An ad hoc coalition
of NGOs, governments and international organizations began conducting
systematic interviews of refugees who had fled Kosovo for the relative
safety of refugee camps and homes in Macedonia and Albania.
for Human Rights
Physicians for Human Rights
(PHR) and the Program on Forced Migration and Health of Columbia University's
Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health designed a human rights oriented,
epidemiological study to establish patterns of human rights violations
among Kosovar refugees by Serbian forces using a population-based approach.
Rather than seeking out victims or witnesses of abuse, PHR sought to assess
the pervasiveness of abuses. Representatives of these organizations interviewed
1,209 Kosovar refugees in 31 refugee camps and collective centers in Albania
and Macedonia between April 19 and May 3, 1999. The survey assessed human
rights abuses among 11,458 household members at the time that they were
living in Kosovo.
These graves contain the remains of seven of the 20 villagers killed
by Serbian paramilitary forces in April 1999. They were buried at
this site overlooking Vlastica by Kosovar Albanians who returned to
the village in June 1999. Photo date August 1999.
The results of this assessment are contained in Physicians
for Human Rights' report War Crimes in Kosovo, published in August
1999. PHR notes that the findings of their study indicate that Serbian
forces engaged in a systematic and brutal campaign to forcibly expel the
ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo throughout the province. In the course
of these mass deportations, and over the past year in Kosovo, Serbian
forces have committed widespread violations of human rights against Kosovar
Albanians including: killings, beatings, torture, sexual assault, separation
and disappearances, shootings, looting and destruction of property, and
violations of medical neutrality. One in three households reported at
least one of these abuses in the past year, with the majority of abuses
occurring in March and April of 1999.
War Crimes Documentation Project
Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI)
and Coalition for International Justice (CIJ) established a war crimes
documentation project in May 1999 which is ongoing. The purpose of the
project is twofold. The first objective is to assist efforts to investigate
war crimes and prosecute perpetrators. To this end, ABA/CEELI conducted
refugee interviews in Macedonia, Albania and Fort Dix, New Jersey from
May to July 1999. The second objective of the project is to increase public
awareness of war crimes, their prosecution, and the role of the ICTY.
The information collected during the refugee interviews
was entered into a computer database approved by the ICTY. ABA/CEELI issued
a report in August on the uses of this database and the nature of its
data. The database currently includes 1,582 witness statements with 4,328
discrete incidents reported. Reported crimes include torture, destruction
of property, arrests and detentions, forced displacement, harassment,
sexual assaults, and killings. This information has assisted ICTY investigators
with locating witnesses, identifying potential crime scenes and conducting
strategic planning for their investigations.
ABA/CEELI continues to work with the ICTY to refine
the interview process and the computer database to suit ongoing needs.
Consistent with the nature of criminal investigations, the data has not
been collected using scientific sampling techniques, but has revealed
areas where additional human rights documentation will likely be needed.
Medecins sans Frontieres released an April 30 report
of refugee accounts and conducted an epidemiological survey on a population
of 1,537 persons who had arrived at the Rozaje refugee camp in Montenegro.
The survey covered events in more than 50 villages in Kosovo between March
24 and April 15, 1999. This report concludes that the main cause of Kosovo's
mass population movements was deportation under the threat of death; deportation
was accompanied by looting and destruction of victims' possessions; the
methods of enforced deportation were almost identical across Kosovo; identity
papers were systematically confiscated and destroyed by Serbian forces
and the separation of men and women was a common practice during expulsions.
More than half of Medecins sans Frontieres witnesses described murders.