Reports were emerging of women being separated fromcolumns of refugees to be raped by soldiers, while their families were either forced to watch or driven away at gunpoint.
As the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told a news conference in London yesterday there was "systematic rape" in an army camp at Djakovica near the Albanian border, refugees arriving in Albania told of sex attacks by soldiers.
Experts in Britain who have studied the effects of torture said that rape was used as a weapon of war to try to crush a tight-knit community.
UN refugee agency officers cited one case: Serb soldiers singled out a 22-year-old woman as a group of refugees entered Albania, indicating that her family should proceed without her. The young woman reportedly made a run for one of the departing tractors. She was then shot dead by a Serb soldier, according to reports from several witnesses. UN staff said her body had been brought into Albania and it had been seen by aid workers - adding credence to the reports.
Another woman, named only as Drita, claimed she and seven other women were separated from their families and gang-raped by Serb soldiers. Four of the women were later killed.
Another woman from the same village in the Drechna region of Northern Kosovo said 10 women were raped on the roadside. The woman told the BBC: "They said to the girls, 'You are beautiful, you are for me. We are not going to shoot you, but we want your families to see what we are doing'."
The International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague has listed rape as a war crime. It is a crime typical of an invading enemy trying to break up an ethnic grouping, according to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. The founder and director, Helen Bamber, said: "It's a blatant act, not something done in the lust of violence that comes with war. It must be condoned by the senior officers."
A psychologist based in Tirana, Silvia Miria, has collected evidence from more than 100 witnesses of rapes and sex attacks by the Serbs over the past few weeks.
Mr Cook said at yesterday's Ministry of Defence briefing: "[The rapes] complete the pattern of brutality of Milosevic's forces in Bosnia." He said he believed the rape camp was only a few miles inside Kosovo from the Albanian border and that the news of the camp had emerged from refugees who had made it across the border.Reuse content