Command for Kosovo and Metohija issued an ‘Order to provide assistance to the
MUP in crushing and destroying STS in Orahovac, Suva Reka, and V. Kruša area’
to the units of the Priština Corps on March 23rd, 1999, which defined the task
of the 549th MtBr in the area of the villages of Celina, Velika Kruša,
Mala Kruša, Pirane, Zojić, and Medvedce.
In the basis of
this order from the Joint Command, on March 23rd, 1999 the Commander of the 549th
MtBr, Božidar Delić, issued an ‘Order on Destroying STS in the wider area of
the village of Retimlje, lifting the blockade on the Suva Reka-Orahovac road
and establishing control of the territory’ in which he issued an assignment to
Combat Group 2 to cooperate with the 4th Company of the Đakovica Special Police
Units and to ‘carry out an energetic attack and search the village of Bela
Crkva, come out of the Brnjača line, Brod elevation point tt. 432, tt. 440 in a
coordinated action and cut off and destroy STS in the village of Celine and
the village of Nogavac…’.
On the same day,
the War Diary of the 2nd Motorized Battalion, records the following: ‘The
blockade was lifted and the villages of Bela Crkva, Celina, Nogavac, and
a part of V. Kruša were cleansed’. It is claimed in the ‘Analysis of the
operations carried out by the 549th MtBr to destroy STS in the general areas of
Retimlje and to remove the Suva Reka-Orahovac roadblock’ dated March 30th, 1999
that the ‘23rd Detachment of the Special Police Unit made a strong
breakthrough from the direction of Bela Crkva and Brnajča towards the village
of Celina and Mala Hoča…
In his testimony
given in the Milutinović et al. case, Delić denied that his units
surrounded or shelled Celina/Celinё. He added that on March 25th, police forces
neutralized the KLA in the village and that his units provided assistance with
light artillery fire, directing the fire above the village at the hillsides where
the KLA had dug trenches, and not at houses in the village. Vuković confirmed
this, adding that when he went through the village later on, around 10:00,
police units had already searched the village and “terrorists” had been
“neutralized”. Vuković stated that at that time he did not see a single
civilian in Celina/ Celinё nor did he see members of the VJ or police setting
houses on fire, destroying mosques or looting the village.
Villagers, R. S.
and A.J.i, testified before the ICTY in the Milutinović et al. case,
that Serb forces launched an attack on Celina/Celinё in the early morning hours
of March 25th, 1999. First of all, tanks, armoured vehicles, and armoured transporters
belonging to the VJ surrounded the village. Most villagers left their homes.
Approximately between 05:00 and 05:30, the VJ started shelling the village. The
shelling continued intermittently until 22:00 that night.86 According to J., it
did not seem as if the VJ was shooting at the people in the village, but it
rather looked as if they were trying to intimidate them.
shelling of the village, most Kosovo Albanian families ran from their houses in
panic and went to the nearby forest and hid there, initially in the Pastidol
ravine at the north end of the village and later deeper in the forest, to a
place called Pisjake/Pisjakё. Later, Serb soldiers arrived in the village.
Men from 18 to
40 years of age in particular decided to hide in different places in the
village, but in smaller groups, since they were scared that they would ‘be a
target’ of members of the Serb forces. Cousins A.J. and I.J. were among these
people; they hid in the attic of their unfinished threestorey house. According
to A.J., from this point they were able to see 80% of the village since the
house was located some 10 metres off the road from Bela Crkva/Bellacёrkё to
Velika Kruša/Krusha e Madhe. They saw approximately 500 soldiers at around 09:30
on March 25th enter the village from four directions: Bela Crkva/Bellacёrkё,
Orahovac/Rahovec, Velika Kruša/Krusha e Madhe and from the direction of the
main road from Đakovica /Gjakovë to Prizren. According to the description given
by A.J.; “They were all in green and brown camouflage uniforms, and they had
patches with the Yugoslav eagle on their left shoulder. Those who looked as if
they were commanders had dark green berets, and regular soldiers wore the
so-called ‘Tito’s’ hats” Already by around 9:30, some 35 soldiers had broken the
gate to A.J. courtyard which had five houses in it. They searched all five
houses and looted all the valuables. Then some of the soldiers settled on the
second floor of the house in which A. and I.J. were hiding and their commanders
settled in the house next-door. From the place where they were hiding, A. and I.J.
saw soldiers entering houses all over the village, taking out valuable property,
and then setting the houses on fire. They set up check points at several
locations in the village manned by 20-30 soldiers and the majority of soldiers
left the village during the night, including those that had been in J. houses.
day around 8:00, A.J. parents and three other members of his family returned to
the house where he and I.J. were hiding. They told them that soldiers had
looted their houses and that they had to go to the village of Zrze/Xerxhe. They
all believed that the attack was over, so they decided to stay in the village.
However, around 9:00, some 200-300 soldiers returned to the village. A. and I.J.
once again hid in the attic of their unfinished house, while five family
members, A. parents and three of their relatives, went to another house in the
same courtyard. A. watched as some 30 soldiers entered the courtyard at around
9:30, found the five members of the J. family, requested money from them and
then ordered them to go towards the courtyard gate. Then the soldiers opened fire
on them; all five of them were killed and they fell on the ground. During the
day, the soldiers looted all five houses located in the J. family courtyard and
set three houses on fire. They saved the two newly-built houses - the one the
Serb commanders had stayed in the previous day and the other, where A. and I.J.
were hiding. During March 26th, soldiers set almost all of the houses in the
village on fire.
Agim Jemini’s statement reads:
“We could hear automatic gunfire and men, women and children screaming that
soldiers left the J. courtyard at around 01:00, A. and I. sneaked out of their
house and ran away to the village of Zrze/Xerxhe.
of events in Celina/Celinё in the period March 25th-28th matched those of his brother.
several other Kosovo Albanians, returned during the following nights and buried
the residents of the village who had been killed and whose bodies were lying
all over the village. Oversome 30 days, they buried the bodies of 78 Kosovo
Albanians, who were killed in Celina/Celinё between March 25th-28th, 1999. 18
of these bodies had been burned. A.J. did not find the bodies of his parents
among these 78.
13 of those
killed were children under the age of 18 years: eight children from Z. family –
A. (18 months-old), A. (5 years-old), B. (8), B. (10), A. (10), A. (11), S.a
(11), B.(13), S. R. (8), A. R. (14), B.H. (15), M.S. (15) and G.S. (17 years
deported the surviving men, women, and children on March 28th, 1999 across the
border to the Republic of Albania, and confiscated their identification and all
* The description of the crime is based on testimonies of
survivors, eyewitnesses and victims' family members given to the Humanitarian
Law Center, national courts or the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia (ICTY); forensic reports; judgments and transcripts of trials;
media reports and other documents.