CEOL - No Group Spared Kosovo Violence

BELGRADE, Dec 7, 1999 -- (Reuters) A detailed human rights survey published on Monday presents witness accounts from ethnic Albanian refugees of how Serb forces targeted women and children as well as men during the Kosovo conflict.

But the report also catalogues repeated incidents in which elderly Serbs became victims of revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians - often children - after the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops in June.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published two extensive reports into human rights violations in Kosovo before, during and after NATO's 11-week air war against Yugoslavia.

The first report covered the period between October 1998 and June of this year when the province was still under Serbian rule.

Based on more than 2,700 interviews with refugees, it paints an ugly picture of how ethnic violence with mass killings, torture and rape escalated after NATO launched its bombing campaign on March 24.

The 433-page report describes how various groups - men, women, children, elderly and handicapped - were affected.

Although young ethnic Albanian men of fighting age were especially targeted by Serbs, the report showed that no group was spared.

It cited reports of deliberate killing of children by armed forces, saying there were many witness statements describing how Kosovo Albanian children were specifically targeted.

Children targeted to punish parents

"There is chilling evidence of the murderous targeting of children, with the aim of terrorizing and punishing adults and communities," it said. "Girls were raped and boys were killed because they were seen as potential UCK (ethnic Albanian guerrilla) fighters."

It said one of those interviewed had recounted how Serb forces had gathered all villagers in Gornje Grabovc in central Kosovo together in a yard. "One family tried to escape and when they were caught a child from the family was decapitated in front of the parents."

Many women were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence, the report said.

One 17-year-old boy cited by the survey described how one police officer in the village of Vucak in late March asked a woman carrying a baby child in her arms whether she had enough milk to feed him. The woman said that she did.

"For some reason the police got very angry with this answer," the report said. "He took the baby from her, grabbing it out of her arms...He tore the woman's dress, took out his knife with his right hand, held the woman with his left hand and cut her breast off with one quick movement."

The survey said age was no barrier to violence. "Elderly and disabled people were widely reported as being either shot dead and then burned or being burned alive.

Human rights violations continued after the Serb withdrawal, the report said, but this time in the form of revenge attacks directed mainly at remaining Serbs and other minorities.

"The report repeatedly catalogues incidents throughout the area where vulnerable, elderly Kosovo Serbs have been the victims of violence," said the second OSCE volume, which dealt with the June-October period.

Serb woman burned to death, report says

In one case cited in the report, an 82-year-old Kosovo Serb woman was burned to death in her home in the eastern village of Kolarci, having previously been beaten and threatened.

In a foreword to the report covering post-conflict Kosovo, U.N. envoy Bernard Kouchner said one of the most alarming trends documented was the increasing participation of juveniles in human rights violations.

"We read here of case after case of young people, some only 10 or 12 years old, harassing, beating and threatening people, especially defenseless elderly victims, solely because of their ethnicity," Kouchner said.

Sometimes, he added, adults used children to commit abuses because the adults knew that the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force would not detain them in the absence of a juvenile detention facility.

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