli, who was an invalid. Bashkim described to Human Rights Watch how the attack continued on Saturday morning:
When it got dark on Friday, the police returned to Likovac. During the night, they continued shelling. Around 7 a.m. the next day, they started shelling again. Half of the tank convoy based in Likovac, about sixty-eight tanks, started moving toward the Delijaj compound. They were firing ground-to-ground missiles at us from the tanks. The infantry was moving behind the tanks; many of them had beards. I was staying with my father who was handicapped and needed food and water. We were smoking a cigarette when a grenade fell on the roof.
I jumped out of the second floor of the house and ran toward the gate. I was looking through a hole in the gate and saw the army was burning the neighborhood. I saw soldiers coming from about thirty meters away. They had [brown] army uniforms, and many of them had either huge knives or small axes, I couldnt see clearly. I started fleeing toward the Berdolak neighborhood.5
For the next several days, the Yugoslav forces remained in effective control of the Obrinje area, and carried out the abuses described in this report. Because most villagers fled the oncoming offensive, it is difficult to identify precisely which government forces participated in the abuses. However, those present in the area at the time identified at least three types of forces: the Serbian special police under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior (MUP), distinguished by their blue camouflage uniforms; the special anti-terrorist force (SAJ), also under the control of the Ministry of Interior, distinguished by their darker brown camouflage uniforms; and contingents of the Yugoslav Army (VJ), recognizable from their green uniforms and the presence of tanks and other heavy artillery. According to a senior KLA commander for Drenica interviewed by Human Rights Watch at the funeral of Driton Hysenaj (see below), the special forces unit (Jedinica za Specijalne Operacije, or JSO) headed by Franko Frenki Simatovic and popularly known as Frenkis boys, were also present during the fighting in the Obrinje area. The JSO wear irregular uniforms, often appearing in the uniforms of other military or police units, and are reputed to carry large knives, something several witnesses mentioned seeing near Obrinje. The JSO have a reputation for ruthlessness. Inthe words of a Serbian policeman who spent six months in Kosovo near Deçan, interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Belgrade, Frenkis boys kill everything. Believe me, you do no want to see them.6
On September 26, Human Rights Watch observed a convoy of forty-seven heavily armored military vehicles and sixteen supply or support vehicles leaving Drenica around the village of Mlecane, a few miles west of Glogovac. The convoy included numerous tanks, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns, pontoon bridges, and armored personnel carriers.
According to the Pritina Media Center, a media center with close ties to the Serbian government, at least seven policemen died in the Obrinje area on September 25, 1998, the day prior to the massacre of the Delijaj family and the summary executions at nearby Golubovac. Five police reservists were also killed near Likovac when their vehicle hit an anti-tank land mine that was probably placed by the KLA. The names of the police reservists killed are:7
· Goran Zivadinovic, born in 1969, from Soko Banja;
· Slavomir Bojanic, born in 1970, from Priboj;
· Ognjen Petrovic, born in 1975, from Novi Sad;
· Dragoslav Tadic, born in 1962, from Vrbas;
· Aleksandar Pantovic, born in 1973, from Vrbas.
The Media Center further reported that two policemen were killed on September 25 at about 2 p.m. by a heavily armed group of Albanians nearby Donje Obrinje village.8 They were:
· Miroslav Slovic, born in 1974, from Zubin Potok;
· Rajko Radovanovic, born in 1973, from Srbica.
On September 27, 1998, the day after the Obrinje massacre but before the site had been discovered, the Pritina Media Center put out the following statement that three Serbian policemen had been killed in the Obrinje area on September 26, and that the police had succeeded in capturing the villages of Gornje and Donje Obrinje:
Three [Serbian] policemen were killed in an attack by Albanian extremists near the village of Donje Obrinje, west of Glogovac, at around 15:30 yesterday. The three policemen killed, who came from the town of Kruevac were Veljko Mijkovic [probably Miljkovic] (1968), Sreten Milic (1970) and Ljubomir Ljumirovic [probably Ljumbomirovic] (1966). ... According to Glogovac municipal authorities, the police captured Albanian extremist strongholds in the villages of Gornje and Donje Obrinje, as well as the wider area of Glogovac. During the operation against the terrorist stronghold in the area, at least ten members of the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army were killed, the municipal authorities reported.9
On September 26, Human Rights Watch researchers observed a Yugoslav army red cross helicopter fly over the village of Plocica in the direction of Gornje Obrinje, which could be seen burning in the distance, and return approximately twenty minutes later.
Yugoslav authorities certainly are able to identify the police and army units responsible for the atrocities documented in this report. While denying the police were responsible for the massacres, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, police colonel Bozidar Filic, confirmed that police units which took part in breaking up terrorist bands were under the direct command of their superior officers who submitted regular reports about their activities.10 Sharing information with the ICTY about police units in the area and their command structures, as well as the regular reports filed by these units, would help in identifying those responsible for these abuses.
The village of Gornje Obrinje was largely destroyed during the Yugoslav offensive. The village was still smoldering when Human Rights Watch researchers arrived around 11 a.m. on September 29, and sporadic gun fire continued nearby. Most of the homes in the village had been destroyed, and the village bore the marks of a heavy assault. Many of the homes were pockmarked by bullets or shrapnel and some had been hit by tank fire. However, as in many other villages, Human Rights Watch also observed signs of damage inflicted on the village in the aftermath of any fighting. Shot cattle lay strewn around the town, and many free-standing hay stacks and other food supplies had been torched. Some homes appeared to have been set on fire, judging from the fact that they had not sustained any visible bullet or mortar damage.
The Dead at the Delijaj Compound
When Human Rights Watch researchers arrived at the scene of the massacre, local villagers were removing the bodies of the victims from the forest to a burial site in a field called Lluga e Ferizit (in Albanian) near the Delijaj compound. Human Rights Watch observed the bodies of three victims, wrapped in blankets, being carried out from the site on home-made stretchers. One of the bodies was that of an infant, Valmir Delijaj, eighteen months old. Seven other bodies, identified by family members as Zahide, Gentjana, Donjeta, Mehonija, Menduhija, Lumnija, and Hamide, were still lying in the forest, apparently where they had been killed three days before.
