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This page originates from:  

The articles collected by: Mr. Benjamin Crocker Works, Director
SIRIUS: The Strategic Issues Research Institute
www.siri-us.com
E-mail: BenWorks@aol.Com
The original page is at: Sirius Kosovo Archive ***


ARCHIVE: Racak forensics


NOTE: This Archive, intended for research purposes, includes copyrighted material "for fair use only."

Contents:

  1. Jan. 30, 1999; Preliminary Forensic [Autopsy] Report
  2. Die Welt, Mar. 8, 1999; Whether or not it was a massacre, nobody wants to know any more
  3. Radio B 92; Mar. 10, 1999; SERB INVESTIGATORS: RACAK NOT A MASSACRE
  4. Berliner Zeitung, Mar. 13, 1999; D Johnstone precis, US Scenario for Kosovo Continues to Collapse
  5. Radio B 92, March 16, 1999; Politika Claims Ranta Report Clears Serbs
  6. Reuters, March 16, 1999; Racak report author hopes to stop Kosovo violence
  7. Wash Times, Mar. 17, 1999, RJ Smith; Kosovo Attack Report Issued
  8. The Guardian, Mar. 17, 1999, 40 Kosovo Dead Said To Be Civilians
  9. Reuters, Mar. 17, 1999; K Schork, Autopsy report inconclusive on Kosovo massacre
  10. AP, Mar. 17, 1999; J Gec; Autopsy report inconclusive on Kosovo massacre
  11. Reuters, Mar. 17, 1999; Forensic Expert Calls Racak Deaths 'Crime Against Humanity'
  12. Memo to SIRIUS, Mar. 17, 1999; Observations on Racak and Clinton Policy
  13. AFP, Mar. 17, 1999; US says Racak forensic report confirms massacre
  14. AP, Mar 17, 1999; G Jahn, Yugo Army Bolsters Readiness
  15. Reuters/Pres. Clinton, March 19, 1999; Press Conference Statement on Kosovo & Racak

Introduction:

R Jeffrey Smith of The Washington Post, got leaks from "unidentified Western sources" that the Finnish Forensics (Autopsy) report would confirm up to 40 innocent civilians were executed at Racak on January 15th, (article #7). But in Europe, evidence to the contrary had already been leaked or released in a preliminary report of Jan. 30, 1999. Further, even before his story ran, Ranta herself, in a Reuters interview on the 16th (article #6), belied Smith's allegations. She was responding to an allegation made by Politika that morning, that her report would exonerate Serbia. Two days later, President Clinton in a press conference was reiterating the same unsubstantiated charges of a massacre advanced in Smith's article in his press conference statement (Article #15).

Both the Serb and American governments have attempted to spin the story their way before and after the release of the scientific report on March 17th. I do not yet have the text of Helena Ranta's official summary, but it is widely cited in the various articles below, which represent a range of views on what the findings mean.

Dr. Ranta's problems are twofold; the bodies were out overnight in an unsecured area, before anybody got film of the sites; William Walker compounded the problem by grandstanding, while the KLA prevented a scientific recording of the site through the next day. Second, by the time the Finns reached the temporary morgue, autopsies were underway. Both sides had a chance to contaminate the evidence, so her conclusions had to remain limited.

William Walker's claim that Serbs had mutilated the bodies was disproved; it appears small animals gnawed at the corpses overnight. Serb claims that uniforms had been changed after death was debunked in the report.

Per The Guardian (article 6) Ranta admitted that her team did not conduct one test that is used to determine if a corpse has fired weapons --the "paraffin test." Why this test was not conducted by the Finns is unexplained. Under intense questioning by the Press, Ranta did assert there had been a crime against humanity, but that term and the term "massacre" are not used in the report itself.

These selections start with a preliminary report filed in Yugoslavia on Jan. 30, followed by leaks from Europe contesting the US-held massacre theory and a highly slanted article by R Jeffrey Smith advancing the US theory, prepared the day before the reports release. We then get to various articles published after the release of the report and Dr. Ranta's press conference. In that conference, Dr. Ranta explicitly denied Mr. Smith's allegation that a deliberate massacre at-close-range had taken place. Under some pressure from the questioners, she did characterize in remarks that there had been a "crime against humanity."

