SENEGAL/BALKANS: Many people in this world are torture survivors, but they cannot disclose or identify their traumatic experiences. The Serbian and Yugoslav government offensive in Kosovo that began on March 20, 1999, four days before NATO bombing commenced, was a methodically planned and well-implemented campaign. Several human rights abuses were committed, including torture, murder, rape, forced expulsions, and other war crimes.
Extrajudicial executions: The deliberate and unlawful slaughter of civilians were a crucial component of the “cleaning” effort. Women and some children were among the people who were assassinated around the region who were obviously non-combatants.
In this article, a Kosovo war crime survivor talks about the torture she had to endure and a narrative that serves as a remembrance of the Kosovo war crimes victims.
A heartbreaking story of a Kosovo war crime survivor
I was their understudy. All the tortured souls were chained to the same wooden stand I was on. The terrifying thought slowly started to crawl up in the back of my mind, which promptly took all my soul’s energy.
“Eventually, my mind’s worries became physically visible, chills took over my body, and my hands started shaking. Before I could even notice, the raging fire within me extinguished and became a perpetual void.”
I was surrounded by complete darkness and silence. I had to snap out of it to regain focus eventually.
“Agnesa Prifti, a voice which spoke with confidence but also care, has just announced my name.”
The tears started to fill the void. I could not afford to let the Scorpions see me cry. I did not want to give them that pleasure. The Scorpions slaughtered my family, the authors of my hope, and the only people I knew would get their fists bloody for me. I could not give the Scorpions the image that with every day, I was unravelling a bit more; I was slowly losing my mind, becoming unhinged.
But the Scorpions couldn’t know that; no one had gained the trust to know that except for my father. I would have described him as my anchor a few years ago, but I corrected myself since anchors hold you down. He didn’t.
He consistently wanted me to grow, explore new options, and finally forsake my everlasting agony. He was the only person whose words comforted me; his voice was as comforting as a blanket on a cold rainy day.
The judge was starting to get impatient. My shaky legs somehow made their way up to the stand. The part I had tried to escape and dreaded for so long was starting to come to life. As I made my way up, I started to notice every detail, the artificial cold air that had forced everyone to wear long sleeves.
The blue chairs, each one with different creaking spots. The UN flag with a yellow outline hanging from a pole designed so it wouldn’t touch the ground but wouldn’t surpass the ceiling. The dark orangey wooden desks, which I assumed were Mahogany. The blue and white curtains completely obstructed my view of the outside.
“Ms Prifti, do you remember what happened on 27 November 2002?” The judge spoke again. I dreaded the sound of her voice since I knew every time she said I had to come up with a reply.
The sinking feeling started. No matter what I tried telling myself, I knew this was inevitable. My tears started rolling down my cheeks. They were uncontrollable. However, I tried to not make them as noticeable. I did not want people to see me as a broken toy but rather as someone who has endured one of humanity’s many heinous crimes.
“Yes, I do,”
“Could you please describe what happened, Ms. Prifti?”
I took a deep breath and looked at my father. He seemed preoccupied but proud. He gave me a contagious smile wanting to transmit hope, but it ended up having the opposite effect. I felt incredibly sorry for all the trouble I had put him through.
“It was cloudy. It was as if even the sky knew what would go down. My mother, father, aunt, and brother were on a walk. Threats from the Scorpions had been going around for a while in our town, but we had the armed men around, so we didn’t give it much thought since we had been locking ourselves at home and desperately wanted to go out.”
I want all of this to come to an end, and at this point, any end will do. My mind was telling me to run and sprint out of the courtroom, but I knew I needed to get justice for my slaughtered family.
Suddenly, we started to hear people scream at the top of their lungs, begging for their lives. I didn’t know that my family would soon take part in this tragedy.
The Scorpions would not stop staring at me. I assumed those stares meant that I deserved all of this. They were insulting the scars they made. I could vividly remember one of them, and I could smell the cigarettes from miles away. His well-groomed beard and a smug look on his face.
They all wore military uniforms; this was probably to remain invisible during their attacks, but their morals were the opposite of military men. The military men served our country while the Scorpions helped destroy it.
They all carried hunting rifles which were used for hunting tormented Kosovar Albanians instead of animals. They were either overweight or incredibly fit. The fit men usually captured the victims while the overweight ones held them down and put them out of the misery they had created.
“Two men jumped my aunt; two other men jumped my mom. Three other Scorpions decided to go against my dad because they viewed him as the strongest. Therefore, they needed more manpower for their psychotic desires.”
“Ms Prifti, could you please elaborate?”
I wanted to, and I wanted the world to know the amount of suffering these people had caused me. There was something inside of me that would not let me. My whole body shook, my voice broke, and tears streamed down my face.
Both my aunt and mother were pregnant, but thanks to the atrocities committed by these men standing in front of me, the four of them are no longer with us. They killed my aunt and mother by slashing their stomachs open with a knife.
I wanted to destroy the men who had torn my family apart completely, and the fire within me had been resurrected. However, I still wanted to sprint out of the courtroom. I didn’t want to stay anymore. There were also some details I didn’t feel ready to share with the Presiding judge, so I hoped Artan would bring them to light. But there were a few that only I could explain.
For example, when my father first found me, the NATO force in Kosovo (KFOR) had presumed I was dead since I was drenched in blood under my cold and rigid aunt. He most likely saw the despair in my eyes at that moment. I blocked out the memory, but my dad had reminded me of it.
“Thank you, Ms Prifti.”
My turn had come to an end. I felt relieved as soon as I sat back down in my chair. Everything was shining brighter. I was brave enough to tell them what these men had done to me while they were watching. I’m not usually vengeful, but I don’t believe the same rules can be applied in these circumstances.
Artan was the next to go up to the stand. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but I was too preoccupied watching the Scorpions’ faces fill up with anger and worry with every word he spoke. I was now proud of him and me, although we only met a few hours ago. Everyone in the courtroom was about to collapse from stress or misery.
I couldn’t remember how the remaining three hours of the hearing went; I must have subconsciously forgotten them. However, I recall exactly when they announced the verdict. Those five long hours that felt like an eternity finally ended.
At 17:00, the ICTY Presiding Judge delivered the verdict against seven Scorpion gang members. The verdict was immediate life imprisonment at the ICTY facilities in The Hague.
When they announced their sentence, tears poured down my face, and I ran to hug Artan, who I discovered during the trial was my twin brother. I wanted my testimony to be lethal, and thankfully, it was. They took everything from me, and now I had been an accomplice in taking their freedom from them.
Also Read: Harold D’Souza: Never Underestimate The Power Of A Survivor
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