Fazli Delijaj - Family Patriarch, Burned to Death
Human Rights Watch encountered a group of international journalists while walking to the forest, who said that they had seen three bodies inside Gornje Obrinje. One body was found inside a home, they said, and had been severely burned. According to the evidence available, this was the body of Fazli Delijaj, the ninety-four-year-old patriarch of the Delijaj family. Family members told Human Rights Watch that Fazli Delijaj was an invalid who had remained behind in the village because he was unable to run away to the forest.11 Jonathan Steele of the Guardian (London) described finding the body of Fazli Delijaj in an article about the massacre:
We walked out of the wood [of the massacre site] to a field where men with spades were starting to dig graves in the damp ground, and on up to the hill to Gornje Obrinje. The first family compound we reached was still smouldering. In a charred living room littered with tiles from the collapsed roof, a villager pointed out the thin torso of a 95-year-old family elder.12
Another journalist on the scene, Tom Walker of the Times (London), described the condition of Fazli's body in his article:
A young man crunched through the roof tiles and rubble of a room blackened by heat and flame. In the corner lay a torso, its flesh baked brown. My father, said the man. Fazli Delijaj, we were told, had been 95.13
Bashkim Delijaj, the twenty-one year old son of Fazli Delijaj, discovered the burned body of his father on Monday, September 28. Bashkim had stayed with his father until he was forced to flee shortly before Serbian infantry entered the Delijaj compound. He told Human Rights Watch, I told my father that I was going to keep the animals out of the cornfields because I didnt want to tell him the truth about the soldiers who were approaching.14 Bashkim told Human Rights Watch what he found when he returned to the village with his uncle Imer Delijaj two days later:
After we found the body of Adem [see below], I told Imer, Lets go see my father, and we went. I looked through the window, but nothing was left of my father. I saw only the bones, which looked like what we had learned in biology class. He had burned.15
Interviewed separately, Imer Delijaj confirmed Bashkims description of Fazli.16
On Monday morning, September 28, Imer Delijaj, a self-acknowledged KLA fighter, and Bashkim Delijaj returned to the Delijaj compound to find out what had happened to their families. Imer told Human Rights Watch how they discovered the body of his brother Adem, thirty-three, near the gate of Imers home:
When Bashkim and I came to our neighborhood, we saw Alis and Pajazits houses burned. Uncle Sherifs house was also burned. When I came to my house, in the entrance I saw Adem, my brother, about four or five meters from the entrance. He was dead, and there were about sixteen bullet casings around his body and near the entrance. He was not mutilated, but he had three bullet wounds to his head and his chest. It was raining and he was my brother, so I could not leave him in the rain, so I dragged him into a covered place and let him rest there. Adem was thirty-three years old, and had never been armed in his life. He never had problems with the government or the KLA.17
Bashkim Delijaj, interviewed separately by Human Rights Watch, presented an almost identical version of events.
The last person to see Adem Delijaj alive was fifteen-year-old Blerim Delijaj. Blerim told Human Rights Watch that he was walking toward the house of his uncle, Zeqir Delijaj, together with Zeqir and his other uncle, Adem, at about 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 26. When they reached Zeqirs home, an armed policeman emerged from the house, ordered the trio to stop, and immediately began shooting at them. Blerim ran towards the Hysenaj compound together with Adem and Zeqir, but soon lost track of the other two men. He told Human Rights Watch, I was running faster and was the farthest away [from the policeman], so I got away.18 Zeqir Delijaj was among the persons killed in the forest (see below).
Fourteen Dead in the Forest
Fourteen bodies were found around the forest hide-out of the Delijaj family, in addition to the bodies of four men found around the Delijaj compound itself, bringing the total number of bodies buried on September 29 toeighteen. Several of the bodies in the forest were in the process of being removed for burial when Human Rights Watch researchers arrived at the scene. Local villagers, including Imer Delijaj, who was among the first to find the bodies, reconstructed the location of all persons killed. Human Rights Watch was able to gather photographic and testimonial evidence to establish the identity of all persons found at the massacre site, as well as the conditions in which they were found. The detailed descriptions of the gunshot wounds, knife cuts, and mutilations found on the bodies are disturbing, but are essential to understand that this was not an incidental killing during combat but rather a direct attack on a group of defenseless civilians. All bodies found in the forest were dressed in civilian clothes, and there was no evidence of any resistance to the attack.
The bodies were first discovered by Zenjije Delijaj when she went to the forest on Sunday morning, September 27, at about 8 a.m. to tell Imers family what had happened to Habib, Hysen and Adem Delijaj (see below). Early Monday morning, Imer and Bashkim Delijaj went to the forest and also saw the fourteen bodies. A U.S. team of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM) visited the site on Monday afternoon. They took extensive photographs and included their findings in that days confidential report, which has not yet been released to the public.
On Tuesday morning, researchers from Human Rights Watch traveled to the site, as did some international journalists. The victims were buried on Tuesday in the early afternoon while Human Rights Watch researchers were still at the scene.
The body of Ali Delijaj, sixty-eight, was found near the path just as it entered the forest grove. Photographs obtained by Human Rights Watch clearly show that Alis throat had been slit. The knife that was apparently used in the killing was left lying on his chest; villagers told Human Rights Watch that the knife was his own. Villagers believed that the elderly Ali had remained behind in the village of Gornje Obrinje while the family sought shelter in the forest, and that the police had captured Ali and forced him to lead them to the family's forest shelter before they killed him.
Zejnije Delijaj told Human Rights Watch that, when she found Ali, there was a scarf covering his face and I saw the blood. I removed the scarf and saw that his throat had been cut.19 Imer Delijaj told Human Rights Watch how he found Alis body the next day:
About thirty meters from the tent, we found the body of Ali Delijaj, sixty-five, who was cut on his throat with his own knife lying on his chest. I turned him and saw he had a wound to the back of the head. I turned him again and placed him back in the same position I had found him. He always had his knife with him for cutting tobacco.20
The Delijaj family believes that Ali decided to return to his tobacco storage shed near the Delijaj compound when he was captured by the Serbian police, and was then forced by the police to take them to the forest hideout. According to the family members, Ali had freshly cut tobacco in his pocket when he was killed.
Hava and Pajazit Delijaj
About sixty feet down the forest path from Ali's body was the temporary shelter the Delijaj family had constructed in the forest, a wooden frame with a green tarp covering three foam mattresses. Human Rights Watch saw that the middle mattress was soaked with blood, and that a human brain remained on the mattress on the left side of the shelter. According to diplomatic observers and journalists who visited the scene while all of the bodies were still in the forest, the bodies of Hava Delijaj, a sixty-two-year-old woman, and Pajazit Delijaj, a sixty-nine-year-oldman, were found in the tent. These sources described Hava Delijaj as having a gunshot wound to the head and a cut throat. The diplomatic sources further observed that Havas right foot was almost severed from the body, apparently in an attempt to remove the foot with a knife. Pajazit was nearly decapitated with his brain fully removed from the cranium and lying next to his body.
Zejnije Delijaj described to Human Rights Watch what she found inside the tent on September 27:
I saw Pajazits body lying on his stomach and part of his head had been blown off. He was on the right side of the tent if you are facing it. The left side of his head was missing, and his brain had slipped between the mattresses. The mattress was filled with blood. Then I saw Havas body lying outside the tent and her legs were deeply cut with a knife. She was lying on her back and her legs were spread. There was lots of blood around her.21
This account was confirmed by Imer and Bashkim Delijaj in separate interviews. Imer told Human Rights Watch that Havas leg was deeply cut, and that only a small piece of skin and meat was keeping the leg together.22 Imer and Bashkim decided to move Havas body inside the tent, because it was raining.
