Krusha e Madhe/Velika Krusa

Krusha e Madhe/Velika Krusa is a small village near the town of Orahovac/Rahovec, around 90 kilometres south of the capital Pristina. In March 1999, Yugoslav forces killed 241 ethnic Albanian civilians there.

The victims were discovered in the years after the war in eight mass graves dug around the village. The largest one contained 58 bodies.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY’s verdict in the case against five high-ranking Yugoslav and Serbian state, army and police officials said that on or around March 25, 1999, forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia attacked the two villages of Mala Krusa/Krushe e Vogel and Velika Krusa/Krushe e Madhe, which are around one kilometre apart. According to the verdict, residents of Mala Krusa/Krushe e Vogel took refuge in a forested area outside the village where they were able to observe Yugoslav and Serbian forces systematically looting and burning their houses.

The ICTY heard a number of witnesses testifying of killings, beheadings, rape and torture in the village. Serbian forces also blew up the village mosque.

According to the testimonies, as well as reports from international NGOs, Serbian police tried to conceal the killings by burning bodies or removing them using trucks and other vehicles. Villagers saw police dumping dead bodies into the nearby river. According to the OSCE, when Serbia’s forces withdrew from Kosovo in June, NATO troops removed a truck from the river and bones were found in the back. Some bodies were also found in the river.

According to Robert McNeil, a British forensic expert who took part in the exhumations in the village in 1999, he and his team saw that the faces of the victims had been covered with torn pieces of clothing and their bodies had been severely mutilated.

“Their noses and ears were missing, and there were signs of serious trauma around their almost empty eye sockets. All that was left in the eye sockets was blackened, congealed blood where their eyes had once been,” McNeil told BIRN in an interview in 2023.

There were children among the bodies, which were still relatively undecayed, according to McNeil. “Each face was almost covered in a mask of dried blood. It was clear they had been beaten and shot multiple times,” he said.

Some 60 people from the village are still listed as missing.


A memorial on the outskirts of the village of Korisha/Korisa, around seven kilometres from the southern Kosovo town of Prizren, commemorates the 72 ethnic Albanian civilians who were killed there on May 13, 1999. The memorial and gravesite where the victims’ bodies are buried lie in a large green field up in the hills.

The victims came from the villages of Korisha/Korisa, Bllaca/Blaca, Budakovs/Budakova, Mushtisht/Mustiste and Grejkoc/Grejkovac in the Suhareka/Suva Reka municipality, and were in the process of trying to escape from Serbian forces when they died.

Most of them were killed when NATO dropped bombs during the night on a refugee encampment in a wooded area on the Prizren-Suhareka/Suva Reka road, near Korisha/Korisa. NATO, which was conducting a campaign of air strikes aimed at forcing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s regime to end its violent repression of Kosovo Albanians, admitted the deadly bombing, saying that it regretted any “accidental civilian casualties”.

Witnesses who survived the attack have claimed that ethnic Albanian civilians were used as human shields by Serbian police in an attempt to prevent a NATO attack.

One survivor, Sokol Ahmetaj, who was 16 at the time, recalled that the night before, on May 12, 1999, civilians who had taken refuge in the surrounding mountains were told that Serbian forces would stage a raid, so they decided to descend to the village in an attempt to escape to Albania.

When they reached a Serbian checkpoint near Korisha/Korisa, they were stopped and ordered to spend the night there, just hours before NATO launched the attack.

Deutsche Welle also broadcast interviews after the incident with survivors who said that Serbian police forced some 600 displaced Kosovo Albanians to serve as human shields in Korisha/Korisa before the attack.

“We were told something bad would happen to us if we left the place,” said an eyewitness interviewed by Deutsche Welle’s Albanian service. He said that Serbian police hinted at what was about to happen. “Now you’ll see what a NATO attack looks like,” he quoted one policeman as saying.

The man said he finally went to sleep underneath a tractor, only to be woken up by explosions and the cries of children and adults.

No one has been indicted for the deaths in Korisha/Korisa so far.


An unpaved road some 75 kilometres west of the capital Pristina leads to the location where 97 bodies of ethnic Albanians were found a few months after the war ended in Kosovo in the summer of 1999.

