Kosovo: slaughter in Mezha
‘Human rights watch completed a three-day investigation of the slaughter of a group of men, ethnic Albanians, which occurred on 27 April in the village of Mezha, situated to North-West of Jakovice. On the basis of 19 separate interrogations of eye-witnesses the organization came to the conclusion that at least 100 and, maybe, 300 men aged form 16 to 60 were picked out from the column of refugees and methodically executed. The exact number of victims is unknown yet.
In the early morning of 27 April a special unit of Serbian police and a paramilitary unit together with servicemen of the Yugoslavian army were carrying out a methodical purge of all ethnic Albanians in villages between Jakovice and Junik, near the frontier with Albania. In the course of the operation, which started about 7 oclock in the morning, the Yugoslavian security forces drove the inhabitants from the following villages: Pechazh, Nivokaz, Dobrazh, Sheremet, Jahoch, Ponashech, Rachazh, Ramoch, Madanazh and Orize. All the 19 interrogated witnesses are native inhabitants of these villages or came to them from other places in search of refuge. They told the ‘Human rights watch investigators that soldiers and special police troops surrounded the villages, caught the inhabitants and directed them to the road in the direction of Jakovice. Some of Albanians walked, others rode on tractors. Many villages were methodically burned down after they left.
One 18-year-old girl from Dobrazh told that two men from her family, Iber and Avdil, were detained by Serbians when the family was leaving the village. ‘Policemen ordered us to move on, and then we heard shots from Tommy-guns. At present these two men are missed. All peasants from this district were forced to move along the road to Mezha, a small hamlet near the suburbs of Jakovice. The peasants told that during the same day numerous policemen and servicemen staying in the village methodically picked out hundreds of men, ethnic Albanians, separating them from their families.
The refugees passing Mezha about the noon told that they saw ‘several hundreds of men standing with the muzzles of Tommy-guns pointed at them. Those who passed Mezha later, in the afternoon, tell that they saw ‘a big pile of bodies, the number of which is estimated up to 300. This estimation could not be confirmed by independent sources and is based mainly on the observed number of men picked out from the column and missed in present.
Observers from ‘Human rights watch interrogated all 19 witnesses in Kukes, in the North of Albania, within three days after they came to Albania on 28 April.
Although several details differ, the agreement of the testimonies yield a reliable picture of the violent expatriation, systematic destruction of private property, intimidation and robbery, a violent separation from families and execution without investigation and court of a large number of men, ethnic Albanians.
Being under a strong stress, the refugees started to cross the Albanian frontier through the checkpoint Morina near Kukes in the early morning of 28 April. At 6:30 hours an observer from ‘Human rights watch interrogated several refugees soon after their crossing to Albania. The newly arrived refugees, consisting mainly of women, children and old men, told about the mass slaughter in Mezha.
During the consequent two days the refugees gathered in camps near Kukes told additional details of these atrocities. One of the witnesses told that she was forced to leave Sheremet about 8 in the morning of 26 April, and about 10 oclock she and her family came on the tractor to Mezha. ‘They took off men from tractors. About forty people rode on our tractor and they led away 12 men. They did not leave a single man. Other refugees passing Mezha on that day confirmed that Yugoslavian security forces picked from the column all men between 14 and 60.
Ray Wilkenson, a representative of the UNO Supreme Commissariat in charge of refugees in Kukes, who was at the frontier when the refugees crossed to Albania, told a ‘Human rights watch observer that, according to his estimation, 60 tractors crossed the frontier and people ‘on 6 out of 7 tractors told that their men were taken off.
According to the testimony of newsmen present at this time at the frontier, the refugees repeated that at least 100 men had been killed.
A 19-year-old man, who arrived at Mezha between 10 and 11 oclock in the morning, told a ‘Human rights watch observer that many people were in the tractor column. Those who walked were mostly passed on. Policemen and servicemen stopped the tractors and beat people with wooden sticks. They also crashed tractor glasses. Some men, about one hundred, were detained and led aside, to the field near the road. We were forced to continue our movement, so we left behind those men, and we do not know what happened with them.
‘Human rights watch observers interrogated refugees who passed Mezha between 12:00 hours and 15:00 hours. They told that they saw a large number of Albanian men detained by the security forces. One eye-witness, a 38-year-old teacher, who passed Mezha about one oclock p.m., told ‘Human rights watch observers the following: ‘I saw a large crowd of people where Serbians separated men from their families. I think that the number of the men was about 250. They were standing on their knees on the ground along the road near the coppice on a hill slope about 20 – 30 meters from the road.
Another eye-witness, questioned separately, who passed Mezha approximately at the same time, confirmed the previous testimony and added that he saw a group of men kneeling, with hands on the back, surrounded by soldiers. Other witnesses, who passed Mezha about noon, gave somewhat varying testimonies. A 40-year-old woman, passing Mezha about noon, said that she saw ‘seventy or more men who squatted with hands on the back of their necks in a small ditch along the road. Another woman told that her husband was taken from the cart and led to a group of Albanian men at the roadside. The men were forced to cry: ‘Long live Serbia! Long live Miloshevich!
All witnesses said that Mezha was full of policemen and special unit servicemen wearing the blue or green camouflage uniforms, respectively. Many servicemen wore black Balaclava helmets, others wore red kerchiefs on their heads. Some said that they saw red chevrons with the two-headed eagle, state symbol of Yugoslavia, on uniform sleeves.
One witness, passing Mezha about noon, told that she saw 15 dead men on the right of the road. A 18-year-old girl told a ‘Human rights watch observer the following: ‘The road was covered with blood. On the right side of the road 15 men were lying. I counted them. They lay with their faces down, all was covered with blood and they did not move.
Refugees, passing Mezha in the late afternoon, said that they saw in the village many dead bodies. Interrogated together, a 18-year-old man and a 19-year-old girl, who walked through Mezha at about 17:30, said that they saw a big pile of bodies about three meters on the right of the road in the center of the village. According to their words, the disorderly lying dead bodies covered a plot of land about 12 by 20 feet with the height of the pile being about 5 feet. As these witnesses confessed, they were very frightened and they were hurried by police, so they could not count the bodies, but basing on the total number of men that were missed, they believe that the total number of the dead reached 300. They also said that 15 more men were sitting on the ground with their backs to the pile of dead bodies and with their faces to a group of Serbians.
According to the conclusion of ‘Human rights watch, Serbian police and paramilitary units, maybe also servicemen from the Yugoslavian army, executed a group of Albanian men on 27 April in Mezha. The exact number of the killed men and youths will not be known until forensic experts are permitted to the place of the crime.
Urgent actions of the international community are needed for stopping the slaughter. the data on these crimes must be passed to the International Penal Tribunal in charge of Yugoslavia.
There are data that five Serbian policemen were killed in Mezha on 21 April. According to ‘Human rights watch, some refugees from this district, unknown Albanians, maybe belonging to the Kosovo Liberation Army, shot five policemen when the latter searched Albanian houses, looking for firearms. However, no testimony about this was found.