Down the forest path, a small gully veered off to the right. The bodies of eleven persons, mostly women and children, were found along the narrow gully, which measured only a few hundred feet in length. Most were shot in the head, and the fact that they were found in an area of thick brush supports the conclusion that they were executed at close range, possibly as they attempted to flee from their pursuers.
Hamide, Jeton, Luljeta, and Valmir Delijaj
A group of four bodies was found by family members, diplomatic observers, and journalists a few feet up the narrow gully. This group included one of the youngest victims of the attack, eighteen-month-old Valmir Delijaj, found with a blood-splattered face. Jeton Delijaj, a nine-year-old boy, was found close by, reportedly with his throat cut from the jugular to the lower lip by a knife or a bullet.23
In his interview with Human Rights Watch, Imer Delijaj described finding these bodies, which included several immediate family members:
I continued up the gully, and saw my nine-year-old son Jeton. He had a wound from his left ear to his mouth. I hope it was from a bullet and not a knife [so he would not have suffered]. It is the only body which I am not sure how he was killed. One shoe was on and one shoe was off.
Five meters away was my sixty-year-old mother, Hamide, lying on her left side. She had a wound on the right side of her head and a small wound on her chest. I think she was killed with a warm weapon [a gun] from a close distance. I think she was shot in the face, not killed with a knife.
Nearby was the body of Luljeta, the pregnant wife of my brother, about to give birth any day. We had even decided on a name for the baby, Malsore, which means mountain girl and relates to our suffering in the mountains. Luljeta was the same as Hamide. Their legs were together. She was lying on her right side and she had wounds on the left side of her face. She was hit a little more onthe back of the head, and there was a small wound on her nose. A smaller wound was on her left shin.
The other body was that of Valmir, the eighteen-month-old son of Adem. He had a wound on the right side of his face near his jaw, and on his right hand he had a hole but not from a bullet, and other small wounds on his body. His pacifier was hanging on his chest.
I suppose, and I hope, that all the bodies from my mother up were killed with warm weapons [guns] from a close range.24
The testimony of Zejnije Delijaj, interviewed separately by Human Rights Watch, matched the description of the bodies given by Imer down to specific details. One variation was her description of the pregnant Luljeta. She said:
Luljeta was cut all over, starting from the shoulder going down to the stomach. It was a big cut, like from her breast to her stomach. She was wearing clothes but they were cut too.25
Lumnije, Mihane, Menduhije, Diturije and Zeqir Delijaj
Imer found the body of his wife, Lumnije, lying next to his six-week-old daughter Diturije, who amazingly survived the attack. Zejnije had seen the bodies the day before, but had not realized that the baby Diturije was still alive. She told Human Rights Watch:
I saw Lumnije, Imers wife, lying on her right side and Diturije was under her left arm. Lumnijes face was cut all over, and her left arm above the baby was also cut with a knife. The babys mouth was full of bood from her mothers left arm. I did not know that she was still alive.26
More than twenty-four hours after Zejnije visited the site, Imer and Bashkim found the young baby alive. Imer recounted the horrible discovery to Human Rights Watch:
I next found the body of my wife, Lumnije. She was lying on her right side, and the two girls were next to her, one in front and one behind. The mothers hand was on the baby [six-week-old Diturije]. At that moment, she opened her eyes, not totally but halfway, and I realized she was alive. I was trying to clean the blood out of her mouth, and she stuck her tongue out a little.
I left the bodies and took the clothes off the baby. It was a terrible smell. I checked her and saw she was not wounded. I dressed her again and covered her in my jacket.27
Human Rights Watch visited the baby Diturije on November 8 in Likovac, where she was staying with relatives. Sadly, she died on November 19, reportedly due to a lack of medical care.28
Lying nearby were the bodies of four-year-old Menduhije, daughter of Imer and Lumnije, Imers cousin Zeqir, forty-four, and twenty-five-year-old Mehane, the wife of Adem. Imer described Mihanes condition:
The next body, parallel with another, was Mihane, twenty-five, the mother of Valmir. She was lying on her stomach, and her internal organs were spilling out through a big hole in her back. It looked like an explosion not from a gun but from a grenade.29
Photographs obtained by Human Rights Watch confirm the condition of Mihanes body.
Neither Imer not Zejnije got a close look at Menduhije; both only saw that her hair was covered with blood. According to Zejnije, Zeqir was full of blood from head to toe.30
Zahide Delijaj and Her Two Daughters, Donjeta and Gentjana
On top of the thickly wooded gully, Human Rights Watch saw three more bodies. Zahide Delijaj, twenty-seven, was found at the edge of the gully, apparently shot as she was trying to climb out. A bullet had shot away the back of her head. Zahide was only wearing socks, not shoes, suggesting that she may have been resting in the tent at the time of the attack. Her two daughters lay dead immediately behind her. Five-year-old Donjeta had an apparent gunshot wound that had removed part of the right side of her face. Seven-year-old Gentjana had the top of her head removed, apparently by a bullet.
Zejnije became too disturbed before reaching these bodies, and turned back. Imer also gave a limited description of these bodies, partly because he had just found his dead wife and children and was severely traumatized. According to Bashkim, he and Imer briefly went to look at Zahide and her two daughters before returning to Imers wife and children, where they found Diturije still alive. Imer described what he remembered to Human Rights Watch:
Donjeta, who was five years old, was lying face down. She had a wound on her left shoulder and behind her right ear... Her face looked deformed, and was turned to the ground.... I cant describe the body of Gentjana, who was seven years old. I cannot remember her wounds so it is better not to talk about it.
The other body was Zahide Delijaj, their mother. She had a big wound to the top of the head, but her brain was not missing. I did not turn her over because it would be against our traditions.
After this, I searched for the four missing children,31 with the baby on my shoulder, but I could not find them.32
Both Imer and Bashkim stated that Bashkim was severely traumatized by seeing the bodies of his deceased relatives and was hysterical at times. However, his account of their findings in the forest, given separately to Human Rights Watch, closely mirrors the testimonies given by Imer and Zejnije.
The Killing of Hajriz Delijaj
According to the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, a local human rights group, the body of Hajriz Delijaj, thirty-four, was found in a water well near Gornje Obrinje on October 21, 1998. Hajriz, the husband of massacre victim Zahide Delijaj and father of Gentjana and Donjeta Delijaj, had been missing since the time of the massacre. The Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms reported that, [t]he victim'scorpse was mutilated, his throat was cut and he was shot on his head from close range.33 Human Rights Watch viewed photos taken during the funeral of Hajriz, and these photos indicate trauma to the head of the victim.