A report by Agence-France Presse news agency on August 13, 1999 said that the victims exhumed by United Nations forensics experts near Rakosh/Rakos are believed to have been prisoners who were killed at Dubrava Prison near Istog/Istok. The dates of their deaths are believed to have been around May 20, shortly after NATO bombed the prison, as later confirmed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, all the graves in Rakosh/Rakos were marked KPD, which stands for Kazneno Popravni Dom (Penal Correctional Facility) in Serbian.

The burial site is some 15 minutes’ drive from Dubrava Prison, Kosovo’s largest detention facility, not far from the border with Montenegro. The prison had three buildings that could house more than 1,000 inmates.

During its air campaign against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in spring 1999, NATO bombs struck the prison twice, on May 19 and 21, killing an estimated 19 inmates. NATO claimed there was military activity in the direct vicinity.

Over the following days, as many as 97 inmates, all ethnic Albanians, were also killed by the Yugoslav forces, according to the Human Rights Watch NGO.

Witnesses said that the day after the second NATO strike, hundreds of prisoners were assembled on the prison’s sports field and Serbian police and prison guards opened fire and threw grenades at them.

In the hours that followed, prisoners who had hidden themselves inside the building were also hunted down and killed, according to eyewitnesses quoted by Human Rights Watch.

New York Times reporters visited the prison and reported in November 1999 that there were still “piles of abandoned clothes, drenched by months of rain but still giving off a stench of dead bodies. And in the basements of the buildings, the blood lies still sticky on the floor, bullet holes scar the walls, and impact marks of grenade explosions crater the floors.”

The Dubrava Prison massacre was investigated by international missions in Kosovo after the end of the war, but no indictment was issued as the perpetrators were believed to be in Serbia.

In 2010, the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre NGO filed a complaint to the Serbian prosecution accusing 34 people of being responsible for the murder of more than 90 ethnic Albanian prisoners and the wounding of more than 150 others.

Among those accused by the NGO were Serbia’s then justice minister Dragoljub Jankovic, his deputy Zoran Stevanovic and assistant police minister Obrad Stevanovic, as well as numerous named police officials and unidentified members of the Kosovo police force, prison management staff and guards. The Humanitarian Law Centre called for an investigation of suspicions that they planned, organised, ordered and participated in the killing of unarmed ethnic Albanian prisoners, as well as destroying evidence of the crime and hiding the direct perpetrators. The men who were accused insisted they were not guilty.

The Serbian war crimes prosecutor’s office announced in April 2012 that it was investigating the killings. A source in the Belgrade prosecution told BIRN that a number of senior state and police officials were interrogated in Serbia as potential suspects. However, no one has been indicted in Serbia so far.

In November 2023, a Serb who was only identified by the initials G.M. was indicted for alleged involvement in the massacre.

“The defendant is accused of participating in the murder of 109 prisoners and the injuring of 108 other prisoners, all of Albanian nationality [ethnicity], on May 22, 1999 in the ‘Dubrava Massacre’,” the prosecution said.

The Kosovo authorities have installed a monument in the yard of Dubrava Prison to commemorate those who were killed. A commemorative event is held every year at the prison on the anniversary of the killings. 

Suhareka/Suva Reka

The mainly ethnic Albanian-populated village of Suhareka/Suva Reka lies in a valley surrounded by hills where, during the war, the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army had hideouts. As Serbian forces intensified their campaign against the KLA, the village became an often target for killing and looting by the Serbs.

According to Human Rights Watch, most of the abuses in Suhareka/Suva Reka took place in March and April 1999, when many residents were expelled and there were a series of killings. Thousands of people were either deported to Albania or forced to flee and hide in the forests. The looting and burning of civilian property was widespread.

According to the Suhareka/Suva Reka office of the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, 430 people were killed in the municipality during the spring of 1999.

The remains of the 113 people were found in two mass graves in the summer of 1999 – one in the centre of the village, where 54 bodies were discovered, and the second, containing 59 bodies, at Siroko cemetery on the road to the city of Prizren. A number of bodies from Suhareka/Suva Reka were also found some 340 kilometres away at a police training centre in Batajnica in Serbia.  

