From the testimonies of VJ members it can be inferred that, during Operation Reka, on the 27th of April, the MUP established and controlled checkpoints through which convoys of people were passing towards Albania, while the VJ held under siege the area around Mejë/Meja.
One checkpoint was on the Dobrosh/Dobroš- Gjakovë/Đakovica road, at Meja Orize, and the other was at a crossroads on the road from Mejë/Meja to Korenicë/Korenica. The convoy of people expelled from the villages located to the north-west of the town of Gjakovë/Đakovica [Ripaj Madanaj, Rracaj/ Racaj, Sheremet/Šeremet, Dobrosh/Dobrošetc. – HLC’s remark] had to pass through the first one, at Meja Orize. The people expelled from Korenicë/Korenica had to pass through the second one (at the crossroads on the road leading to Korenicë/Korenica).
In their testimonies, VJ officers stated that the checkpoints were controlled by the MUP. Nikë Peraj, a VJ officer, said that at the checkpoint at Meja Orize he saw PJP members in blue camouflage uniforms and members of the Police Reserve in plain blue uniforms. The SUP Gjakovë/Đakovica Inspector Dimitrije Rašović was in charge of this checkpoint. The person in charge of the checkpoint located at the crossroads on the road leading to Korenicë/Korenica most likely was Milan Šćepanović, also an Inspector of the SUP Gjakovë/Đakovica.
A member of the Military Police responsible for securing the 2nd Motorized Battalion’s command post which was located around 100-150 meters from the checkpoint on the crossroad towards Korenicë/ Korenica (witness K90), saw from that post that there the inflow of people through the checkpoint was not steady, but that people were arriving in groups. The police would stop them at the checkpoint, seizetheir valuables and separate the men from the rest of the groups and order the women and children to continue their way.
On the other hand, Radovan Zlatković, who was Detective Inspector at the Gjakovë/Đakovica Police Department at the time when the crimes took place, said that the checkpoint at the crossroads in Mejë/ Meja was jointly operated by the VJ and the MUP. Zlatković’s accounts were indirectly supported by the combat report of the 3rd Army for 4 April 1999, which states that mixed VJ and MUP checkpoints were set up on all major roads leading out of Kosovo.
In the context of Operation Reka, the VJ was ordered to surround the area around Korenicë/Korenica and Mejë/Meja. According to available documents, 52nd Artillery Brigade and 549th MtBr units were deployed in the immediate vicinity of Mejë/Meja on 27 April 1999. During the Operation Reka, the command post of the 2nd Motorized Battalion of the VJ 549th MtBr VJ was located beside the road connecting Korenicë/Korenica with Mejë/Meja, about 100 metres away from the checkpoint. The VJ 52nd ArBr held under siege the area between the villages of Skivjan/Skivjane and Rracaj/Racaj, about a kilometre and a half away from Mejë/Meja.
From the testimonies of VJ officers it can be inferred that the local MUP force, the PJP, and Arkan’s and Šešelj’s paramilitary units operated in Mejë/Meja on the day when the crimes were committed in this village. The ICTY established that VJ, MUP and paramilitary forces operated in Mejë/Meja on 27 April and that the VJ provided support to the MUP in Mejë/Meja.
In the early morning of 27 April 1999, residents of the villages in the Reka e Keq/Reka Valley (Pacaj, Nivokaz, Sheremet/Šeremet, Mejë/Meja, Dobrosh/Dobroš, Dallashaj/Dalašaj, Rracaj/Racaj, Osek Hilë/ Osek Hilja and others) were ordered by members of Serbian forces to leave their homes and go to Albania.Two convoys of tractors were formed and headed towards Gjakovë/Đakovica. Masked members of the Serbian forces were on both sides of the road along which the column was moving.
The convoys reached two checkpoints (at the crossroads in Mejë/Meja, and at Meja-Orize) manned by Serbian forces. Members of Serbian forces in green and blue camouflage uniforms, some of whom wore caps and masks, and armed with automatic rifles, stopped the tractors. They ordered the women to hand over their money and jewellery. The men between the ages of 14 and 90 were taken off the tractors and marched to a meadow to the right of the road. Members of Serbian forces beat them and hit them with rifle butts and police batons along the way. Dragutin Stojanović, known as “Guta”, the Commander of the police station in Ponoshec/Ponoševac, was identified by the witnesses as having been amongst the members of the Serbian forces who had been separating the men from the women and children.