The Killing of Habib, Hysen, Antigona and Mihane Delijaj
In addition to the fourteen members of the Delijaj family hiding in the forest, a smaller group from the family fled from the village and fell victim to a separate series of killings near Gornje Obrinje. This group included Habib and his wife Zejnije; Hysen and his wife Floria; an aunt of Habib named Maliqe; Hysens two daughters (by an earlier marriage), Antigona and Mihane; and the two young children of Hysen and Floria, named Mentor and Ajete. The story of the survivors of this group, some of the witnesses who were closest to the killings near the Delijaj compound, provide important clues as to what happened during the offensive.
According to separate interviews with Zejnije and Floria, on Friday, September 25, these family members were in Gornje Obrinje when the shelling started around 8 a.m. As the attack started, they fled toward the woods the Albanians call Zabele, where the extended family of Imer Delijaj was sheltering in the makeshift tent. They found all of their relatives alive in the forest and stayed with them during Friday. On Friday night at about 9 p.m., this part of the Delijaj family went back to the Delijaj compound, leaving the extended family of Imer behind in the forest. They hid for the night in a large hole dug by Habib near his home which was covered with leaves.
On Saturday, at about 4 a.m., the family woke and Habib said they should flee into the hills. Habib and his wife, Zejnije, Antigona, Mihane, and Mentor left at this time, leaving Hysen and Floria, Maliqe, and Ajete in the dugout hole. Habib and his family went by foot to Terdevac, where they arrived at about 8 a.m. and started a cooking fire in a field. Almost immediately, shelling started close to the field, and the family was forced to run away. They found shelter in the nearby woods and were told by an acquaintance they encountered that Sherif Delijaj had been wounded and that the Delijaj compound had been burned. As of January 21, 1999, Sherif Delijaj remains missing.
At 5 p.m. on Saturday, Habib decided the group should return to Gornje Obrinje to find out what had happened to Hysen and the others left behind. They walked back to Gornje Obrinje and managed to cross the main road to Likovac despite a large police presence. The group hid as a large convoy of tanks and APCs was leaving Gornje Obrinje and heading back towards Likovac. After waiting half an hour in the bushes, they tried to move but were spotted by the police and came under heavy fire, forcing them to separate. Zejnije Delijaj told Human Rights Watch what happened:
We tried to approach the compound, but as soon as we stood up we saw infantry, five or six of them, and they immediately started shooting at us. They heard the leaves. We all ran off in different directions. I was crawling along the road away from Likovac. Antigona is all I saw as she lay on the ground hiding from the bullets. I was the closest to the police, and I could feel the dirt flying against my leg as the bullets hit the ground.
I didnt know which direction I was crawling. They were constantly shooting. They thought we were KLA. First they were shooting with machine guns but then they started using other weapons. All the time I was crawling I could hear the shooting until 1 a.m. I didnt know where the others were.34
Throughout the night, Zejnije, now separated from the rest of her family, was fired upon by the police when she tried to move. While crawling, she fell into a deep hole, injuring her face and losing consciousness for several
hours (her injuries were still visible when she was interviewed by Human Rights Watch more than a month later). On Sunday morning, she reached the Hysenaj compound and was again forced to seek shelter when police fired at her from the direction of Likovac. Later, she said, she was briefly detained by a group of police in dark-brown or grey camouflage uniforms with helmets, possibly members of the anti-terrorist police (SAJ). She was allowed to leave and managed to return to the Delijaj compound which was completely burned down by the time she arrived. When she passed the house of Imer Delijaj, she found Adem Delijajs body near the gate (see above).
Zejnije then went to the hiding place that Habib had dug to see if anyone was there. She found only the elderly Maliqe, who told her that Habib had returned during the night and told everyone that they had been shot at and that he was convinced that Zejnije, Mihane and Antigona had been killed. According to Zejnije, Maliqe also told her that Habib had taken Floria, Hysen, Mentor, and Ajete to go find out what had happened to Zejnije and his two daughters. At 7:30 a.m., Floria returned to the hiding place with Mentor and Ajete and said that Habib and Hysen had been killed by the police during the search.
Zejnije said Floria explained to her how Habib and Hysen had been killed. The group had walked toward the police while looking for Zejnije, Mihane, and Antigona. The police stopped them and interrogated them about the location of the KLA. Habib reportedly replied that he had come only to retrieve the bodies of his wife and the daughters of his brother Hysen. The police then asked about the whereabouts of Habibs son Dr. Sami Delijajdoctors have repeatedly been targeted by police, who believe they are providing medical care to the KLA35and Habib replied that he was in Pritina. Floria then told Zejnije that the police began to beat Habib. When Habib fell down, a policeman loaded his rifle and fired at Habib, killing him. Hysen, who had mental problems according to family members, started waving his arms and screaming loudly when he saw his brother killed. He himself was then shot twice in the head. Floria told Zejnije that Mentor was screaming and ran toward Habib, but a policeman slapped the young boy and said either Brze, which means faster in Serbian, or Bezi, which means get out of here.
Journalists who visited the scene on September 29, 1998, described finding the bodies of Habib Delijaj, fifty-five, and Hysen Delijaj, fifty-two, at the end of a set of tank tracks. According to one report, the top of Hysen Delijajs head had been shot off.36 The location of the bodies according to journalists is consistent with the account Floria gave to Zejnije.
Imer Delijaj also described finding Habibs and Hysens bodies. He said:
According to what Floria said, I looked for the bodies on Monday, September 28, and Tuesday. Around 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. I found them.... Habib was mutilated in a terrible way. His brain was out. He was cut with a knife on his back. He had bruises on his face, but no wounds on his chest. He had a cross cut on his back and stab wounds around the lower torso.37
Human Rights Watch also conducted a separate interview with Floria. Her account is largely consistent with Zejnijes and Imers but does contain some minor discrepancies. According to family members, including Dr. Sami Delijaj, Floria has a history of mental problems as a result of having had meningitis as a child. The main difference is over the precise location of Habibs and Hysens death: according to Florias direct testimony, the group was at Florias home collecting some goods when the police detained and killed the two men, rather than on the road where the bodies were found.
Many other details of Florias account, however, are consistent with what Zejnije says Floria told her on September 27. In both accounts, Habib asked the police about his daughters and was questioned by the police about the KLA for a very short time. Both accounts describe how Habib was beaten and killed first, and how Hysen was killed after he became hysterical about Habibs death. Small details are consistent throughout, such as the fact that the policeman loaded his rifle after Habib was beaten and that Mentor tried to run to his uncle but was sent away by a policeman. Looking at the physical evidence at the scene, Human Rights Watch believes that the first account Floria gave to Zenjija is the most probable version of events. Regardless, both accounts and the physical evidence lead to the same conclusion: Habib and Hysen Delijaj were summarily murdered by Serbian police.
