Crimes of the KLA: Command responsibility of Ramush Haradinaj
Massacre in the village of his birth
The leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo was the commander of the district where several dozens of Serbs and non-Albanians were killed in 1998
The village of Glodjane is located in Metohija, approximately seven kilometers from Decani and about 20 kilometers from the border with Albania. Glodjane is a purely ethnic Albanian village. In its immediate proximity in the village of Dubrava, at the beginning of which is a house belonging to the only non-Albanian family in the ten or so surrounding villages, some 100 meters from the last house in Glodjane, belonging to Eljmija Haradinaj. The Haradinaj family has been quite involved in crimes against Serbs.
“The local Albanians say that everything began when a police patrol leaving from Glodjane tried to stop and obtain the identification cards two young men, Rasim Selmanaj, an activist of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo, and another young man whose name is not mentioned. According to another version of the story, the police opened fire on Rasim and the other young man when they refused to stop. According to the official report of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) of Serbia, on March 24, 1998 at 10:45 a.m., an armed terrorist attack was carried out against a police patrol in the village of Dubrava, Decani municipality, Kosovo and Metohija.”, it is stated in the report of the Humanitarian Rights Foundation (Fond za humanitarna prava – FHP) from May 1998. On that day, as confirmed by a KLA statement from May 1998, during “a successful operation against the occupier” near Glodjane, fighters Gazmend and Agron Mehmetaj and Him Haradinaj were killed. The police withdrew from the village at about 8:00 o’clock in the evening. After these clashes, the Kosovo Liberation Army established control points at the entrance and exit from the village and took control of it.
At the beginning of the same year, Ramush Haradinaj returned permanently from Switzerland to Kosovo and joined this Albanian paramilitary formation. His brother Daut was one of the key people of the KLA, responsible for its organization in the Metohija district. Daut was one of three members of the KLA who appeared for the first time in public in the village of Drenica at the funeral of a teacher killed by the Serbian police. At that funeral, he gave a speech in which he stated that the KLA officially exists. At the beginning of April, the command headquarters of the KLA, under the command of Hashim Thaci, appointed Ramush Haradinaj commander of the Metohija region. Haradinaj’s headquarters was located in Glodjane, where he was born, according to the book “Stories of War and Freedom” by Bardah Hamzaj, the deputy editor-in-chief of the Pristina daily “Zeri”, prepared in the format of a dialog with Ramush Haradinaj.
Not knowing that his father had been taken from his house, on the morning of April 22, 1998, Novak Stijovic headed for the village of Pozar with the intent of accompanying his father to Decani. Stanisa Radosevic and his mother Rosa went with him in search of Slobodan Radosevic (the father) who one day earlier had decided to remain in the village of Dasinovac with Milica and Milos Radunovic and look after his property after the KLA took control of the village. In the village of Pozar, they were stopped by a group of armed Albanians. In a statement made for FHP, Novak said: “There were about 30 of them; we recognized them. They pointed guns at us. They searched us and said that they had to take us to the headquarters in Glodjane. One of them held a gun pointed at my head. On the road to Rznici, there were 50-60 armed civilians every 50 meters; from Rznici to Glodjane, everyone was in uniform.” All three were released later that same day but they were not allowed to go to Dasinovac to get Slobodan.
Almost all citizens who were stopped on any of the local roads in spring of 1998 were taken to the headquarters in Glodjane. In the headquarters in Glodjane, members of the KLA applied well-known methods. “They took us to the headquarters in the house of Nasim Haradinaj, abandoned back in 1990; we had heard that the owners were living in Sweden,” said Mijat Stojanovic in a statement for FHP. Stojanovic is the owner of the only non-Albanian house in Dubrava; on April 18 he was arrested in his house, together with his brother Dragoslav and cousin Veselin Stijovic, and they were taken to the headquarters. “We were forced to lie down on concrete. First they took Dragoslav into a small room where there were two chairs. There were two soldiers there and a third who interrogated him. Nemonaj Zici, whom I knew from before, ordered me to remove my clothes. Two of them beat me with clubs and rifle butts. This lasted approximately 40 minutes.”
