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Yugoslavia: Human Rights Group Reports Attacks On Ethnic Albanians

Munich, 1 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The international organization Human Rights Watch has accused the Serb authorities of carrying out "an unrestrained campaign of terror" against civilians in Kosovo.

The accusation was made by the Brussels-based organization after its observers reported an attack on a refugee convoy at Vranic, a village close to Urosedac in south-western Kosovo and the burning of the village of Budakovo.

Human Rights Watch said it was worried about the fate of those men in the convoy who were taken to the town of Prizren after most of the others were released. A spokeswoman, Lotte Leicht, said it feared for their safety because of what Human Rights Watch called "widespread and continuing evidence of torture and physical abuse of people held in detention".

Human Rights Watch said that in Vranic it saw what remained of a convoy which stretched for approximately three kilometers. Cars, tractors and trucks were loaded with civilian possessions.

An eyewitness counted 34 vehicles in the village which had been completely destroyed and another 55 which had been damaged. In a river valley near Vranic, Human Rights Watch saw another 145 vehicles about half of which were destroyed or severely damaged.

Human Rights Watch said it was told that the people of Vranic fled their village on Sunday after Serb government forces began shelling the nearby villages of Bukosi and Budakovo. They began to return on Monday after being told it was safe to do so, but were stopped by police who screened the civilians.

About 250 men were taken to the town of Prizren. Most were returned to Vranic where they told Human Rights Watch that they had been punched and beaten by rubber batons. However about 50 others were still detained in Prizren when Human Rights Watch released its report.

Human Rights Watch said also that after Serb forces shelled the village of Budakovo they burned civilian homes there.