In the companion Archive "KLA-Racak.html" the reader will find accounts of the action at Racak, including two French articles disputing the massacre theory, based on AP-TV footage taken during the fighting on Jan. 15.

Benjamin Works


The Articles

1. Subj: Jan 30, 1999, Preliminary Forensic Report on 40 Racak Dead

From: Tim Fenton <ae407@dial.pipex.com>

Professor Srboljub Zivanovic (a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and eminent member of the forensic archaeology community in Britain) has received the general findings of the autopsies carried out by Yugoslav, Belarussian and Finnish scientists. One of his students was involved in the investigation and he has kindly passed them on...

________________________________________________________________________

On the basis of the order given by the investigative judge of Pristina district court, Danica Masrinkovic, Case Number 14.99, the group of forensic specialists reached the following

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

1. 40 bodies from Racak village district were autopsied, labelled from RA 1 to 40. 16 autopsies were performed in the presence of and with the active participation of 2 forensic experts from Belarus, and a further 24 were performed with forensic experts from Finland.

2. The autopsy process began with the removal of the seal covering the door of the chapel (taking off the red wax seal) and the unblocking of the door by order and in the presence of the district judge, the Serbian expert team, the experts from Belarus, the representatives of the OSCE (Ian Robert Hendry from the UK, Michael Petersen from Denmark and Maje Stanic, the English language interpreter for the observers).

3. Before beginning the autopsies, the criminal investigation service of Pristina took palm and finger prints on foil paper in the presence of the OSCE verifiers and the experts from Belarus.

4. On the basis of the autopsies carried out it was established that in all cases death had been caused by the effects of projectiles fired from hand-held firearms.

5. All wounds were inflicted pre-death, apart from some on 6 of the bodies which were inflicted by small animals after death.

6. The wounds caused by shots were to all sides and parts of the bodies and from various directions.

7. The wounds on the bodies were accompanied by matching tears on the clothes of the deceased.

8. There were no signs of the use of either sharp or blunt weapons on any of the bodies, either pre or post mortem.

9. No trace of gunpowder was seen on any of the bodies; there were two wounds where it was not possible to establish with certainty the distance from which the wounds had been inflicted.

10. The findings and conclusions of every autopsy were unanimously agreed with the experts from Belarus. In the latter 24 cases, they were also agreed with the experts from Finland.

11. During the complete process of each autopsy, video / sound recording was carried out using two or three cameras (respectively for the Criminal Investigation Service of Pristina, the European Union, and the

Finnish team). Still photography, Dictaphone taping (in most cases), sketching, injury description and, in 24 cases, X-ray photography were also part of the routine procedure. All this is an integral part of the documentation supporting the given conclusions in each specific case.

12. All 16 bodies autopsied before the Finnish team joined in the work were subsequently made available to the Finnish team. They were also provided with the full records, including the photographic documentation and the video / sound records of the work on these bodies.

The Finnish team examined all 16 bodies which had been autopsied before their arrival in the presence of those who had performed the original autopsies. X-ray photography was carried out on 8 of the bodies; still photography was carried out on all the bodies and wounds, as was photography and inspection of the clothing.

There was no difference between the original 16 autopsy findings and the findings from the re-examination of the same 16 bodies. Consequently, the findings and conclusions in the case of the first 16 bodies were unanimously agreed by the expert teams.

13. As part of the autopsy in every case tissue, organ and blood samples were taken and blood stains were taken on to filter paper in order to enable subsequent analysis if required. The clothes and projectiles removed from the bodies were given to the investigative authorities in Pristina.

14. It should be emphasised that the work of all the forensic experts who participated in the above forensic examinations was of a high professional level and was conducted with complete reciprocal trust and respect.

Signed in Pristina 30th January 1999

Yugoslav team of Experts

1. Prof Dr Slavisa Dobricanin of Pristina

2. Prof Dr Milos Tasic of Novi Sad

3. Prof Dr Vujadin Otasevic of Nis

4. Prof Dr Dusan J. Dunjic of Belgrade

Experts from Belarus

1. Dr Vladimir Kuzmicov

2. Dr Oleg Levkovic

__________________________________________________________________________

(I received the English translation by email but will post the original Serbo-Croat when I have time to type it in)

++ END/KRAJ


2.  DIE WELT (Vienna) March 8, 1999

"Whether or not it was a massacre, nobody wants to know any more"

By Karin Kneissl

Vienna - Massacre or gruesome piece of propaganda? What happened in the Kosovo village of Racak last January 15?