In the general area of the village of Glodjane in the first half of September 1998 at least 39 bodies were discovered in various stages of decomposition. The bodies were found at three different locations on a collective farm in the village of Rznici, in a canal leading to Radonjic Lake and near it, and proximate to the canal in the village of Dasinovac.
Bodies of victims killed by KLA (UCK) and thrown into the Radonjic Lake canal
During the course of events, after yet another clash between members of the KLA and the (Yugoslav) army and (Serbian) police on September 8, 1998, during “pursuit after terrorists and a search of the district,” as written in the official police report, 13 unidentified bodies of civilians of both sexes and various ages were discovered in the canal supplying Radonjic Lake.
Bodies of victims killed by KLA (UCK) and thrown into the Radonjic Lake canal
The very next day the investigating judge of the District Court in Pec, Radomir Gojkovic, wrote a petition to the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Belgrade requesting the appointment of a group of experts for establishing the identity, causes and time of death and other data relevant for future activities in connection with the mass grave near Gl odjane. In the meanwhile, during the first phase of searching the district begun on September 11, at least 21 additional bodies were found. “During the first several days of the investigation the weather was dry, sunny and warm. Several days later it began to rain. The level of water in the canal rose significantly, carrying body parts, clothing and objects down the canal.”, it is written in the report. Several days later, five additional bodies were found. During the autopsy 12 of these bodies were identified. The bodies of the above-mentioned Radunovices and Radosevic, last seen at the end of April, were found near the canal in the village of Dasinovac. “Due to various stages of decomposition, it was not possible to establish the cause of death solely on the basis of the conducted autopsy. However, in 19 cases traces of wounds were found on the bones and there is no doubt that they are made by bullets fired from weapons of a small caliber. In 24 cases signs of mechanical weapons were found; in two cases there were traces of sharp mechanical weapons, while in three instances, according to the marks on the bones and clothes of the victims, they were exposed to high temperatures (bodies found in Dasinovac). Several objects on and near the bodies (metal wire and adhesive tape) suggest that some of the victims were first tied up and tortured,” it is written in the experts’ report on the cause of death. All the victims were killed during the period between April 1998 and the end of August of the same year, give or take a few days.
Controversive Ramush Haradinaj
At the end of 1999 the chief prosecutor of the Hague tribunal, Carla del Ponte, announced that an investigation had been started regarding war crimes against the non-Albanian population in Kosovo. The investigation was almost completely blocked until recently because information was not forthcoming from either side, the spokeswoman of the prosecutor’s office of the Hague tribunal, Florence Hartmann (Florence Hartmann-Domankusic), told “Reporter”. The new government in Serbia, according to Hartmann, has submitted all documentation to The Hague. “Indictments will be issued only against those persons against whom we have evidence,” she explained. Zoran Zivkovic, the Yugoslav minister of internal affairs, told “Reporter” that “more than 30 kilograms of various documents were turned over to the head of the office of the Hague tribunal in Belgrade.” In the meanwhile, the investigators of this tribunal have collected about 80 testimonials from family members of the missing and witnesses.
Despite increasingly frequent public discussion (in Serbia) that Agim Cheku, Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj are under investigation by the Hague tribunal, Hartmann said that “the investigation is in progress”, however, she added that she “never confirmed that these three men are under investigation.”
Ramush Haradinaj was born on July 3, 1968 in the village of Glodjane, municipality of Decani. He completed primary school in Rznici and secondary school in Decani and Djakovica. He wanted to study astronomy and enrolled at the University of Pristina in 1987. However, the same year he went to serve in the Yugoslav People’s Army. He completed his mandatory military service in Pirot and Dimitrovgrad. After his return he wanted to continue his studies but in 1989 after (student) demonstrations, he emigrated to Switzerland. He has no permanent employment. Haradinaj frequently traveled illegally to Kosovo, hiding from the police. He left Kosovo for good in 1991 and worked as a bouncer in a nightclub in Switzerland. In the mid-1990’s he lived in Tirana, where he began to prepare for “rebellion”. He transferred arms to Kosovo through the Prokletija mountains. His two brothers were killed during clashes. A memorial to one of the two brothers was built in Pec. Ramush Haradinaj speaks Albanian, English and French. He was formerly married to a Finnish woman. He has a minor son, Skeljzen. He is the president of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, the fourth largest political party in Kosovo.