Humiliating Compensation for Kosovo Albanians Who Survived Torture by Members of Ministry of Interior
The First Basic Court in Belgrade rendered a judgment ordering the Republic of Serbia to pay compensation to the amount of 150,000 RSD each, to three Kosovo Albanians on account of its responsibility for the abuse and inhumane treatment these victims experienced by members of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MoI) during their unlawful detention in 1999 and 2000. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) stresses that by granting petty compensation amounts in these cases, the courts in Serbia are trying to minimize the atrocities committed during the 1990’s against victims of serious violations of human rights for which representatives of state bodies bear responsibility.
The HLC filed a lawsuit for compensation for non-pecuniary damages on behalf of the brothers Xheladin and Zenel Bylykbashi and Jashar Kukaj, on May 4th, 2010 before the First Basic Court in Belgrade. During the proceedings, four hearings were held, during which the Bylykbashi brothers and Mr. Kukaj gave their statements. They were also submitted to medical examination by a court expert, who established that the brothers Bylykbashi and Jashar Kukaj suffered permanent damage to their health due to the torture and inhumane treatment they had suffered in prisons in Serbia.
The court established in its judgement that members of the MoI unjustifiably arrested Xheladin and Zenel Bylykbashi and Jashar Kukaj in late May 1999, after which they kept them in prison for a period of eight months to one year. Even though the court found that the victims’ statements about the day-to-day torture they were submitted to and the inhumane treatment by police officers and prison guards which they experienced were credible, the reasoning of the judgment states that the Bylykbashi and Jashar Kukaj brothers suffered permanent health damage “because of their stay in prison”. The HLC will appeal this judgment.
After members of the Serbian forces took over his house in the village of Trstenik/Tërstenik in mid-May 1999, Zenel Bylykbashi moved with his family to the neighbouring village of Novo Čikatovo/Çikatove e Rë (in the municipality of Glogovac/Gllogoc). They stayed there until May 28th, 1999, when Yugoslav Army soldiers and members of the MoI entered the village, gathered together all the men and took them to Glogovac/Gllogoc. From there, they were taken to the prison in Lipljan/Lipjan. When Zenel jumped off the truck, a police officer hit him heavily on the head and he still has a scar caused by this blow to the head. Zenel was detained in the Lipljan /Lipjan prison, where he was submitted to constant torture, until June 9th, 1999, when he was transported, together with other prisoners, to the prison in Požarevac. There, Zenel was placed in a prison cell. For the first two days they did not receive any food or water. After two months, Zenel was transferred to the pavilion where some 30 prisoners were accommodated. He was released on January 28th, 2001, after spending eight months in unlawful detention. No criminal proceedings have ever been initiated against him.
Xheladin Bylykbashi and Jashar Kukaj lived in the village of Trstenik/Tërstenik. In February 1999, both of them fled the village with their families because of the arrival of Serbian army and police. They found shelter in Štrbulovo/Shterubullovë. On May 28th, 1999, members of the Serb forces entered the village. Police officers arrested Xheladin and Jashar together with three other men from the village; they searched them and then took them by police jeep to Glogovac/Gllogoc. They took them inside some business space where they examined and beat them for several hours. After this, they took them by truck, together with a group of 30 arrested men, to the prison in Lipljan/Lipjan. The conditions in the prison were very bad; prisoners slept on the floor and would receive only one piece of stale bread for meals, and every time they went to the WC., police officers beat them. Due to the poor sanitary conditions, almost all the prisoners caught scabies or lice. Xheladin and Jashar were transferred by bus from Lipljan on June 9th, 1999, to the prison in Požarevac, where they had to run the gauntlet as soon as they stepped out of the bus. Police officers beat them all the way to the entrance into the building. The conditions in the prison in Požarevac were very bad – they received little food, they slept on beds without mattresses, and sanitary conditions were utterly inhumane. They did not receive medical attention.
Jashar Kukaj only managed to establish contact with his family for the first time six months after his arrest, through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He was released after spending 11 months in unlawful detention. He was not examined while in prison and no proceedings have ever been initiated against him.
Xheladin Bylykbashi established contact with his family for the first time three months after his arrest. He was released after spending 11 months in unlawful detention. No criminal proceedings have ever been initiated against him. As in the case of Jashar, Xheladin also experiences some psychological problems on account of the torture suffered.