Finnish legal doctors were supposed to clear up whether in fact 45 ethnic Albanian civilians were executed by Serbian units -- or whether defeated UCK/KLA fighters who were killed in battle were arranged to deceive Western observers. Now the dead have been buried for three weeks -- but the report is still not in. No wonder: "This report is a hot potato", said an OSCE diplomat in Vienna to Die Welt, "no one really wants to touch it." ["Eine heisse Kartoffel is dieser Bericht", sagt ein OSCE-Diplomat in Wien gegenueber der WELT,"Keiner will in so richtig".]

At first the report of the Finnish doctors' team was held back out of consideration for the Kosovo peace talks in Rambouillet, although it was ready from a legal medical viewpoint. That is indirectly admitted by the OSCE.

As acting EU Presidency, the German government was supposed to receive this delicate document from the Finns via the German embassy in Helsinki. "We are waiting for the report these days, the delivery can happen at any moment," said a Bonn foreign ministry spokesman.

But in the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna the story goes like this: "The originals are in the hands of the judicial officials and the medical faculty of Pristina as contractors." There is no thought of further publication. "We don't know whether the EU as sponsor of this inquiry already has a report," says Mans Nyberg, OSCE spokesman.

Moreover it was the Chief of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, William Walker, who immediately after the events in Racak announced that the Serbs were responsible for a "massacre." Again in early February he said: "It will come out that it was a massacre by Serbs". These declarations greatly sharpened tensions between the Serbs and NATO, so that for a while airstrikes were in the offing.

Even if strictest secrecy is maintained, leaks of the report's conclusions are to be reckoned on. But: "In view of the ongoing efforts to get the conflicting parties to sign an agreement, nobody is interested in finding out what really happened in Racak," said an OSCE diplomat with resignation.


3. B92 Radio Report , 3-10-99; Racak Investigation Findings [English]]

SERB INVESTIGATORS: RACAK NOT A MASSACRE (lines 61-75 in B 92 format)

PRISTINA, Wednesday -- Serbian Public Prosecutor Dragisa Krsmanovic told media today that forensic experts had determined that UCK members killed in Racak on January 15 had not been mutilated. According to Krsmanovic, investigators had detected nitrates on 37 of the 40 bodies, which demonstrated that they had been firing guns before they were killed. He added that all injuries on the bodies had been inflicted by weapons fired from a distance. The Pristina Prosecutor's Office found that there were no grounds for proceedings against Serbian police involved in the Racak incident because the police had acted within the law and their authority in repulsing an attack.

A report on the same incident by a Finnish team of forensic scientists will be released by team leader, pathologist Helena Ranta, in Pristina next Wednesday.

Odraz B92 vesti, 031099/1 [English] 13:00 CET: source: http://moumee.calstatela.edu/~sii/odrazb/n_990301/0309991e.htm


4. U.S. SCENARIO FOR KOSOVO CONTINUES TO COLLAPSE:

EUROPEANS WANT TO FIRE WILLIAM WALKER

From Diana Johnstone in Paris

13 March 1999

Faced with mounting evidence that the January 15 "Racak massacre" was a set-up perpetrated by ethnic Albanian rebels to win NATO support, a number of European governments want to replace the American head of the Kosovo Verification Mission who hastily endorsed the "massacre" story, a Berlin newspaper reported today. The Kosovo Verification Mission is officially under the authority of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but its chief, former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, has tended to make it a one-man American show.

On January 16, Ambassador William Walker, accompanied by a large media contingent, was led by members of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) to a ditch in the village of Racak where some forty bodies were lying. In an instant on-the-spot press conference, Walker spoke of his "personal revulsion" at "an unspeakable atrocity", "a massacre, a crime against humanity". He did "not hesitate to accuse the government security forces of responsibility" for killings "at close range in execution fashion".

The "Berliner Zeitung" reported today from OSCE headquarters in Vienna that several leading OSCE members, including Germany, Italy and Austria, are anxious to fire Walker. "High-ranking OSCE European representatives are in possession of information according to which the 45 Albanians found in the Kosovo village of Racak in mid-January were not -- as Walker declared -- victims of a Serbian massacre of civilians", the newspaper said.