The men in the meadow were then lined up in three rows by several dozen members of the Serbian forces, and made to kneel down, raise their hands above their hands and shout “Serbia! Serbia!”. After separating the men from the column, members of the Serbian forces ordered the women and children to continue to Albania.
As for the 274 men who were taken out of the convoy in Mejë/Meja on 27 April 1999, the bodies of 252 were exhumed in 2001-2002 from the mass graves at Batajnica, eight were found in Mejë/ Meja, one in Nivokaz, one in Ripaj Madanaj, while12 of the men are still unaccounted for.
How and at what locations the 274 male civilians who were separated from the convoys were killed remains largely unknown. Only the circumstances of the executions of some smaller groups of men have been established so far. This is one of the few mass killings in Kosovo where there were no survivors and therefore no witnesses to testify.
An examination of the bodies exhumed from the mass grave at Batajnica revealed numerous gunshot wounds on the victims’ bodies.
Several VJ members who took part in Operation Reka and an eyewitness testified before the ICTY as to the manner in which some groups of civilians were executed.
According to a Military Police member [witness K90] whose task was to secure the command post of the VJ 549th MtBr’s 2nd Motorized Battalion on 27 April, a certain number of the separated men were taken in groups, under gunpoint, to a compound near the command post of the VJ. There the men were herded into a house in the compound, followed by the police. Although witness K90 could no longer see them, he heard a prolonged automatic fire, after which the police left the house. Witness K90 said: “I could understand why they fired for so long. It was very clear to me what was going on, the Albanian men were just murdered”. He saw at least four groups, numbering from five to over ten men, taken to the compound in this manner. He then went to the compound, entered one of the houses and saw dead bodies. In his witness statement he said he could not tell how many bodies there were, but that they covered the floor.
While at the compound, witness K90 spoke to a policeman, who told him that they were “slaughtering Shiptars”.
From a position near the command post of the 2nd Battalion of the Military Police, located at the entrance to Korenicë/Korenica, witness K90 saw a group of about 10 men, led by policemen at gunpoint, walking towards him from the direction of the command post. These men were being forced to sing a Serbian nationalistic song and taken to the compound, from where K90 again heard automatic weapons firing. Before leaving the compound, the police burned the smaller buildings in the compound in which the men were murdered. Witness K90 reported what he had seen to his superior, Major Vlatko Vuković, who reacted angrily but did not report the incident to anyone. VJ officer Nikë Peraj, in the afternoon of 27 April 1999, saw 20 male corpses lying in a field beside the Hasanaj family house, about 30 metres away from the checkpoint in Mejë/Meja. He noticed powderburns on the heads of some of the victims, which indicated that they were shot at point-blank range. Peraj also saw three petrol canisters and a heap of torn-up identity documents there.
Martin Pnishi, a Kosovo Albanian from Mejë/Meja, saw, at about 11:45 hours of 27 April, five armed men in uniforms, of whom he recognized Predrag Stojanović, a member of the Gjakovë/Đakovica SUP, marching seven young Kosovo Albanians from the school in Mejë/Meja towards the bridge over the Trava River. At the Mejë/Meja side of the bridge, the policemen lined up the young men. One policeman then walked to the middle of the bridge, while the others stayed behind, guarding the young men. The policemen who stood in the middle of the bridge then shot the young men from a machinegun. The young men all fell to the ground. A short time later, Martin Pnishi went to the bridge, but he could not recognize any of the young men. The ICTY Chamber in the Đorđević case found that there was no evidence that these seven young men had been members of the KLA. “The circumstances of their deaths were such that they were unarmed, prisoners in the custody of the police and were not taking any active part in hostilities. The Chamber is satisfied that they were all killed on account of being Kosovo Albanians.”
In the course of Operation Reka, conducted on 27-28 April 1999, at least 350 civilians were killed and several thousands of local residents were expelled from the area and their property looted or destroyed. Among the civilians killed, 36 were minors, and 13 individuals are still accounted as missing.
In 2015, the Humanitarian Law Center published the "Operation Reka" Dossier which offers a detailed overview of this operation.