Another detail consistent in Florias and Zejnijes accounts is the presence in Gornje Obrinje of an ethnic Albanian policeman named Xhafer Qorri. According to Florias direct testimony, and the testimony of Zejnije, Habib recognized Qorri while they were being questioned by the police. Floria did not know Qorri herself, but heard Habib mention his name. According to Floria, Qorri left the scene before Habib and Hysen were killed, but it is certain that Qorri would have been able to identify the policemen who killed Habib and Hysen, as well as some of the others involved in the Gornje Obrinje action. But his testimony will never be heard.
Xhafer Qorri was shot and killed together with two local Serbs at the municipal power station in Glogovac on December 11, 1998. Human Rights Watch learned that Qorri had been responsible for policing five villages in the Glogovac area since 1968, including Donje and Gornje Obrinje. He had recently come out of retirement and lived in Glogovac with his family. This was not the first time he had been attacked, since Albanians in the area knew that he worked for the police.
While at the scene of the massacre on September 29, Human Rights Watch was told by surviving Delijaj family members that the two young girls, Antigona and Mihane Delijaj, fourteen and sixteen respectively, were missing. As discussed above, the two girls went missing after being shot at near the road to Likovac on the evening of Saturday, September 26.
The decomposing bodies of the two girls were found about one kilometer from the Delijaj compound on October 4, 1998, by members of the Delijaj family. Human Rights Watch visited the site where the bodies were found, just off the main road leading from Gornje Obrinje to Likovac. A few meters from the site was a small, recently dug hole reinforced with stones, which Imer Delijaj claimed was a bunker dug by the Serbian police, who were guarding the road. Human Rights Watch inspected the bunker and found an empty amunition box for 7.62 mm bullets issued to the Yugoslav forces. Allegations by the family and the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms38 that the two girls had been raped before being murdered could not be confirmed by Human Rights Watch.
The Killings at the Hysenaj Compound of Gornje Obrinje
Of the members of the Delijaj family who were present at the make-shift shelter in the forest, only four young children survived: five-year-old Besnik, three-year-old Liridona, thirteen-month-old Arlinda, and two-year-old Albert. Human Rights Watch met five-year-old Besnik, but did not attempt to interview him because of his age and the traumatic nature of the events he may have witnessed. A psychologist who was treating Besnik, Dr. Gani Halilaj, told Human Rights Watch that the young boy was suffering from classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome; namely, being uncommunicative and frequently staring off into space, a stark contrast with his bright and talkative personality prior to the incident in the forest.39
An uncle of Besnik told Human Rights Watch that Besnik had not given an overall account of the massacre, but he had told family members bits of information which strongly suggested that he had witnessed at least some of the forest massacre. According to the uncle, Besnik told him that he knows how to load a gun because he saw the police do it, and he described policemen in camouflage paint being present in the forest.40 According to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), a respected local human rights group, Besnik also described to his uncle Imer how he saw Ali Delijaj killed with a blow to the head by a black manperhaps a policeman with camouflage paint on his face or wearing a ski mask.41
How and why Besnik and the three other children survived remains unclear. For whatever reason, at least one policeman took the children and brought them unharmed to the Hysenaj compound in Gornje Obrinje about two kilometers from the massacre site. Human Rights Watch first saw the four children on September 29, just before visiting the massacre site near the Delijaj compound. At that time, an elderly women, Shehide Hysenaj, showed Human Rights Watch researchers the bodies of three people killed by the police, including her elderly husband Rrustem (see below). The four children were also present and Shehide told Human Rights Watch that, these children saved my life. A second visit to Shehide by Human Rights Watch in November revealed how the three victims were killed, and how the four children apparently survived.42
According to Shehide, by the time the police reached the Hysenaj compound of Gornje Obrinje on September 27, most of the villagers had fled with their possessions into the nearby forest, called, in Albanian, Brija e Terdefcit. Aside from Shehide, three villagers remained in the compound: Shedides husband Rrustem, seventy-three, and a displaced couple from Gremnik village, Ali Koludra, sixty-two, and his wife Hyra Koludra, fifty. The four were having dinner on Saturday, September 27, when policemen entered the compound and started burning homes. Shehide described to Human Rights Watch how she lost contact with the other three people that Saturday night. She told Human Rights Watch:
When we were sitting in the yard, the police started burning in the village, and they started burning our house. Ali, Hyra, and Rrustem ran toward the house to see what was happening. I remained in the yard near our well and spent all night alone. I couldnt see them anymore. The chickens were escaping from the flames and coming toward the place I was sitting.43
Early Sunday morning, Shehide went to the forest in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the members of the Hysenaj family hiding there. At about 7 or 8 a.m., she decided to return to her burned home to find the three people she had left. When she reached the well where she had been sheltering, she noticed a group of about ten policemen who ordered her to come near in Serbian. When she approached, she noticed several other groups of policemen milling about, as well as many army tanks on the road bisecting the town. The policemen grabbed her, raised her dress to check for weapons, and took her to the home of Shaban Nasufi, the only home in the village left unburned. Inside the home, she found Ali and Hyra, as well as four young childrenthe survivors of the forest massacre:
When I was inside, I saw Ali and Hyra alive. They were sitting in a kind of line. They brought me the four children, and ordered me to feed them and send them to bed. Besnik had blood on his neck and sweater. In the meantime, the police were interrogating Ali and Hyra in Serbian.44
Shehide described to Human Rights Watch how the police questioned the three persons about their ties to the KLA. As Shehide did not speak Serbian, Ali and a policeman who spoke Albanian translated for her during the interogation. The police questioned the three about who belonged to the KLA, and accused the two women of providing food to KLA members and knowing where the KLA was hiding. She then described to Human Rights Watch how she witnessed Hyra being murdered by the police:
They demanded money from us, from Hyra as well. The police accused Hyra of giving food to the KLA. They then slapped Hyra, and two of the police grabbed her by the arms and took her out of the house. They killed her immediately, and mutilated her arms by cutting them with a knife or an axe, I am not sure which. Both the children and I witnessed the killing, I was almost going crazy and the children were screaming.45
After killing Hyra, the police continued to interrogate Ali in front of Shehide. According to Shehide, the police subjected Ali to a severe beating, punching him in the face and kicking him in the ribs with their boots. The police also continued to interrogate Shehide, asking her where her two sons were and again accusing her of providing food to the KLA. An Albanian-speaking policeman wearing an all-black uniform, in contrast to the other policemen who were wearing blue and black camouflage uniforms, led the interrogation. Shehide described the Albanian-speaking policeman as sturdy and big, with a machine gun, a knife, and a radio. While they were being interrogated, the police continued purposefully to burn homes in the village.
