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U.S. Department of State

  Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting
   U.S. State Department Report • December 1999

Executive Summary
Documenting the Abuses

The Refugee Interview Process
Postscript: Albanian Retribution and Missing Persons
Atrocities and War Crimes by Location
Appendix: List of Annotated Web Sites

Documenting the Abuses

The following is a partial list of war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law, or other human rights violations reported throughout Kosovo:

Forcible Displacement of Ethnic Albanian Civilians
Serbian authorities conducted a campaign of forced population movement on a scale seldom seen in Europe since the 1940s. They drove the vast majority of the ethnic Albanian population from their homes. The Serbian regime's claim that this population outflow was the result of voluntary flight in fear of NATO airstrikes is not supported by the accounts of victims. Victims consistently reported being expelled from their homes by Serbian forces at gunpoint, in contrast to the fighting of 1998, when the bulk of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees fled to escape the crossfire or to avoid reprisals by Serbian security forces. Many victims were herded onto trains and other organized transport and expelled from the province. In addition, Serbian forces expelled the majority of Kosovar Albanians from urban areas such as Djakovica. Refugees say that those forced to remain behind were used as human shields.

Serbian forces also disguised themselves as refugees to prevent targeting from NATO aircraft. Refugees claimed that on May 6, Serbian forces dressed in white hats and jackets with Red Cross and Red Crescent logos moved with convoys of IDPs between Djakovica and Brekovac. In order to conceal their military cargo, Serbian forces covered their wagons with plastic tarpaulins taken from NGOs.

In contrast to 1998, when Serbian security forces attacked small villages, Yugoslav Army units and armed civilians this year joined the police in systematically expelling ethnic Albanians at gunpoint from both villages and the larger towns of Kosovo. Serbian authorities forced many refugees to sign disclaimers saying they were leaving Kosovo of their own free will. Victims also reported that the Serbian forces confiscated their personal belongings and documentation, including national identity papers, and told them to take a last look around because they would never return to Kosovo. Many of the places targeted had not been the scenes of previous fighting or UCK activity. This indicates that the Serbian expulsions were an exercise in ethnic cleansing and not a part of a legitimate security or counter-insurgency operation, but instead a plan to cleanse the province of a significant proportion of its ethnic Albanian population.

Looting of Homes and Businesses
There are numerous reports from victims and the press of Serbian forces going house to house robbing residents before burning their homes. In addition, Kosovar Albanian victims claimed that Serbian forces robbed them of all their personal belongings before they crossed the borders.

Destroyed village in southern Kosovo
Destroyed village in southern Kosovo. This scene is typical of villages where buildings are being reconstructed this summer that were previously destroyed by Serbian forces in southern Kosovo. Photo date August 1999.

Widespread Burning of Homes
Over 1,200 residential areas, including over 500 villages, were burned after late March, 1999. Most Serbian homes and stores remained intact during the conflict, and Serbian civilians in many towns painted a Cyrillic "S" on their doors so that Serbian forces would not attack their homes by mistake. The destruction is much more extensive and thorough than that which occurred in the summer of 1998. Many settlements were totally destroyed in an apparent attempt to ensure that the Kosovar Albanian population could not return. Serbian forces reportedly burned all houses previously rented to the OSCE in Vucitrn, Stimlje, and Kosovska Mitrovica. Mass burnings of villages waned towards the end of the campaign, by time many Kosovar Albanian homes had been abandoned. Those homes that were still intact were sometimes taken over by Serbian security forces.

Kosovar Albanians have reported that over 500 villages burned from late March 1999. The following villages are confirmed as having been mostly burned or entirely destroyed.

Bela Crvka
Crni Lug
Dobr Do
Donja Penduha
Donja Lapistica
Donji Streoci



Gornja Zakut
Gornje Pakistica
Gornji Crnobreg
Gornji Streoci




Mala Hoca


Novo Selo Begovo



Retimnje Rogovo


Stanica Donje Ljupce
Suvi Do

Vlaski Drenovac


Use of Human Shields
Serbian forces compelled Kosovar Albanians to accompany Serbian military convoys and shield facilities throughout the province. The extent to which civilians were used to shield military assets is difficult to measure, because Serbian units also escorted or herded Kosovar Albanians in the course of military operations.

Beginning in mid-April, Serbian forces used Kosovar Albanian men to shield military convoys from NATO airstrikes. Serbian forces reportedly removed young Kosovar Albanian men from refugee columns and forced them to form a buffer zone around Serbian convoys. Numerous Kosovar Albanians claimed to have witnessed and participated in this activity on the roads between Pec, Djakovica, and Kosovska Mitrovica.

In at least one instance--Korisa--Serbian forces intentionally positioned ethnic Albanians at sites that they believed were targets for NATO airstrikes. In other instances, unconfirmed reports say Kosovar Albanians were kept concealed within NATO target areas apparently to generate civilian casualties that could be blamed on NATO. In addition, Kosovar Albanian reports claimed that Serbian forces compelled Kosovar Albanian men to don Serbian military uniforms, probably so they could not be distinguished by NATO and UCK surveillance.

Kosovar Albanians have claimed that Serbian forces systematically separated military-aged ethnic Albanian men--ranging from as young as 14 to 59 years old--from the population as they expelled Kosovar Albanians from their homes.

Refugees reported early in April that Serbian forces used the Ferro-Nickel factory in Glogovac as a detention center for a large number of Kosovar Albanians.

