Girl tells court how Serbs killed 19 of her family in a day

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The Independent Online

Each phrase 18-year-old Saranda Bogujevci uttered was difficult, but she spoke without faltering.

She told Chamber Three at Belgrade Central Court how, on 28 March, 1999, a Serb special police unit known as the Scorpions entered her village of Podujevo four days into the Kosovo war. Before the day was over, 19 of her extended family would be dead.

Ms Bogujevci, who now lives in Manchester, is among four young Kosovo Albanians who survived the Podujevo massacre. All four were hit with machine-gun bullets and have had years of medical and psychiatric care. Ms Bogujevci travelled to Belgrade this week with her three relatives, all children, to testify against Sasa Cvjetan, 28 a former Scorpions member. Such is the fear surrounding the case that the children were brought in amid great secrecy and tight security.

In court, less than 10 feet from Ms Bogujevci, sat Mr Cvjetan, who listened without showing emotion. He is the only one of 15 men allegedly involved in the murders who is in custody. He went on trial last year but the case collapsed after the judge received death threats.

Ms Bogujevci told the court: "I saw a soldier push my aunt on to the ground." He shot her aunt. "I could not stop crying. Then my cousins started crying too. When I looked she was on the ground and he shot her again."

Then the man fired on the group. "My brother Shpetim was lying behind me," Ms Bogujevci said. "His face was on my feet."

Mr Cvjetan denies all charges, saying he arrived after the shootings. The children say he was there, although they gave conflicting details. Soldiers from the Yugoslav army arrived later and took the survivors for medical treatment in Pristina and Belgrade.

The case is expected to continue until the autumn but the children have already left Serbia. Outside the court is a statue of King Dusan who gave Serbia its first written laws in the 14th century.

The children hope Serbian law will bring them justice and lead to the Serbian authorities going after the ones higher up, those who sent the Scorpions to Podujevo.

Tim Marshall is Foreign Affairs Editor of Sky News

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