At about 2 p.m., according to Shehide, a new group of policemen entered the home, and brutally killed Ali. She said:
At about 2 p.m., another group of policemen came, and they were behaving very brutally, they were merciless. They asked Ali a question, and as he was answering they took him out and killed him. I went out together with the children, screaming and crying for Ali. We saw Ali killed. Two Serb police were carrying him by his armpits. A third policeman took the axe used for cutting wood and hit Ali with the axe on top of the head. The brain came out. Afterwards, they were hitting him in the sides with the axe. They were merciless. After that, they left all together in a group.46
Shehide remained in the house, peering out of a window and observing the police leaving, but was too afraid to leave the house with the screaming children. When she reassured herself that the police had left, she went to the yard of her house and found the body of her husband Rrustem in the yard:
I took the children and went to the yard of my house. I wanted to tell my neighbor about the killings. Suddenly, I spotted my husband, Rrustem. Rrustem was also killed, probably with an axe to his head. His chest also had slashes.47
The detailed testimony of Shehide is corroborated by significant physical evidence. Other witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch at the funeral of Driton Hysenaj confirmed that they had seen Shehide together with the four Delijaj children, Ali, and Hyra in police custody.48 Human Rights Watch researchers at the Hysenaj compound on September 29 observed and photographed the bodies of Rrustem Halilaj and Ali and Hyra Kaludra prior to their burial. Their injuries were consistent with Shehides account. In addition, Shehides brief testimony of September 29 was consistent with the more substantial statement she gave to Human Rights Watch on November 12. Imer Delijaj and many other members of the Hysenaj and Delijaj families, interviewed separately, confirmed that the four children who survived the massacre had been brought by the police to the Hysenaj compound.
The Murder of Driton Hysenaj
Because of the heavy fighting in the Gornje Obrinje area, the approximately 150 residents of the Hysenaj compound fled with their possesions into the forest on Friday, September 25, leaving only a few elderly members of the extended family behind. The Hysenaj clan set up camp in the forest at a place called, in Albanian, Brija e Terdefcit, less than a kilometer away from their compound, and remained there for the next two days. According to the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch at the funeral of Driton, most of the persons staying in the forest were women, children, and the elderly, with only a few younger men. None of them were armed, according to those present.
On Sunday, September 27, some time between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Serb forces surrounded the displaced community in the forest, apparently after following a young boy to the forest camp. Daut Hysenaj, who was present in the forest, told Human Rights Watch what happened next:
The police separated the men from the women, and then stripped the men naked at that very place. Then they bound the men two by two and ordered us to walk to the Hysenaj compound.49
The stripsearch conducted by the police turned up no weapons, not even a jack knife, according to Brahim Hysenaj, who was also present.50 While being searched, the men were subjected to a severe beating, and were hit with rifle butts. The jaw of one man, Raif Hysenaj, was broken at this time.51
The police selected a group of twenty-two men, allowed them to dress, and marched them back to the Hysenaj compound, where they were ordered to sit in front of a hedge. According to Brahim Hysenaj, who was one of the twenty-two men, there were several hundred policemen in the Hysenaj compound by the time the men arrived. The men witnessed the police burning the homes around them. Brahim told Human Rights Watch:
We saw the police burning the houses. They used some type of spray with a pump to spray the area of the house, and when they shoot, the spray ignites immediately. I saw them spraying the houses, but we didnt dare to look any more.52
The police continued to beat the men at the compound. Daut Hysenaj told Human Rights Watch:
The policemen started beating us again. As we were lined in a queue, they came to us. The first group of policemen slapped us, and the second group started punching us. A third group began hitting us with their rifle butts. They asked no questions. This lasted about fifteen or thirty minutes. We were handcuffed or tied while being beaten.53
After the beating, the policemen appropriated a tractor, burning all the food loaded in its attached lorry. The policemen ordered the twenty-two men, still tied two by two, to climb into the lorry, and they were driven on the dirt road to Likovac, the functional headquarters for the governments offensive. Both Daut and Brahim Hysenaj,interviewed separately, described a nightmarish journey that included the murder by knife of one young boy, Driton Hysenaj. Brahim Hysenaj said:
While being taken to Likovac, we had to pass through the Delijaj compound, and we saw the policemen burning the houses all along the road. The driver of the tractor would stop by the road and let the policemen beat us. They beat us with whatever was available, including wooden sticks.54
When the men finally arrived in Likovac, some of the policemen shouted that the tractor was carrying captured KLA members. Without warning, according to Daut and Brahim, an unidentified policeman ran up to the trailer, grabbed sixteen-year-old Driton Hysenaj by the hair, and slit his throat with a large knife. Brahim said:
In Likovac, the police claimed that they had brought in some KLA, so in one moment, a policeman ran up to the tractor, grabbed this guy by the hair [Driton Hysenaj] and slit his throat. I was wearing white socks and they became red because the tractor did not have a place to let the blood drain. Another policeman cut the rope of the guy tied to Driton with a foot-long knife. The other guy tied to Driton [Qerim Hysenaj] was very afraid and tried to move far from the police because he thought they might kill him as well. His arm was already broken from the previous beatings.55
According to Brahim, himself a former Yugoslav army officer, the policeman who killed Driton was wearing a brown, black, and yellow camouflage uniform and a darker handkerchief on his head. The witness specifically distinguished the killers uniform from the blue and black camouflage uniforms worn by many of the regular MUP forces.56 According to sources familiar with MUP uniforms, the brown, black, and yellow uniforms are worn by the special anti-terrorist force, or SAJ (Specijalna Antiteroristicka Jedinica). The eyewitness also claimed that many other policemen in the area witnessed the killing of Driton, and that none of the policemen attempted to intervene.57
The body of Driton Hysenaj was taken away by the police, and remained unaccounted for until November 13, 1998, when his remains were found in a shallow grave in Likovac by a local villager gathering soil to rebuild his home. A Human Rights Watch researcher attended Dritons burial in Gornje Obrinje on November 14, and observed that the severely decomposed remains were dressed in civilian clothing. The advanced state of decomposition made it impossible to document the alleged knife wound without a forensic investigation.