The 54 bodies of Kosovo Albanian civilians found in Suhareka/Suva Reka itself were discovered near the premises of a former publicly-owned beverage company. The mass grave is in a populated area but remains unmarked.

The gravesite is a couple of minutes away from a memorial erected in 2020 in memory of 48 members of the Berisha family who were killed on March 26, 1999. The victims included 14 children, two babies, a pregnant woman and a 100-year-old woman.

The killing of the Berisha family is considered one of the worst massacres of Kosovo war.

Serbian forces rounded up members of the family, killing several elderly men with machine-gun fire before forcing the rest of the family into a pizza restaurant and throwing hand grenades at them. Those who showed any signs of life were shot in the head, and the bodies were then taken away.

Autopsies showed the victims were not killed in a battle, but executed.

The Serbian war crimes court convicted members of the 37th Brigade of the Yugoslav Army of the killing of the Berisha family, in the first war crimes trial held in Serbia for crimes in Kosovo.

The killings in Suhareka/Suva Reka and surrounding villages also formed part of the trial of four Yugoslav and Serbian political and military leaders – Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanovic, Nebojsa Pavkovic, Vladimir Lazarevic and Sreten Lukic – who were found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Suhodoll i Poshtem/Donje Suvi Do i Suvi Do

The two mass graves that lie in green fields close to the village graveyard in Suhodoll i Poshtem/Donji Suvi Do and Suvi Do in the North Mitrovica municipality were initially discovered in 1999. They were further exhumed in 2017 and 2022. 

The gravesites, one street apart, yielded 131 bodies. Seventy of them were found in the location right to the village graveyard and 61 in the green field down the road. Both locations are unmarked. 

The victims buried there were killed by Serbian forces during the spring of 1999 during their wartime campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The mass grave location remains unmarked.

The first preliminary excavations of the sites were carried out immediately after the war by French soldiers serving with the NATO peacekeeping mission KFOR.

According to a US government report, citing information from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY and media reports, a forensic team then uncovered the bodies of 72 Kosovo Albanians who were shot from close range. 

In March 2022, Kosovo’s Special Prosecution charged Muhamet Alidemaj with war crimes, accusing him of being part of a group of Serbian police and troops who killed 130 Albanian civilians in the village of Izbice/Izbica near Skenderaj/Srbica. 

According to the indictment, on March 18, 1999, Alidemaj and others forced a villager to lead them on a search of her house at gunpoint, slapped her, stole 1,000 German marks from her and set her property on fire.

The indictment further claimed that Alidemaj and the others violently separated women and children under 12 years old from men and ordered them to leave for Albania.

The men were divided into groups and around 130 of them were executed with automatic weapons. Only 12 managed to survive.

Two months after the attack, Alidemaj and other members of Serbian forces are alleged to have returned to the village, exhumed the bodies with an excavator and took them away, according to the indictment. Alidemaj denied the charges against him and pleaded not guilty.

After the war, some of the victims of the Izbice/Izbica massacre were found in the mass grave in Suhodoll i Poshtem/ Donji Suvi Do, while others were found in other mass graves in Novolan near Vushtrri/Vucitrn and at a Serbian police training centre in Batajnica, near Belgrade. 

Cikatove e Vjeter/Staro Cikatovo

Three mass graves were found in the village of Cikatove e Vjeter/Staro Cikatovo after the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and Serbian forces in 1999. International forensic experts found the remains of a total of 230 people. The remains of 180 of those people were found in the two largest graves in the village, located next to each other; one contained 68 bodies and the other 112.

Cikatove e Vjeter/Staro Cikatovo is in the municipality of Gllogoc/Glogovac, part of a hilly region of central Kosovo known as Drenica, and is located around 30 kilometres from the capital Pristina.

Before 1998, when the conflict in Kosovo escalated, the Drenica region was inhabited mostly by Kosovo Albanians. Drenica is considered to be the birthplace of the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla force. It was also the scene of some of the worst wartime atrocities committed against civilians.

In 2021, the Kosovo authorities inaugurated a memorial complex by the roadside at the entrance to the village, where there are also graves of civilians killed in the village in 1999. Some of the bodies buried there were found just after the war in various locations in the village, but others were only repatriated in 2015 when a mass grave of Kosovo Albanian war victims was discovered in the Raska area of Serbia. 

