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Tuesday, April 13, 1999 Published at 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK

World: Europe

Refugees tell of systematic rape

Refugees are reporting horror stories of atrocities

Refugees fleeing Kosovo have been giving shocking accounts of rape and murder by Serb forces.

Kosovo: Special Report
In some cases the women say they were raped in front of their families.

In others, Serb soldiers killed their victims after violating them, according to survivors who have fled the province.

Investigators from the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague have arrived in Albania to begin gathering evidence. Some 100 written testimonies have already been collected.

The BBC's Emily Buchanan talks to refugee women about their ordeal
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook says he also has evidence women are being systematically raped at a Serb army camp near the Albanian border after being separated from refugee columns.

Belgrade has in recent days denied allegations of mass rapes in Kosovo, with the state news agency Tanjug describing them as "another monstrous lie".

"It was the Pentagon that invented this ... fabrication about alleged systematic rapes in Yugoslav army camps in Kosovo-Metohija," Tanjug said.

'I wish they had killed me'

What is happening inside Kosovo cannot be independently verified, but the BBC's Emily Buchanan has been hearing the testimonies of refugees now in the Albanian capital, Tirana.

The BBC's Emily Buchanan: "It's difficult to know what's actually happening inside Kosovo"
One survivor told how Serb soldiers murdered four women after raping her and six other women from her village. One of the victims was seven months pregnant.

She said she too thought she would be killed after they raped her in front of her family.

''I thought they want to kill me, but no, they did not want to kill me. For me, it would have been better to kill me than to let me live. I wanted to kill myself. I don't know what to say.''

She said the rape happened after a gang of soldiers came to her house and opened fire ''shooting everywhere''.

''Four of them had masks. One was from my village. He started to hit me,'' she said.

''One was a captain. He told my father, 'Your daughter is good for a Serbian wife.'. They took my arms. One of them had sex with me. One hit, the others kissed.''


A mother told how she saw soldiers separate young women from their families and then rape 10 of them by the roadside.

''They said to the girls, 'You are beautiful, you are for me. We won't kill you, but we want your families to see what we are doing.'.

''They threw the girls to the ground and then, with their knives, they tore every part of their clothing,'' she said.

In Kosovan society, rape carries a very strong social taboo. The women believe it brings shame on the family and if they are single, they think they will never find a husband.

Vatican slams 'morning after' pill

A senior Vatican official has criticised UN refugee workers for providing rape victims from Kosovo with pills to prevent pregnancies developing.

The vice-president of the Vatican's Academy for Life, Elio Sgreccia, said the use of the "morning after" pill amounted to abortion.

The Roman Catholic Church withdrew its contribution to the UN children's fund following use of the pill for rape victims during the Bosnian war.

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