Arbitrary Detention and Abuses in Custody
The ordeal of the twenty-two men taken from the Hysenaj compound to Likovac did not end with the murder of Driton Hysenaj. After the murder, the remaining twenty-one men were told to get out of the tractor and were surrounded by a crowd of policemen which was estimated by one of the men to have been as many as 500. The Yugoslav forces in Likovac at the time included regular MUP paramilitary police, special anti-terrorist units (SAJ), and Yugoslav Army troops, as observed by the surviving men. The men were again beaten by some of these forces with wooden clubs and metal pipes until a police commander intervened and stopped the beatings. The men were then forced to board an army truck, which took them to the Glogovac police station. On the way to the police station, the army truck, driven by soldiers, stopped at the Rezalla and Morina police checkpoints and allowed the policemen on duty to beat the men some more.58
At Glogovac police station, the men joined several hundred others who had been detained during the recent offensive. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they were extensively interrogated by the police about their ties to the KLA. One detainee claimed that one of the policemen who interrogated them in Glogovac was Xhafer Qorri, the ethnic Albanian policeman who other witnesses claimed was present around Gornje Obrinje during the offensive. According to Brahim Hysenaj, when one of the detainees told Qorri about the death of Driton Hysenaj, Qorri handed the detainee over to another policemen who threatened to go to the house of the detainee and rape his wife and daughters.59 While the men were being interrogated and beaten, the police turned on the engine of an armored personnel carrier to drown out the screaming. One witness described being beaten with wooden clubs during his interrogation.
The detainees were forced to sing Serbian songs by the police. According to Brahim Hysenaj, his brother was fed up with the Serb provocations and stood up during the singing to say Hail Kosova Republic. His brother was beaten unconscious by several policemen, Brahim said, and the others were warned that they would all be killed if a similar incident happened again. Another man, Faik Asllani, was brutally beaten in front of the men, ostensibly because some members of the Asllani clan are major figures in the KLA. According to Brahim Hysenaj, It was raining and they just beat him and threw him in the gutter and left him. We just saw his chest moving and realized he was still breathing and alive.
Most of the men were released beginning Wednesday, September 30, 1998, but Brahim Hysenaj claimed to Human Rights Watch that fifty-six men were taken to Pritina and charged with terrorism. One elderly man, sixty-year-old Zymer Hysenaj, was released on Wednesday and was so exhausted that he had to be helped home. He was left at a place near his home by his fellow detainees, but has not been seen since.
Hundreds of other men were arrested during the offensive in the Drenica region and the Cicavica mountains, and some were held at Glogovac police station simultaneously with and prior to the arrival of the men from the Hysenaj compound. One other group of men included Avni Hysenaj, the twenty-five-year-old son of Shehide and Rrustem Hysenaj (see above), who was among those rounded up by the police in the Cicavica mountains. Avni Hysenaj told Human Rights Watch that he had been with a large group of internally displaced persons, hiding in the forest near a place called, in Albanian, Fusha e Korhices, when they were surrounded by a combined force of police and military (including tanks) on Wednesday, September 24, 1998. The police allowed the displaced persons to return to a nearby village, and ordered them to bring all their possessions and tractors out of the forest, threatening to destroy anything left behind. At 5 a.m. on Thursday, September 25, the police surrounded the village and began to separate the men from the women. About 200 men were videotaped, photographed, and their personal details processed by the police. According to Avni Hysenaj, the police commander at the scene identified himself as the commander of the police station at Srbica.60 A few older men were then released, while the other men were taken to the yard of a house where policemen were cooking food and some soldiers were milling around. Avni Hysenaj told Human Rights Watch about the beatings that ensued:
We were sent to a house yard where the police were cooking. They ordered us to put our hands on the cars and they started kicking us. They took our wallets and money. Then, they ordered us to put our hands against the wall and we were kept there for one and a half hours, until a truck to transport us came.
Three youngsters from Prekaz were taken into the house and brutally beaten. We had to wait until this beating was finished. I saw them when they came out, they were bleeding with broken bones in their faces. The police said they were cousins of Adem Jashari61 and other such things.62
When the wives of the men attempted to intervene and begged the police for their husbands release, the police responded with profanities and threats that all of the men would be killed. The men were then forced to walk down a road with burning hedges on both sides toward the truck, where the police again beat them in order to force the estimated 200 men into a single truck. The men were taken to Glogovac, where they were again beaten with clubs, metal pipes, and boots while unloading from the truck, according to Avni Hysenaj.
The large group of men from many areas of the Drenica region was kept at the Glogovac police station in a large concrete room until they gradually began to be released on Saturday, September 27. The men were fingerprinted, tested for traces of gunpowder, and they were interrogated aggressively about their ties to the KLA and the whereabouts of missing Serbs. Avni Hysenaj told Human Rights Watch:
First, they fingerprinted us three times each, and then they conducted gunpowder tests on our faces and hands. They were asking who belonged to the KLA. They told me that I had been a [KLA] soldier and a guard, and I told them that it was not so... A fat policeman, speaking Serbian, asked me who had killed Bulatovic from Likovac. I told them I didnt know, that it was not my interest as an ordinary man...
Then another policeman entered and told me, Yes, now you will tell for sure who killed Bulatovic. They ordered me to put my hands out and hit me with a club ten times on each hand. After this, I could no longer hold out my hands so they held them for me and continued the beating. Then they forced me to bend over a table, and two policemen beat me on the lower back, buttocks, and thighs. They asked me again who had abducted Bulatovic, and I replied: I do not know, comrade. The policeman said he was not my comrade because I was KLA and he was a policeman. I told him that if we could not be comrades, let it be okay. They then beat me again for those words. The one policeman kicked me on the chest with his boots. I told the policeman he was torturing me for no reason, as I was innocent. He replied, This is nothing.63
By coincidence, Human Rights Watch briefly encountered Avni Hysenaj on September 30, 1998, two days after his release from Glogovac police station, while documenting the deaths at the Hysenaj compound. At that time, he showed Human Rights Watch researchers the deep bruises on his lower back and buttocks that were sustained, he claimed, from the beatings in the Glogovac police station. The injuries, long, thin bruises on his lower back and buttocks, photographed by Human Rights Watch, were consistent with his account, at that time and later, of the beatings he had endured.
Many other serious beatings and abuses took place at the Glogovac police station during the three-day period the men were detained. One of the detainees claimed to Human Rights Watch that he saw a military truck being loaded with refrigerators, televisions, VCRs and other electronics that had been stored at the Glogovac police station, and were probably looted from ethnic Albanian homes. On several occasions, Human Rights Watch researcherstraveling in Kosovo personally observed policemen in uniform removing private property from abandoned ethnic Albanian homes. On one occasion, the police took a young man from Krajkova outside the holding room, injured him in the leg, and then told the men: Look what the KLA has done, they have wounded this man. Do not join the KLA, because they will wound you. According to a witness, the police then took the wounded man away, possibly to the Ferrous Nickel plant,64 and they never saw the wounded man again.
On another occasion, a particularly abusive police officer of Montenegrin origin who said he belonged to Vojislav eeljs Radical Party ordered all the detainees to kneel with their heads to the ground. After an estimated two hours, a panic ensued when a group of policemen approached the group and unsheathed their knives. Avni Hysenaj told Human Rights Watch what happened next:
The police took the person who shouted the alarm, and took him into the police station to beat him. Then they handcuffed him to the raised barrel of a tank, and each policeman came in turn to beat him in front of us. He was getting tired and started slumping, and we could see the handcuff cutting into the flesh and the blood running down his arm.65
After this beating, another detainee tried to escape after asking to use the toilet. When he was recaptured, the police put him in a doghouse and forced him to bark like a dog, Avni Hysenaj told Human Rights Watch. The policemen also forced the detainees to sing Serbian nationalist songs, such as:
Ko to laze? Who is lying?
