At the trial of 17 ex KLA fighters, known as the ‘Gnjilane group’, for crimes committed against the civilian population, witnesses testified about the torture they suffered during the conflict in Kosovo in 1999.
Zarko Rakic, former inhabitant of the village of Vitina, near Gnjilane, said on Thursday before the Special Court in Belgrade that the situation in Kosovo, after the arrival of NATO forces, KFOR, and the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was very tense and unsafe.
“All kinds of things happened, there was no authority, everyone was doing what they pleased, there were kidnappings and shootings,” explained Rakic.
“I was kidnapped on June 19, on the road. I had set off to my sister’s and a dozen people jumped out in front of me. They attacked us and kept us prisoners the whole day. Some of them wore uniforms, some didn’t,” said Rakic.
However, the witness could not recognise any of the accused.
The indictment issued by the prosecution on August 11, 2009, charges 17 former members of the KLA, as part of the so called ‘Gnjilane group’, with brutally torturing to death at least 80 people between early June and late December 1999.
At least 34 people are still considered missing, while at least 153 people, who were illegally detained and tortured, were subsequently released.
Zoran Stankovic, one of the survivors from the boarding school in Gnjilane, in which, according to the indictment, people were kept imprisoned, tortured and murdered, testified that he was tortured for several hours by unknown Albanian soldiers.
“They beat me for around eight, ten hours. I was all covered in bruises. They took me to the second floor and tortured me there. I only survived thanks to my father’s friend, who knew these Albanians,” said Stankovic.
Stankovic was also unable to confirm the identity of the torturers, but added that from an Albanian friend he heard that the accused Shefket Musliu was among the members of the KLA.
Currently in custody are Nazif Hasani, Ahmet Hasani, Faton Hajdari, Samet Hajdari, Ferat Hajdari, Kamber Sahiti, Selimon Sadiki, Agush Memishi, Burim Fazliu and Shemsi Nuhiu.
The accused Fazli Ajdari, Rexhep Aliu, Shaqir Shaqiri, Shefqet Musliu, Sadik Aliu, Idriz Aliu and Ramadan are on the run, and since they are not available to law enforcement, they are tried in absentia.
A court in Belgrade sentenced nine members of the Gnjilane Group to a total of 101 years in prison for war crimes against civilians on January 21, 2011.
The War Crime Chamber of the Appellate Court in Belgrade quashed that verdict on December 7, 2011, and sent the case for a retrial.