Within the OSCE, it has been assumed for some time that the Racak massacre was "staged by the Albanian side", the newspaper noted. This conclusion was reached on the basis of data gathered in the Kosovo Mission's headquarters, independently of the Finnish forensic report on Racak whose publication has been inexplicably delayed (see earlier report).

According to the evidence which the OSCE is so far keeping to itself, most of the dead bodies were carried from outlying areas around Racak and placed together on the spot where they were subsequently shown to Walker and Western media. In reality, according to the newspaper's OSCE sources, most of the Albanians died in battle with Serbian artillery, and many of the dead were "posthumously dressed in civilian clothing" before being shown to Walker and the media.

This is a technique which recalls the famous December 1989 "Timisoara massacre", in which cadavers from the local morgue were presented to television viewers as victims of a massacre perpetrated by Rumanian security forces.

The Europeans are considering the former OSCE general secretary, Wilhelm Hoeynck from Germany, and Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, as possible replacements, the Berliner Zeitung reported.

According to latest reports, the forensic report on the Racak bodies, after being delayed for a fortnight, is now to be delivered to the German government, as current presidency of the European Union, on March 17. 


5. POLITIKA CLAIMS RANTA REPORT CLEARS SERBS

BELGRADE, Tuesday -- State-owned Belgrade daily Politika today claims that the results of a Finnish team of forensic experts autopsy of the 45 bodies discovered in the Kosovo village of Racak on January 15 show that there had been no massacre in the village.

Politika quotes what it describes as reliable sources for the information. The Politika front-page report claims that the Finnish experts had ascertained that all the dead had fired weapons before their death and that the bodies had been moved from the place of death.

The head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, William Walker, was declared persona non grata by the Serbian government after accusing Serb security forces of carrying out a massacre in the village.

The head of the Finnish investigative team, pathologist Helena Ranta, will release the team's report in Pristina tomorrow.


6. Racak report author hopes to stop Kosovo violence

By Philippa Fletcher

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The head of a Finnish forensic team said she hoped the autopsy report she will unveil Wednesday on 40 Kosovo Albanians killed in the village of Racak would help break the cycle of violence in the province.

But Helena Ranta indicated it might not put an end to the fierce controversy surrounding the deaths, which prompted the latest international push to end the year-old conflict in Kosovo and revived talk of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia's leading pro-government newspaper Politika said Tuesday Ranta's report confirmed that there had been no ``massacre'' which was how Kosovo's top international monitor, William Walker, described the scene he saw in January.

``If they are referring to our report I am most surprised since to my knowledge the only copies of the report are in my possession and the other copies are in the possession of the Finnish authorities,'' Ranta told Reuters by telephone.

``I haven't given any information on the ongoing investigation...I have not definitely not given any information on results either.''

Serb police admitted responsibility for the deaths in Racak, but said those killed were separatist guerrillas shot in fighting after attacking police.

Walker, who saw many of the 45 bodies discovered in Racak, which included an old man who had been beheaded, a woman and a child as well as around 20 men he said had clearly been shot at close range, called the killings a crime against humanity.

Forty of the bodies were later examined at a morgue.

Belgrade ordered Walker expelled from Yugoslavia for his remarks and only froze the expulsion order under intense international diplomatic pressure.

Asked if the report would clear up the dispute, Ranta made clear that it would not be the last word on the issue.

``I understand there is a controversy, I am aware of that. I am also aware of the fact that the report will be read by people representing either views that are close to ours or contrary to ours,'' she said.

``The question remains what is the truth and how this truth will be then finally verified so let's see what happens.''

Ranta said she was just trying to collect evidence to hand to the Yugoslav authorities and the international community.

``I feel if this is a way of helping to break the vicious circle of hatred and violence then I think we have done our work, regardless of whether someone is satisfied or not.''

She said she would hand her long and detailed report, which she said weighed 46 pounds, to judicial and forensic officials in the Kosovo provincial capital Pristina on Wednesday.

Another copy would be handed over to Germany as current chairman of the European Union and Bonn would issue a four-page statement summarizing its findings.