Ko to kaze: Who is saying:
Srbija je mala? Serbia is small?
Nije mala! It is not small!
Nije mala! It is not small!
Tri put ratovala! It fought in three wars!
Dvanajste je, Nineteen twelve,
Dvanajste je Nineteen twelve
Turcin udario! The Turks attacked!
Trinajste je, Nineteen thirteen,
Trinajste je Nineteen thirteen
Srbin pobedio! The Serbs won!
Cetrnajste, Nineteen fourteen,
Cetrnajste Nineteen fourteen
Svaba udario! The Krauts attacked!
Osamnajste, Nineteen eighteen,
Osamnajste Nineteen eighteen
Srbin pobedio! The Serbs won!
Cetrest prve, Forty-one,
Cetrest prve Forty-one
Svaba udario! The Krauts attacked!
Cetrest pete, Forty-five,
Cetrest pete Forty-five
Srbin pobedio! The Serbs won!
According to Avni Hysenaj, Glogovac police commander Poriic was present during most of the beatings, and only intervened once to stop the beatings towards the end of the ordeal.
The tests for gunpowder came back negative for most of this group of detainees. Most of these detainees began to be released in groups on Saturday, September 26. According to the detainees, at least seven persons tested positive for gunpowder, were sent to Pritina, and have not been heard from since.
1 International Committee of the Red Cross statement on Kosovo, September 1998.
2 Jane Perlez, Ethnic Albanians Recount Massacre of a Family in Kosovo, New York Times, November 15, 1998.
4 Human Rights Watch interview with Zejnije Delijaj, Mitrovica, November 11, 1998.
5 Human Rights Watch interview with Bashkim Delijaj, Pritina, November 11, 1998.
6 Human Rights Watch interview with J.J., Belgrade, November 2, 1998. The policeman confirmed the conclusion of Human Rights Watch that the JSO had engaged in sweep up operations in the Deçan area.
7 Media Centar Pritina Press Release, September 26,1998, 13:00 hrs.
8 Media Centar Pritina Press Release, September 26, 1998, 13:00 hrs. Human Rights Watch investigations have established that the killed men were probably not from the exact towns mentioned in the release, but rather from villages in the environs.
9 Media Centar Pritina Press Release, September 27, 1998, 14:00 hrs. The corrected spellings are based on additional research by Human Rights Watch
10 Serb Police Deny Responsibility for Killings, Reuters, September 30, 1998.
11 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gornje Obrinje, September 29, 1998.
12 Jonathan Steele, Among the 16 victims was a baby, beneath her mothers corpse, and a boy, his throat cut, Guardian (London), September 30, 1998.
13 Tom Walker, Hidden Horror Betrays the Butchers of Kosovo, Times (London), September 30, 1998.
14 Human Rights Watch interview with Bashkim Delijaj, Pritina, November 11, 1998.
15 Human Rights Watch interview with Bashkim Delijaj, Pritina, November 11, 1998.
16 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
17 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
18 Human Rights Watch interview with Blerim Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
19 Human Rights Watch interview with Zejnije Delijaj, Mitrovica, November 11, 1998.
20 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
21 Human Rights Watch interview with Zejnije Delijaj, Mitrovica, November 11, 1998.
22 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
23 KosovoWomen, Children Massacred, Reuters, September 30, 1998; Steele, Guardian (London), September 30, 1998.
24 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
25 Human Rights Watch interview with Zejnije Delijaj, Mitrovica, November 11, 1998.
27 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
28 Julius Strauss, Massacre Baby Dies For Lack of Care: Medical Aid Too Late To Save Kosovo Survivor, Daily Telegraph, November 30, 1998.
29 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
30 Human Rights Watch interview with Zejnije Delijaj, Mitrovica, November 11, 1998.
31 The children, Besnik (5), Liridona (3), Albert (2), and Arlinda (13 months) were taken by the police to the Hysenaj compound in Gornje Obrinje (see below).
32 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
33 Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms in Pristina, Report No. 442, October 18-25, 1998.
34 Human Rights Watch interview with Zejnije Delijaj, Mitrovica, November 11, 1998.
35 See a preliminary report by Physicians for Human Rights, Medical group documents systematic and pervasive abuses by Serbs against Albanian Kosovar health professionals and Albanian Kosovar patients, December 23, 1998.
36 Jonathan Steele, Guardian, September 30, 1998.
37 Human Rights Watch interview with Imer Delijaj, Gornje Obrinje, November 10, 1998.
38 See CDHRF: Two new victims of the massacre of the Delijaj family found, ARTA, October 5, 1998.
39 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Gani Halilaaj, Banjice, November 12, 1998.
40 Human Rights Watch interview with uncle of Besnik Delijaj, Drenica, November 12, 1998.
41 Humanitarian Law Center, Mass Killings at Gornje Obrinje Village, 26-27 September 1998 (November 1998).
42 Human Rights Watch interview with Shehide Hysenaj, Trstenik, November 12, 1998.
48 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gornje Obrinje, November 14, 1998.
49 Human Rights Watch interview with Daut Hysenaj, Trstenik, November 12, 1998.
50 Human Rights Watch interview with Brahim Hysenaj, Glogovac, November 12, 1998.
53 Human Rights Watch interview with Daut Basram Hysenaj, Glogovac, November 12, 1998.
54 Human Rights Watch interview with Brahim Hysenaj, Glogovac, November 12, 1998.
57 According to Brahim, the commanding officer was in an army uniform and appeared to be of middle rank. About 400 policemen were in Likovac, he said, wearing a variety of uniforms, including ordinary policemen from the MUP and SAJ forces.
58 Human Rights Watch interview with Brahim Hysenaj, Glogovac, November 12, 1998.
60 Human Rights Watch interview with Avni Hysenaj, Drenica, November 12, 1998.
61 Adem Jashari was the main figure of the Jashari clan from Donji Prekaz and a local member of the KLA. Special police forces attacked the Jashari familys compound on March 5, 1998, killing an estimated fifty-eight people, including eighteen women and ten children under the age of sixteen. (See Human Rights Watch report: Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo, pp. 26-32).
62 Human Rights Watch interview with Avni Hysenaj, Drenica, November 12, 1998.
63 Human Rights Watch interview with Avni Hysenaj, Trstenik, November 12, 1998.
64 There are credible but unproven reports that the Ferrous Nickel plant in Glogovac was used by the police as a temporary detention facility.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with Avni Hysenaj, Trstenik, November 12, 1998.