At the end of the war, when Serbian forces started withdrawing from Kosovo, they also carried out a large-scale cover-up operation to remove and hide the bodies of ethnic Albanians from areas in Kosovo where the death toll was highest. At least 1,000 bodies were removed and then reburied in secondary and primary grave sites in Serbia. 

According to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, the killings and the subsequent cover-up took place in the area of responsibility of the Yugoslav Army’s 37th Motorised Brigade, led by commander Ljubisa Dikovic, who later became the head of the Serbian Army. Dikovic has denied any links with the crimes.

The 37th Motorised Brigade was stationed in Kosovo from March 7, 1999 until the arrival of international forces on June 11, 1999. According to the Humanitarian Law Centre, during this period, alone or in conjunction with other Yugoslav army units, the brigade under Dikovic’s command provided planning and weapons support to Yugoslav and Serbian forces committed a number of mass killings of Albanian civilians, acts of rape, looting and destruction of property. The village of Cikatove e Vjeter/Staro Cikatovo was attacked on a number of occasions. 

In the early morning of April 17, 1999, Serbian forces surrounded the village, randomly shelling civilian homes and buildings with artillery, tanks, mortars and other weapons, then entered the village around 6am. In groups of three to five, troops and police raided houses, beat, abused, humiliated and brutally intimidated families in the village, seeking money, jewellery and other valuables, according to the Humanitarian Law Centre. Several people were seriously injured and others were killed in their homes, in front of their family members or neighbours. 

Another deadly attack took place some ten days later. On April 30, 1999 at around 5am, heavily armed Serbian forces surrounded and randomly shelled dozens of villages in the municipalities of Gllogoc/Glogovac and Skenderaj/Srbica. Albanian residents from these villages left their homes in panic, seeking refuge in nearby forests and mountains.

Women, children, the elderly and others who were unable to leave the village of Cikatove e Vjeter/Staro Cikatovo gathered in the local elementary school or hid in the basements of village houses. Serbian forces drove them out of the village, and continued to search for those who had fled into the forests and mountains. Many who were discovered were killed or seriously wounded, either where they were found or while being transported to another location.

The killings in this area formed part of the trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY of former Yugoslav government official Nikola Sainovic and four other political and military leaders – Dragoljub Ojdanovic, Nebojsa Pavkovic, Vladimir Lazarevic and Sreten Lukic, who were found guilty.

In 2014, the Humanitarian Law Centre filed a criminal complaint accusing former 37th Motorised Brigade commander Dikovic of bearing responsibility for wartime crimes. The Serbian prosecution has not indicted Dikovic, however. 


The mass grave in Makoc/Makovac, seven kilometres north of Pristina, was discovered in July 1999, immediately after the war ended in Kosovo. Ethnic Albanian residents of Makoc/Makovac, who had been expelled from their homes by Serbian forces, returned to their village after the arrival in Kosovo of the NATO peacekeeping force, KFOR. They saw scattered bones and decomposing bodies buried in shallow graves around the village’s main graveyard.

The location where most of the bodies were found, next to the road, now has a memorial area with the graves of 115 victims from the village. The village was attacked several times by Yugoslav forces and there was a massacre on April 21, 1999, when almost 100 people died. They were killed on the road by Serbian forces while trying to flee the capital. The youngest victim of this massacre was an eight-year-old girl, Fortesa Rusinovci, while the oldest was a 97-year-old woman, Emine Visoka.

Call it the highway of hell,” the Los Angeles Times reported from Makoc/Makovac on July 5, 1999, a couple of days after villagers returned to their homes.

“The smell is everywhere, emanating from numerous homes, at least three mass grave sites and fallow fields overgrown with wildflowers,” the newspaper reported.

“In each house, the refugees find evidence that is impossible to ignore. There is a living room dominated by a pile of ashes in the shape of a body, marking the spot where a man was rolled in blankets, doused with gasoline and burned alive. There is a wall riddled with bullet holes; Serbian police are said to have executed men there who were kneeling,” the report continued.

So far, no indictment has been filed for the killings.