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Yugoslavia: Amnesty Appeals For End To Killing In Kosovo

London, 29 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The human rights movement, Amnesty International, today called on the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities to stop the "killing, torture and ill-treatment of people in Kosovo and listen to the need to respect human rights."

The Amnesty appeal is timed to coincide with the meeting today in Rome of the Contact Group for former Yugoslavia.

AI says Yugoslav authorities should not be "allowed to get away with hiding and destroying evidence of atrocities such as the executions carried out by their security forces in Kosovo in March."

An AI statement called on the Contact Group to press Yugoslav authorities to adopt a comprehensive human rights agenda, which should then be overseen by the international community.

"It is only when such evidence is revealed and the perpetrators are held to account for their crimes that there is some hope of preventing the security forces from carrying out further abuses."

The AI statement said while it is difficult to ascertain the exact circumstances in which people have been killed in the last few days, it is clear that human rights violations such as torture and "disappearances" abound in the south Serbian province.

AI says it is imperative that the Contact Group ensures that : --- The Serbian and Yugoslav authorities should allow independent investigation of recent human rights abuses, particularly the killings which occurred between Feb.28 and March 6 in the villages of Likosane, Cirez and Donji Prekaz, and should initiate their own independent and impartial investigation into police conduct. --- The authorities should ensure that criminal investigations and procedures are initiated to hold to account any officers suspected of ordering or perpetrating human rights violations. --- The authorities should allow the opening of a field office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Pristina. -- The authorities should protect detainees by ensuring proper access and information for defense counsel, doctors and relatives, and the immediate investigation of all allegations of torture.

AI cites the case of Mehmet Memqai and three other ethnic Albanian men accused of "terrorism", who are expected to appear before a court in Prizren on Monday (May 4). AI says the men were tortured in detention with electric shock batons to extract confessions in connection with charges brought against them of "terrorism" and "association for the purpose of hostile activity."

They are accused of having organized themselves as part of the "National Movement for the Republic of Kosovo", planting a bomb in Prizren town and obtaining and storing weapons.

The AI statement says it "fears that their trial will be grossly unfair." The statement says a similar fate may await other detainees, given the daily reports of ill-treatment and frequent reports of "disappearances." It says on April 10, Hafir Shala from Glogovac was detained by police in Pristina. His family and lawyers have received no information about his whereabouts.

AI says, in late February and early March, Serbian police killed more than 80 ethnic Albanians in the villages of Likosane, Cirez and Donji Prekaz in the Drenica region of Kosovo. Direct evidence collected by AI shows that several of the men were extra judicially murdered: they were shot as they were taken out of a house where they had been sheltering with women and children.

Moreover, the excessive force used by the police most likely resulted in the extra judicial execution of other unarmed people among the victims, including at least 11 children and 12 women.

The AI statement says the authorities subsequently destroyed or hid evidence by removing bodies from the site and disposing of them without ensuring that autopsies were carried out.

The statement says, in the last few days, at least 26 more people have been killed, this time by the Yugoslav army, as well as by police. It says independent information about the circumstances of their death is not yet available.