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List: KCC-NEWS

[kcc-news] HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DEMAND INFORMATION ON THOUSANDS OF DETAINEES AND MISSING PERSONS FROM KOSOVO

Mentor Cana mentor at alb-net.com
Thu Aug 5 21:13:36 EDT 1999


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HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS DEMAND INFORMATION
ON THOUSANDS OF DETAINEES AND MISSING PERSONS FROM KOSOVO
International Community Urged to Press Issue

(Pristina, August 6, 1999) -- Six human rights groups, four from Kosovo
and two international, called today on the Serbian government to release
information about the thousands of ethnic Albanians who are known to
have been taken into custody by Serbian forces during the NATO bombing
campaign between March 24 and June 15, 1999.  More than 2,000 Albanian
Kosovars are in detention in Serbia, while at least 1,500 others are
unaccounted for, and the lists are growing daily.

The precise number of detainees is unknown since the Serbian government
has failed to provide accurate figures to lawyers or human rights
groups.  According to a list compiled by the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC), based on information from the Serbian Ministry of
Justice, approximately 2,000 ethnic Albanians are in Serbian prisons,
including people who were arrested on charges of anti-state activities
before the NATO campaign.  The Council for the Defense of Human Rights
and Freedoms, a Kosovo-based human rights group, indirectly obtained a
list from the Serbian Ministry of Justice with approximately 2,000
names, although some of these detainees are not on the ICRC list.  The
Society for Political Prisoners in Pristina reports that many families
know of relatives in Serbian prisons who are not on either list.  The
Humanitarian Law Center, with offices in Belgrade and three cities in
Kosovo, has thus far confirmed that twenty persons previously considered
missing are in Serbian prisons, but they are also not on the lists.

Complicating matters is the high number of people taken into custody by
Serbian forces during the NATO bombing whose whereabouts are currently
unknown.  In the city of Djakovica (Gjakova in Albanian) alone, 1,041
people are reported missing as of August 1, 1999, many of whom are known
to have been arrested between March and June 1999.  Given the frequency
of extrajudicial executions throughout Kosovo and the large number of
unexamined graves throughout the province, there are very strong reasons
to fear that some or all of the missing are dead.

The joint appeal called on the Serbian government to immediately inform
family members of detainees and missing persons believed to be in
custody of the locations of detainees and the reasons for their
detention.  According to international law, all criminal charges must be
made public and the accused must be provided with unrestricted access to
a lawyer and family visits.  Trials must be in full accordance with
international standards.

The international community active in Kosovo should press the Serbian
government at all opportunities for information on detainees and missing
persons, and demand  their fair treatment.  The status of detainees was
not addressed in the Kumanovo Agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav
government or in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244/99, which
mandated the international presence in Kosovo.  Only concerted
international pressure will help ensure these people's safety, the
organizations said.

Human Rights Watch, New York
 Contact: Fred Abrahams, +3275-528-890
Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, Pristina
 Contact: Bexhet Shala, +381-38-26153
Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade and Kosovo
 Contact: Natasa Kandic, Teki Bokshi,  +381-11-444-3944;
+381-63-210-535;   Mustafa Radoniqi, Ariana Zherka, +381-63-210-534;
Society of Political Prisoners, Pristina
 Contact: Berat Luzha, +4179-929-01253
Kosovo Helsinki Committee, Pristina
 Contact: Gazmend Pula, +381-38-26153
Amnesty International, London
 Contact: Paul Miller, +44-374-114-767


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