War in Europe: `Slaves' forced to bury victims

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The Independent Online
A FORCED "Red Army" is being deployed by Serbian forces in Kosovo to dig mass graves and clear up the evidence of atrocities, Nato believes. The units, all dressed in red, have been widely reported by refugees fleeing the province.

They are made to transport bodies away from the sites of massacres and bury them. These groups are believed to be made up of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members and other ethnic Albanian men who have been taken prisoner by the Serbs and forced to work under armed guard. Nato believes they are dressed in red overalls to make them easily identifiable to their guards. "This is further evidence of a concerted and organised campaign of murder and barbarism," a source said.

Yesterday Nato presented evidence of a newly discovered mass grave near the village of Izbica which is thought to contain 150 bodies. The site was photographed by a reconaissance aircraft on Thursday, showing what looked like neat rows of graves in an area that was empty when a picture was last taken in March.

"There is now mounting evidence of detentions, summary executions and mass graves," said Jamie Shea, Nato spokesman. Refugees had reported incidents in at least 50 towns and villages in recent days. Two of these involved 45 Kosovar Albanians who were ambushed and killed, and another where 60 were murdered.

"Some refugees have even reported that Kosovar Albanians have been forced to dig these mass graves and put the bodies in," said Mr Shea. Adding the figures given by refugees together leads the alliance to believe that at least 3,200 people have been murdered inside Kosovo by Serbian forces in the past few weeks.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, will this week hand over a dossier of alleged war crimes to Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, who is coming for talks in London on Tuesday. The tribunal last week asked for help from all Nato governments.

Britain has compiled details of 87 incidents in breach of international law - including massacres, bombings and mass rapes - of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Mr Cook will also publish the names of the six Serbian generals whom the alliance believes have masterminded the atrocities in the Balkans.

The dossier, based on intelligence, information from the KLA and reports by refugees and the media, describes dozens of incidents which would, if proven, classify as war crimes. It covers the period from 25 March to 14 April and details massacres of hundreds of people every day in villages around Kosovo. It also formally sets out allegations of Kosovar women being systematically raped at camps and in their homes by Serbian troops. Downing Street said it believed that all the information contained in the dossier was "verifiable."

Among the atrocities detailed are the killing of 20 Kosovar school teachers in Boden and Zylfaj, near Dobrune on the Kosovo-Albanian border; the murder of 35 people, including seven children and two invalids, in the village of Bela Cerkva, 500 in villages in the Orahovac area and hundreds more in Djakovica in the last few days of March. The Foreign Office says it has evidence of the massacre of 53 Kosovars at Bellaja Bridge, the killing of 22 in the village of Kotlink and the murder of 18 elderly people in the village of Burim. There are also details of 70 bodies being found in a school in the village of Pastasel, 51 corpses being discovered in Celin and 35 dead Kosovar Albanians found in Sopi.

The Foreign Office said it now had evidence of three more centres at which Kosovar women were being systematically raped by Serbians - on top of the training camp disclosed by Mr Cook last week. Refugees have reported orchestrated rapes being carried out at Globocica, Urosevac and an unidentified point on the Kosovar-Albanian border. "Rape is used as a way of clearing the villages - if it is systematic and orchestrated then it becomes a crime against humanity," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

British intelligence has linked these atrocities to a small band of Serbian generals, who have led the troops on ethnic cleansing raids in Kosovo. The generals who have been in charge of the battalions there are: Col Mladen Cirkovic, of the 15th Armoured Brigade, Major Redemer Jovic, 55 Border Guards Battalion, Col Krnan Jelic, 243 Mechanised Brigade, Col Radojko Stefanovic, 52 Mixed Artillery Brigade, Col Srba Zdravkovic, 125 Motorised Brigade, and Col Bozidar Delic, 549 Motorised Brigade.

Britain last week appointed David Gowan, a senior Foreign Office official as Kosovo War Crimes Coordinator, responsible for compiling data.

Yesterday it emerged that Judge Gabrielle McDonald, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, had written to all Nato governments asking for their help. The judge's letter was quoted at the daily Ministry of Defence briefing.

"Many of these refugees recount experiences that, if true, belong in a place and time that we are supposed to have left behind," said the letter.