Helsinki official charges -
'We have seen five concentration camps' in Kosovo

From "Danas" April 3
Belgrade, Yugoslavia

By Miroslav Filipovic
Translated by Snezana Lazovic (April 5, 2000) [emperors-clothes]

"The commotion surrounding the existence of concentration camps in which Serbs are imprisoned in the region of Kosovo demonstrates that we have hit the bull's eye. The concentration camps exist and KFOR cannot continue to hide this fact," Sefko Alomerovic, President of the Helsinki Committee in Sandzak, [in Serbia] tells "Danas".

Alomerovic says, as he has said before: KFOR and humanitarian officials who have gone all-out to deny the existence of the camps are wrong. The head of the International Red Cross in Pristina even threatened to have Sefko Alomerovic arrested.

  • "Once again, I publicly state: concentration camps for Serbs in Kosovo exist. When I say I claim this, I am completely conscious of what it means. Our activists have been to no less than five concentration camps, illegally, of course. They have entered the camps, seen the imprisoned Serbs and spoken with them. I claim that at this moment or more precisely, as of March 14, there existed at least five such concentration camps in which at least 142 people of non-Albanian nationality were imprisoned, the great majority of them Serbs. Since the number of kidnapped Serbs according to reports filed by their families is at least 1,000, I assume that many more such concentration camps exist."

These concentration camps were established immediately after the Serbian police and Yugoslav army left Kosovo. The first was discovered in June, then others were found in July and August. These are enclosed facilities, usually basements or garages in city districts. 10 to 50 people are imprisoned.

The existence of these concentration camps was a publicly known secret. It has all happened before the eyes of KFOR and it would be strange indeed if KFOR does not know the camps exist.

100 locations in reserve

Alomerovic reminds us that the activists of the Helsinki Committee discovered one such concentration camp last year in Kosovska Mitrovica in the garage and boiler room in the building of the former Social Insurance Administration. There were approximately 50 Serbs there who had been kidnapped within the city limits. Imprisoned Serbs were also discovered in the basement of a building near the beltway and the Automobile Association. The basement of the "Afrodita" restaurant was also a concentration camp for imprisoned Serbs; it was run by waiters in the restaurant.

"Through the relatives of one of the prisoners we reported the existence of the camp in the former Social Insurance Administration building to KFOR in Kosovska Mitrovica. KFOR carried out a raid, surrounding the building with a large number of troops; it looked like they meant business. When they went to the door of the concentration camp and knocked, two Albanians came out and said that there was no concentration camp or prisoners there. Can you imagine, the two Albanians refused to allow a large number of armed KFOR troops to carry out a search of the building. They permitted this only the next day. At that time the KFOR patrol found approximately 50 KLA soldiers in the building."

Through the relatives of the prisoners, KFOR was advised immediately regarding the existence of every one of these places but KFOR did not find a single one of them because every one would be moved to a rural area, to a private house or abandoned buildings of agricultural cooperatives immediately after KFOR was notified. The Helsinki Committee in Sandzak claims that it is aware of the existence of a large number of concentration camps between Klina, Pec and Djakovica. It also has knowledge of a concentration camp in Studenica near Istok, and the concentration camp in Drenovac which was established by the 113th Brigade of the KLA. It also knows the name of the man who headed these concentration camps. It is assumed that the Albanians in Kosovo have at least a hundred locations for concentration camps to which they relocate the imprisoned Serbs as needed.

Alomerovic says that the existence of secret concentration camps can be proven indirectly. If the Association of Relatives of Kidnapped Citizens reported approximately 1,000 kidnapped persons, and there is no proof that they have been killed, then where are these people? There are no bodies, no mass graves and they are not in public prisons. A thousand people is not a small number, and Kosovo is not a black hole. If they were killed, some evidence of them would have been discovered. There is no evidence because they are in secret prisons which we are calling concentration camps.

KFOR as an accomplice?

"When these concentration camps began to be established there was no clear idea of what was to be done with these people," says Alomerovic. "I have no way of knowing the motives behind every kidnapping or arrest but I assume that there were many factors. Perhaps they were imprisoned for ransom or for revenge, I cannot say. However, when the authority of KFOR was consolidated and when the civil and military authority of the Kosovo Albanians was consolidated, I think that the motive of these kidnappings and imprisonment in the concentration camps became to prepare for exchange for Albanians imprisoned in Serbian prisons. That is probably the reason why the treatment of these people is now better. The number of Albanians imprisoned in Serbian prisons is also unknown. Numbers between 800 and as many as two or three thousand have been cited. I support the exchange of the imprisoned but only on the principle of 'everyone for everyone'."

Family members of kidnapped Serbs seriously accuse KFOR of either being incompetent or lacking the desire to address the issue of concentration camps.

"How can they say there are no concentration camps when they refused to investigate even the five addresses which we gave them? I am publicly asking KFOR why it does not investigate the addresses which we have given them. Their reaction most resembles that of accomplices. I cannot fathom the reaction of these authorities. They are not naive peasants. These are the armed authorities who represent the international community in Kosovo. I understand that they are in a difficult position, that they cannot figure out our complication relations but if we report a crime to the police which it is responsible for investigating, and the police refuses to investigate it, then it is an accomplice to the crime. If the members of a family report a kidnapping, if they say who, when, where and how their family member was kidnapped, if they say who kidnapped him, and KFOR does nothing, then that is direct encouragement of the kidnappers," emphasizes Alomerovic.

If the goal of officials in Kosovo, regardless of the organization or nation to which they belong, is to deny or cover up the existence of concentration camps, that is even understandable to some extent. However, it is extremely difficult to understand why humanitarian organizations active in Serbia are doing the same thing. The statements of the spokespersons of KFOR, UNMIK, the president of the Helsinki Committee in Kosovo and the president of the regional Human Rights Commission in Kosovo are directly or indirectly disputing the information provided by the Helsinki Committee in Sandzak which has been published in both the national and foreign press.

Although none of these statements is phrased so as to bring into doubt any of the facts which Sefko Alomerovic provided the International Red Cross Committee and other international organizations, a bitter impression remains because this is not an academic debate and human lives are at stake.

"It is strange but indicative in itself that only now has a widespread campaign been launched to deny something which nine months ago was 'a publicly known secret' while nothing has been done to verify the facts which I gave directly to delegates of the International Red Cross Committee back on January 20, 2000," concludes Sefko Alomerovic.


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