According to refugees, a cement factory in Deneral Jankovic had also been temporarily used as a detention center for Kosovar Albanians. The prisoners reportedly were released in late April.

From May 21 to early June, some 2,000 Kosovar Albanian men entered Albania after being detained by Serbian forces for three weeks in a prison in Smrekovnica near Srbica. Serbian authorities were apparently looking for UCK members and sympathizers among the prisoners. While detaining the men, the Serbian authorities forced them to dig trenches and physically abused many of them. After interrogations, the detainees were loaded on buses and driven to Zhure, from where they walked to the border.

Summary Executions
Kosovar Albanians have provided accounts of summary executions and mass graves at about 500 sites throughout Kosovo. In just one example, Serbian security forces reportedly locked an entire family into a house in the Drenica area and burned them alive. In addition to random executions, Serbian forces apparently targeted members of the Kosovar Albanian intelligentsia including lawyers, doctors, and political leaders. Survivors reported that Serbian forces burned bodies exhumed from mass graves in an apparent attempt to destroy forensic evidence of war crimes. Detailed information on these 500 sites are provided below in the section entitled, Atrocities and War Crimes by Location.

Exhumation of Mass Graves
Kosovar Albanian refugees claim that Serbian forces exhumed bodies from mass grave sites from the outset of the conflict, apparently in an attempt to minimize evidence of atrocities. Reports indicate that in some instances Serbian forces re-interred bodies of executed ethnic Albanians in individual graves, while in others corpses were burned. Moving bodies from mass graves to individual graves has impeded the location of execution sites and hampered the ability of forensic investigators to discriminate between "regular" graves and graves containing massacre victims.

One of the most egregious examples is also one of the best-documented. In April, Serbian forces massacred Kosovar Albanian civilians in a field near Izbica, in north-central Kosovo. After the massacre, local Kosovar Albanians buried the victims in individual graves, an event videotaped by a local dentist from a nearby village. The videotape was smuggled out of Kosovo by the UCK. In May, the Department of State showed how the location of the videotape could be corroborated from overhead imagery. Serbian forces, during their retreat from Kosovo in early June, destroyed the graves at Izbica along with other graves of their victims--a fact that the Department of Defense confirmed through imagery at a press briefing in June.

Albanian Retribution
Albanian Retribution. Pristina Orthodox Cathedral. Serbian Orthodox church officials claim that over 40 churches have been damaged or destroyed in acts of Kosovar Albanian retribution since the end of the NATO bombing campaign. This Orthodox cathedral in Pristina was under construction prior to the bombing campaign. In July 1999, a bomb exploded inside the church, probably as an act of retribution. This and many other churches in Kosovo are being protected by KFOR troops, such as those in the armored personnel carrier shown here at the side of this church. Photo date August 1999.

According to Kosovar Albanian reports, Serbian forces in Lipljan, probably in early May, exhumed the bodies of ethnic Albanians who had been executed on April 18. After moving the bodies to a building in the village, Serbian forces reportedly ordered the surviving family members to rebury them in individual graves.

Similarly, Serbian forces exhumed the bodies of at least 50 ethnic Albanians in Glogovac and transported the bodies to the nearby village of Cikatovo on May 15, according to refugee reports. The bodies were then buried in individual graves.

Kosovar Albanians reported in mid-June that Serbian police excavated bodies from a mass grave in Kacanik and moved them to a local cemetery. Residents indicated that the bodies might be those killed by Serbian police in early April.

Numerous reports by Kosovar Albanian refugees reveal that the organized and individual rape of Kosovar Albanian women by Serbian forces was widespread. According to Kosovar Albanians, Serbian forces systematically raped women in Djakovica and Pec. Kosovar Albanian women reportedly were separated from their families and sent to an army camp near Djakovica, where they were raped repeatedly by Serbian soldiers. In Pec, Kosovar Albanians said that Serbian forces rounded up young Kosovar Albanian women and took them to the Hotel Karagac, where they were raped repeatedly. The commander of the local base was said to have used a roster of soldiers' names to allow all of his troops an evening in the hotel. A victim who escaped her captors reported that Serbian forces used a second hotel in Pec, the Metohia, for raping Kosovar Albanian women. In addition to these three specific accounts, numerous Kosovar Albanians claim that during Serbian raids on their villages, young women were gang raped in homes and on the sides of roads. There are probably many more incidents than have not been reported because of the stigma attached to the survivors in traditional Kosovar Albanian society. Medical facilities have reported abortions among refugee women who reported being raped by Serbian forces.

Violations of Medical Neutrality
Serbian forces systematically attacked Kosovar Albanian physicians, patients, and medical facilities. Violations of medical neutrality by Serbian forces include killings, torture, detention, imprisonment, and forced disappearances of Kosovar physicians. In March and April, Serbian health care providers, police and military expelled Kosovar Albanian patients and health care providers from health facilities as protective cover for military activities. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights has received reports of the destruction of at least 100 medical clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals.

Identity Cleansing
There are multiple reports of Serbian forces confiscating identity and property documents including passports, land titles, automobile license plates, identity cards, and other forms of documentation from Kosovar Albanians as they were forced out of villages or as they crossed international borders into Albania or Macedonia. Physicians for Human Rights reports that nearly 60 percent of respondents to its survey observed Serbian forces removing or destroying personal identification documents. Physicians for Human Rights also reported that the intent to destroy the social identity of Kosovar Albanians is also reflected in the number of places of worship, schools, and medical facilities that were destroyed by Serbian forces.