Residents of Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa said the EULEX investigation into the 1999 mass killing in their town is "better late than never," but they doubt they'll see justice.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 21/06/12
The Krusha massacre was part of the indictment filed against former Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial at The Hague. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
Bajram Zylfiu, 57, is one of six Kosovo Albanians who survived the massacre in the Kosovo village of Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, (Little Krusha) on March 26th 1999.
"The Serbs of the village took us all in the yard and took all documents, money, every valuable thing we had. They forced us in a row and made us enter the house of Qazim Batusha. One, with a machine gun, started shooting … 113 dead, only six of us remained alive under the bodies falling upon us," Zylfiu told SETimes.
The six survivors managed to escape before the paramilitaries came back and torched the house containing the bodies. Four escaped and hid in the mountains, avoiding the Serb forces for five weeks; the other two managed to join refugees crossing into Albania.
Zylfiu lost seven members of his family that day.
Last week, on June 13th, more than 13 years after the atrocity committed by former Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic's forces, EULEX announced it launched an investigation into the Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa mass killing.
A EULEX prosecutor from Prizren initiated the investigation into war crimes committed in the village.
"So far, the prosecution has identified 56 potential defendants who would be facing charges of war crimes against the civilian population -- including the killing of 113 villagers, deportation of the whole women and infant population from the village, pillage and destruction of property," EULEX said.
"I feel good that they started the investigation to enlighten what happened. They should have done it earlier though …," Zylfiu said.
Feim Asllani was one of the 113 villagers killed in the massacre. His widow, Miserete Asllani, told SETimes that she remembers being separated from her husband, and forced to cross into Albania.
"After we came back from Albania, we saw that Serbs had destroyed everything," Asllani, now 39, said.
The village has about 700 residents, including 150 orphans and 82 widows.
Faton Ramadani was six when the massacre occurred, and saw his father for the last time when the Serb troops separated the men from the women and children that day. His father, grandfather and two cousins were killed.
"I remember when I saw him for the last time, waved at him and we walked towards another village. I remember it like a white and black movie, more than a true story," he told SETimes.
Raised by his widowed mother, Ramadani is 19 now, finishing his college studies in Prizren. "It's good that [EULEX] woke up … better late than never," he said.
Miserete Asllani agreed. "Starting the investigations gives us some hope. Let's see if EULEX will do something concrete. We are not very enthusiastic however … many years have gone by without doing anything," she said.
Agron Limani, head of the Association of Families of Missing Persons in Krusha e Vogel/Mala Krusa, has been leading the families seeking justice. Limani told SETimes that EULEX started questioning people in the village on June 4th, and four people provided testimony so far.
"Due to the fact that the victims are from Kosovo, the crime scene is in Kosovo and the perpetrators were also from Kosovo … we have asked that the accused go in trial in Kosovo. Any legal process that could be held in Serbia would be unacceptable for us," Limani told SETimes.
He said the trials held in Belgrade for crimes committed in Kosovo serve no justice. "They served the Serb state to rehabilitate itself politically, but not to punish the crimes committed in Kosovo."