On March 22, 1999, the Joint Command for Kosovo and Metohija, issued an order on the destruction of ‘STF’ [Shiptar Terrorist Forces] in the region of Donja Drenica. The Yugoslav Army (YA) forces which participated in the attack in the municipality of Srbica/Skënderaj were the 37th and the 125th Motorized Brigades. The operation involved seven Special Police Forces (PJP) companies, of which two were in direct communication with the 37th mtbr. The initial command post was in Srbica/Skënderaj, and then in the village of Cikatovo/Çikatovë.
On March 24, 1999, the Joint Command for Kosovo and Metohija issued another order to the YA units to support the MUP forces in breaking up and destroying the ‘STF’ in the region of Drenica. It was decided that the attack on the ‘STF’ should begin at 5:00 pm on March 26, 1999. Th e 37th mtbr (BG-37 and TG-37) was tasked to support the MUP forces in the area of Rudnik/Runik-Vitak-Kladernica/Klladërnicë-Voćnjak/Vojnikë-Broćna/ Burojë. Th e commander of the 37th mtbr. complied with this order, and transferred his command post to the village of Rudnik/Runik.
The order of the Joint Command for Kosovo and Metohija dated March 24 1999 contained the following order: “Demonstrate the required proper behaviour towards theloyal civilian population..."
This order represents a violation of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, which prescribe general protection of civilian population and prohibit the adverse distinction between civilians on any grounds.
The village of Rudnik/Runik was attacked on March 25, 1999. The residents fled the village and took refuge in nearby Kladernica/Klladernicë. The next day, March 26, there was firing from the hill above the village. The villagers and refugees who had sought shelter in the village, left the houses and fled into the nearby woods. Before entering the forest, they left their tractors by a creek. About 500 men, women and children found refuge in a field which was surrounded by trees. They spent the night there. In the morning on March 27, they heard gunshots. Around 11:00 am soldiers surrounded them and shouted in Serbian –“Surrender!” Z. M. (1939) stood up and explained in Serbian that the people gathered in the field were all civilians. He was shot while giving this explanation. The soldiers then killed his son A.M. (1982), and then M.M. (1973). Then they took 22 men, including V. who was a minor, and headed toward the mountains. Ten minutes later, a NATO aircraft flew over, which the soldiers took as a pretext to swear at and beat the men in the column for the next three hours. Then they led the men towards Izbica/Izbicë. On the way, they arrived at the spot near the creek and the forest where the villagers from Rudnik/Runik and Vitak/Vitak had left their tractors. The soldiers burned all the vehicles. In a trailer of one of the tractors lay a paralyzed and mute old man, O. M.. One of the soldiers approached him and set fire to the trailer. The captured Kosovo Albanians were then taken to the Vragodol/Vrogodoll field.
The soldiers led the detained Albanians to a field where a tank and an armoured vehicle were parked, with many soldiers around them. The soldiers lined up the detainees in front of the tank, and fired a barrage, killing 18 men. Four men survived the barrage, including V., 13 years old, whom the residents of Kladernica/Kllodernicë and Rudnik/Runik found wounded two days later among the bodies.
* 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.