Lecture at Academy of Science and Arts of Kosovo: „Genocide related to my documentation of the war crimes in the1998-99 war in Kosovo“ – 27.04.2023 by Josef Martinsen


Dear Kosova Academy, I would like to thank The Kosovaro – Swedish Scientific Institute. for inviting me to speak about Genocide related to my war crime documentation from 1998-99.

History was my favourite subject in school, back in the 1940-s. Back then, there was no internet, today I could easily find on the internet information about Kosova Academy first established in 1975.

Over the years in Kosova and Serbia I read some Albanian and Balkan history, I once came across the word “Bese” in Albanian as something sacred and represented an Albanian virtue. For us Norwegians we have something similar “a word is a word”.

During my lecture I may have a digression or two. (Digression, “act of deviating from the main subject matter in speaking“). Here you have the first digression:

The Albanians in the Balkans, unlike many people in Europe, are said to have taken care of Jews on the run from German Nazi’s persecution, during Second World War 1938-45. In Scandinavia, only the Danish and the Swedish people took care of the Jews on the run.

The Norwegians did the opposite, the local Norwegian police gathered Jews in secret planned actions. Early in the morning all Jews were gathered and put on a boat to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. On 25- 26 November 1942 more than 750 were sent and only 26 came back alive after the war. This is a heavy historical burden for Norway.

The intervention that turned the tide in Kosova

If NATO had not intervened in March 1999 and subjected former Yugoslavia to an extensive air bombing for over 78 days. I think most of the Kosova Albanian population would probably have been refugees all over Europe and in the rest of the world, and Kosova would have remained as part of Serbia in the rest of Yugoslavia.

On 17 of February 2008, representatives of the people of Kosova declared Kosova’s independence (with the support of the US, UN, and EU) and subsequently adopted the Constitution of Kosova, which came into effect on 15 June 2008.

Well, back to the subject of Genocide. In 1948 UN approved a definition to cover the term


Fig 1

The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as:

  • killing members of the group;
  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and]
  • forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.“

In 1998, the ICTR (International crime tribunal Rwanda) set the important precedent that systematic rape is in fact a crime of genocide.

 The international legal and political community have for some reason avoided using the term Genocide when it comes to crimes committed in Kosova in 1998-99, where 10600 unarmed civilians were deliberately hunted down and murdered. And around half of the Albanian population was deported and forcibly transferred out of Kosova. My documentation presented in 2010 clearly shows that Genocide was committed. The asymmetric warfare launched by Yugoslavian army and the Serbs in Kosova under the Milosevic regime from 1998 – 99 resulted in these indictments and sentences:

Fig 2

On 26 February 2009, the following former police and military officials of the former Yugoslavia and Serbia were convicted by Trial Chamber III of the Tribunal for crimes against humanity committed in Kosova in 1999:

  1. Former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, Nikola Šainović, Yugoslav Army (VJ) General, Nebojša Pavković and Serbian police General Sreten Lukić were each sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment for crimes against humanity and violation of the laws or customs of war.
  2. Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarević and Chief of the General Staff Dragoljub Ojdanić were found guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of a number of charges of deportation and forcible transfer of the ethnic Albanian population of Kosova, and each sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

The Prosecution charged the five with crimes committed during a campaign of terror and violence directed against the ethnic Albanian population of Kosova in early 1999. Each of the accused was alleged to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was to modify the ethnic balance in Kosova to ensure continued control by the Serbian authorities. The plan was to be executed by criminal means, including deportations, murders, forcible transfers, and persecutions of Kosova Albanians.”         

When UNMIK took over control of Kosova they had no records of the population or archives that could facilitate the work of setting up lists of dead and missing. Most of the office inventory and technical equipment were gone.

The new authorities and others in Kosova who worked with dead and missing people were very dependent on the lists that were created by international organisations such as the Red Cross, the ICTY and other NGOs. Because three different languages were used, (English, Albanian and Serbian), the lists were to some extent deficient. Many who came and reported could not document who they were and whom they represented.

Serb military, police and paramilitary forces who participated in the forced expulsion of more than half of the civilian Albanian population, took by force all forms of personal ID and other documentation from the population that could prove they belonged in Kosova.

Fig 3

Before I started the book project, November 2006, regarding the 400 mass graves I contacted the Director at the Institute of History Dr. Jusuf Bajraktari and the Director of the Archives of Kosova, Dr. Jusuf Osmani and asked them for advice concerning my book project. To my surprise they said that I should start as soon as possible otherwise evidence could be lost, because it was already seven years after the war. They told me they were barred from acting on this and other cases by UNMIK and the local authorities at the time, since there were no allocated resources to their departments.  It is worth mentioning that I first spoke with head of UNMIK JUSTICE section back in 2006, but they told me not to bother doing documentation and book because they had all needed information.

