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New Reports of Atrocities by and Against Serbs

Monitor Wire Services

on Monitor coverage of Kosovo War
In one of the first detailed reports of Serbian "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Yugoslav troops and paramilitaries of killing dozens as well as committing other atrocities in a town that was a stronghold for the KLA rebels.

Just four days before the release of the HRW report, however, NATO authorities also accused ethnic Albanians for the recent systematic killing of 14 Serbian farmers in ambush attack or sniper fire.

HRW report
The HRW report titled "Ethnic Cleansing in the Glogovac Municipality" notes that the rights group declared that Yugoslav forces committed widespread atrocities between March and June this year in the town of 12,000, which doubled in size as nearby villagers were forced into the town. The evidence suggests, the report concludes, that there were "extensive war crimes committed by Yugoslav forces." Witnesses interviewed reported between four and 12 killings in the town itself, although HRW could only confirm four murders.

According to HRW, "Glogovac's residents were repeatedly harassed by Serbian security forces and suffered detentions, beatings, house-to-house searches, robbery, and extortion. Some private homes, shops and businesses were deliberately ransacked, looted, and burned. Finally, the majority of the population was expelled from the town over a five-day period in early May and sent toward the Macedonian border."

Paramilitaries were responsible for the worst violence
Since NATO placed its forces in Kosovo last month, human rights groups have tried to gather evidence on war crimes committed during the 11-week phase, beginning in March, when NATO bombed Yugoslavia and Belgrade allegedly responded by attacking Kosovo's Albanian majority.

HRW officials visited Glogovac on June 25, nine days after NATO troops were deployed in the town. By the time of the rights officials' arrival, HRW estimates that some 20 percent of Glogovac had been destroyed.

Far greater, however, was the number of confirmed lootings, arson and destruction of civilian property. Two-thirds of the Kosovar refugees from Glogovac reported to HRW that they had witnessed at least some acts of arson.

"Within five days of the airstrikes (which began on March 24), they burned the stores," one Glogovac resident told HRW. "Our house was in danger from the fire." She added that the police first looted her home, and then set it on fire.

Similarly, one man told the HRW team that the police destroyed food stocks in the town, claiming that "they just pulled it out... They threw the flour around and poured milk on the floor."

The most serious atrocities, according to the report, took place in the nearby villages of Staro Cikatovo and Stari Poklek -- both of which were areas where the separatist KLA was active.

In Poklek, witnesses said that a grenade was thrown into the house of a family whose members included a local KLA commander and the occupants of the home were then shot. According to numerous testimonies given to HRW, at least 47 people were forced into one room and systematically gunned down by a single Serbian police officer or paramilitary. The precise number of dead is unknown, although it is certain that 23 children under the age of fifteen died in the attack.

"The actions in the Glogovac municipality were clearly coordinated between the regular Serbian police, the Yugoslav Army, and paramilitaries, whom witnesses identified as having long hair and beards, with colored bandannas on their heads and sleeves," HRW said.

Paramilitaries, however, were responsible for the most serious violence, the report added. Some witnesses reported seeing members of the infamous "Arkan's Tigers" -- a militia group led by indicted Serbian war crimes suspect Zeljko Raznjatovic -- in Glogovac but HRW was unable to confirm these claims.

HRW also noted several reports where local police worked with the paramilitaries to extort money from ethnic Albanians. Some residents of Glogovac told Human Rights Watch that the police occasionally pretended to protect them from the paramilitaries who, the police claimed, were "out of their control." In particular, a deputy police commander known as Lutka ('doll') reportedly told residents that he was trying to control the situation as best he could. He even reportedly said on one occasion that he had been "away on vacation," but that order would return now that he was back. Lutka was also the chief police officer responsible for the deportation of Albanians out of Glogovac in May. According to the witnesses, Lutka told the area's Albanians that they should "get on the buses or go to Albania by foot."

KLA Militias Terrorize Kosovo Serbs
The July 23 killing of 14 Serbs in the village of Gracko raises serious questions about the amount of control NATO forces actually have over the troubled region. Col. Ian Waters, NATO chief of the military police in Kosovo, told the press. "This was a specific killing. The people did what they were intending to do."

Although KLA leader Hashim Thaci -- who has also proclaimed himself the Prime Minister of Kosovo -- denied any connection with the Gracko massacre, observers told the London Sunday Times that the claim of innocence was nonsense, and illustrated that a KLA central command has always been a fallacy. "Was the KLA ever a coherent organization?" The Sunday Times was told. "You have to remember it was the West that pressured the KLA to come up with a leadership. The reality is that it is a roots-up organization. There is no command structure."

"Even if the Thaci clique wished to bring the Gracko murderers to justice," The Sunday Times noted, "few believe they are capable of it. If Kosovo allows itself to become consumed again by the blood-feud culture of northern Albania, the killings will not stop with revenge attacks on the few hapless Serb peasants remaining in the central plains."

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Albion Monitor August 2, 1999 (

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