After Daut Haradinaj threatened Serbs with ethnic cleansing if his brother Ramush was extradited to Serbia, Blic published the testimony of Kujtim Berisha.
Berisha, who was a refugee from Kosovo and a witness in the Hague Tribunal’s war crimes case against Ramush Haradinaj, made his statement to investigators in Podgorica, Montenegro, on May 11, 2004.
But Berisha died before he could testify in court – he was killed in a traffic accident in Podgorica on February 16, 2007 – “under strange circumstances,” the Belgrade-based newspaper is reporting.
The article noted that before the new specialized court for KLA (“Kosovo Liberation Army”) was established, a witness protection unit had been formed “due to the experiences with the killings and intimidation of witnesses” in Ramush Haradinaj’s war crimes trial before the Hague Tribunal, that eventually ended in his acquittal.
Former Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told Blic that Berisha was one of the 19 witnesses against Haradinaj who have died.
Ramush Haradinaj, an ethnic Albanian politician from Kosovo and a former leader of the KLA, is currently in France, and unable to leave that country until a court decides on a Serbian extradition warrant.
Kujtim Berisha was to testify before the Hague about “horrendous cases of torture, and the rape of his wife” – crimes that happened “on Haradinaj’s orders.”
Berisha directly accused both Ramush and Daut Hardinaj of war crimes in the statement he gave to investigators before his death, and which the newspaper has seen.
He testified that the brothers moved large quantities of arms into Kosovo from Albania in 1997, and that they formed a KLA HQ in Glodjane, their native village.
According to the statement, on one occasion, while in a forest cutting wood, he met armed Albanians from Glodjane retreating toward Ratiste, when one of them told him that they “just shot at Serbs,” and that Daut Haradinaj “killed two policemen.”
Berisha said that Idriz Balaj aka Togeri – “Ramush Haradinaj’s right-hand man” – said that “all actions against Serbs and (Albanian) traitors were ordered by Ramush, which ended any further discussion.”
Berisha said that during a night in early July, Togeri stormed his house along with four other men wearing black uniforms.
“Toger handcuffed me. They rose my wife Sanija from bed and, while beating us, took us to the headquarters in Rznic. They immediately threw me into a well more than three meters deep, and took Sanija to the headquarters. A while later Gani Zenija and Taf Chefaj, who were Togeri’s security, pulled me out of that hole. When they took me to the headquarters, he immediately started beating me. I passed out,” Berisha said.
He woke up tied to a metal bed.
“That was their torture device. They released electric current through me several times, and eventually untied me and threw me out into the hallway. I found out later that Sami Haskaj and several other neighbors saved me,” Berisha said in his statement, and added that his wife told him she was raped by Togeri.
He also spoke about the torture of captured police officer Zenun Gashi, as well as Misin N., and his son Salija, as well as another Albanian.
“There at the headquarters, they were ordered to face an apple tree. Togeri pulled out a knife and cut through Zenun Gashi’s thigh muscle to the bone, in one stroke. One of his men brought salt and put it into the wound, while the other used some kind of rusty awl to sew the wound, across the trousers,” Berisha said.
According to his statement, Togeri cut off the nose of Misin’s son and forced the father to eat it.
Berisha was also ordered to harvest a field belonging to two Serb women, a mother and a daughter from the village o Gornje Ratiste, and this was when he saw the women being taken out of their house by Togeri and his subordinates.
“They were beating them the whole time. They threw them into a Jeep and took them in the direction of Radonjicko (Radonjic) Lake. About 20 minutes later we heard a couple of short bursts of fire,” the witness said, adding that he later heard Togeri had killed the women.
Berisha said he saw hundreds of massacred bodies next to a canal near the lake, among them the bodies of the two elderly Serb women.