I asked Mr. Bajraktari and Mr. Osmani for a written recommendation for my book project which they issued, see below:


Fig 4

Data sources I used thanks to the recommendation issued by Dr. Jusuf Bajraktari Institute of History and Dr. Jusuf Osmani back in November 2006.

1 = International Committee Red Cross – Prishtina (ICRC)

2 = International Crime Tribunal for former Yugoslavia – the Hague (ICTY)

3 = Office for Missing Persons Forensic/UNMIK/EULEX – Prishtina (OMPF)

4 = Humanitarian Law Centre – Belgrade (HLC)

5 = Author (Josef Martinsen – research work in Kosova) (JM)

6 = International Justice – Human Rights Watch (HRW

7 = No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ)

8 = International Crisis Group, (Reality Demands) Brussels (ICG)

9 = Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

10 = Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, Pristina (CDHRF

 Fig 5

Already early spring of 1998 Kosova Albanians were forced to leave their homes and villages due to heavy shelling against their houses and foot soldiers that came in after the shelling and forced the families out on the roads or to the forests and mountains and burned down theirs houses. The number of registered persons outside Kosova from March 1998 to February 1999:

March 1998                             24 000

April 1998                                170 000

October 1998                          200 000

November 1998                      175 000

January 1999                           190 000

February 1999                        210 000                                    

Numbers of refugees displaced from Kosova 23 March-9 June 1999

From 23 March 1999 things escalated dramatically when USA, Britain and NATO started the announced bombing of rest Yugoslavia, including Serbia and Montenegro. Milosevic declared state of war and the Military was official in charge of all actions that took place in Kosova. I will not repeat the numbers but point out that in the course of about 4 months more than 800 thousand were forced out of Kosova.

(Kosova/Kosova As Seen, As Told (OSCE) registered the following number of people who fled or was forced out of Kosova.)

Fig 6


Mass graves found in Serbia with Albanian victims.

During 1998 and first six months of 1999 several thousand Kosova Albanians disappeared inside Kosova. More than 836 were found in mass graves in Serbia. The dead victims were transported from mass graves in Kosova on trucks to mass graves inside Serbia in order to cover up criminal acts committed by Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces. These covert activities were revealed when a lorry with dead bodies was involved in a traffic accident and the lorry ended in a river and dead Kosova Albanian bodies began to float in the water. More than two thousand Kosova Albanians are still missing. Here I have some pictures, showing a map section and photos of places where dead Albanians were found inside Serbia.

Fig 7


Fig 8 and 9


In this location in Batajnica mass graves where found, in long underground tunnels (50-100 m) which earlier were used to grow mushrooms, now used to store bodies taken from mass graves in Kosova.



Fig 9

Photo: Dr. Arsim Sh. Gërxhaliu (2002)                       

Fig 10


Additional information as late as 10 May 2010 from Serbia shows new mass grave found in Raska near the border to Kosova. (Photo Scanpix/Reuters)


All that I have presented point at Genocide. For further information concerning my documentation see:

Last part of my lecture

It is very strange how time has flown for me since 2010 when I presented my war crimes documentation. For everyone else also time has clearly flown, except for the raped women during the war in Kosova, especially for the first 423 raped women who found the courage to sign a document, when asked for by UNMIK and the local authorities, for them time has almost stood still. UNMIK and the new Albanian political authorities needed in 1999 documented evidence of abuses against civilians committed by the Serbs in Kosova in 1998-99. The group of 423 raped women signed and were promised protection, support and help in the local environment when they moved home, but help never came! Since 2010 after having the first meeting with some of the women who were raped, I understood that my work in Kosova could not end yet. A new page cannot be opened in the lives of these women without first filling the empty space that was created. The political leaders cannot move on in life with other tasks until given promises are fulfilled. For years I have sent letters to the previous and current Prime Minister for the 423 female war victims, to compensate for the lack of support that was promised, but nothing happened.

Fig 11

Three books were written since 2003 by local female writers and I wonder how many politicians have read these books?

– Historit Tmerri 1998-1999 (History of Horror) of Sanije Gashi (2010)

– Rrefime Tronditëse 2003, Luljeta Selimi  (Femrat e Dhunura Gjatë Luftës së Kosovës)

– Pa Apologji (Without Apology) by F. Ramosaj (2005), Printed by Dukagjini

Well, here is a digression at the end:

(In religion, a prophecy is a message that has been communicated to a person by a supernatural entity. Here the other night I got a prophecy like this:

„There will rest a curse upon Kosova until the 423 female war victims have got their rightful excuse and compensation.“

Thank you for listening.