We Should Know the Facts: Mala Kruša, March 25 and 26, 1999

On March 25 and 26, 1999 members of Serbian armed forces killed 114 Albanian men in the village of Mala Kruša/Krushë e Vogël, Prizren municipality, Kosovo.

In a joint-command operation launched on March 25, 1999, forces of the Yugoslav Army (YA/JA) and Special Police Units (SPU/PJP) from Prizren, Niš, and Novi Sad, began an offensive against villages located between Prizren/Prizren and Orahovac/Rahovec (Bela Crkva/Bellacërke, Celina/Celinë, Velika Kruša/Krushë e Madhe, Mala Kruša/ Krushë e Vogël). More than 500 residents of Mala Kruša/Krushë e Vogël took refuge in vineyards and wooded areas above the village. In the morning hours of March 25, 1999, members of the 23rd PJP Battalion arrested nine men from the village near the main village road and handed them over to local police units of the Prizren Internal Affairs Secretariat (SUP), who executed them in the house of Sabit Qollaku which was later set on fire. On the same day, at least three more villagers were killed in different locations. In the early evening hours the villagers who were hiding in vineyards and nearby wooded areas came down to the Batusha settlement at the outskirts of the Mala Kruša/Krushë e Vogël village.

On the following day, March 26, 1999, a dozen Serbian police officers accompanied by several local Serbs, surrounded the Batusha settlement. They ordered the civilians to gather in a courtyard and after singling out 107 men between 14 and 73 years of age, they ordered the women and the children to go to Albania while cursing and offending them. They took personal documents and valuables from the men they kept in detention and after ordering them to put their hands at the back of their head, they took them to the house of Qazim Batusha. They forced the men into the house and half an hour later several police officers opened fire from their automatic weapons and while standing at the door and at the windows, they shot to death almost all of them. One police officer entered the house and shot and fired at all victims who showed signs of life. When he came out of the house, five villagers jumped out the window and fled. The house was later burned and mined.

Mortal remains of 85 villagers of the village of Mala Kruša/Krushë e Vogël who were killed on March 25 and 26, 1999 have never been recovered and their names were registered into the International Red Cross Committee Missing Person Data Base. It is believed that the remains of their burned bodies were collected by a digger at the execution site and dumped into the Beli Drim River. The bodies of 17 villagers, who had been killed in Qazim’s house or in individual incidents in the village, were exhumed in the village, at the banks of the Beli Drim River, in July 1999 by members of the KFOR British forensic team and indentified in a DNA analyses.

One member of the 23rd PJP Battalion who took part in the siege of the Mala Kruša/Krushë e Vogël village, testified on October 10 and 11, 2006 as a protected witness [witness K-25] in the trial of Milan Milutinović et al. [IT-05-87, Milan Milutinović et al.] conducted before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on which occasion, among other things, he gave a detailed account of the execution of the villagers arrested on March 25, 1999.

Not a single individual responsible for this crime has been prosecuted by state organs of the Republic of Serbia as of yet.