Belgrade allowed Ranta and her team to investigate the Racak killings but only after lengthy negotiations with the Justice Ministry. Yugoslav forensics rushed through at least half the autopsies before they joined.

The release of the report will coincide with the third day of peace talks on Kosovo, as the international community tries to assess how to force the Serbs to accept an autonomy deal for Kosovo and allow NATO troops to implement it.

14:33 03-16-99


The Washington Post

<Picture>Dr. Helena Rantala of Finland, head of the team of EU forensic experts on the Racak atrocity, listens Wednesday to questions during a press conference. (AFP)

7. Kosovo Attack Report Issued

By R. Jeffrey Smith

Washington Post Foreign Service Wednesday, March 17, 1999; Page A1

ROME, March 16 An independent forensic report into the killings of 40 ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo village of Racak in January has concluded that the victims were unarmed civilians executed in an organized massacre, some of them forced to kneel before being sprayed with bullets, according to Western sources familiar with the report.

The overall findings by the Finnish forensic experts, set to be released Wednesday in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, contradict claims by officials of the Serb-led Yugoslav government that the dead were armed ethnic Albanian separatists or civilians accidentally caught in a cross-fire between government security forces and separatist rebels. Western officials have blamed the killings on government police.

Because of the extreme sensitivity of the case, leaders of the European Union, which sponsored the probe, have asked the forensic team to withhold some of its most potentially inflammatory findings when its members appear at a news conference Wednesday, officials said.

The request, they say, was made out of concern that the results will further polarize the two sides in the Kosovo conflict and impede the Belgrade government's acceptance of a peace agreement for the Serbian province at talks underway in France.

One Western official said the German government, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the European Union, had ordered the Finnish team not to release a summary of its probe, which includes details about how some of the victims appeared to have died. Instead, at Bonn's request, the team agreed to release only the voluminous summaries of autopsies it helped conduct on bodies of the victims.

The killings on Jan. 15 at Racak, an ethnic Albanian village southwest of Pristina, outraged the international community and became a turning point in the year-long conflict between security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, the main ethnic Albanian rebel group fighting for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, the dominant republic in the Yugoslav federation.

NATO leaders condemned the killings at the time and renewed their threat to carry out punitive airstrikes against Yugoslav military targets. Days later, both sides in the conflict agreed to take part in peace talks in France sponsored by the United States, Russia and four west European nations.

On Monday, ethnic Albanian negotiators pledged to sign a draft peace agreement that would provide substantial autonomy to Kosovo, while Belgrade officials have continued to object not only to the language of the proposed political settlement, but also to a provision mandating deployment of 28,000 NATO-led troops in Kosovo to enforce its terms.

The forensic team's investigation, based on an examination of evidence at the site and autopsies conducted jointly with Yugoslav government pathologists, determined that 22 of the victims were slain in a gully on the outskirts of Racak, precisely where their bodies were found on the morning of Jan. 16. The gully is so narrow that these victims could only have been shot deliberately at close range, the sources said.

Although the bodies of some other victims in the village were moved into homes or a mosque before international observers arrived, the forensic experts were able to determine where all but four of the 40 victims had died. From the pattern of the bullet wounds on their bodies and other evidence such as their civilian clothing and possessions the team found no reason to conclude they were killed accidentally or were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, said the sources, who asked not to be identified. Western officials say the team found that the angle of the bullet wounds in the victims' bodies was consistent with a scenario in which some of them were forced to kneel before being sprayed with gunfire from automatic weapons. This "spray pattern" finding is among the sensitive details that officials said may be withheld at Wednesday's news conference. Wounds on the bodies of some other victims evidently suggest they were shot while running away, the sources said.

On Jan. 16, U.S. special envoy William Walker, head of an international monitoring mission in Kosovo, described the killings as a massacre by government forces, and Yugoslav officials ordered him out of the country. The order was later suspended after the West threatened punitive action.

Western sources subsequently disclosed that telephone conversations between top Yugoslav and Serbian officials about the slayings showed that the officials explicitly sought to contrive an explanation for the killings that would shift blame away from security forces.

The Yugoslav government invited the Finnish forensic team to conduct the investigation at a time when many countries were demanding an inquiry by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Yugoslavia has refused to cooperate with the tribunal or recognize the legitimacy of its mandate over matters on Yugoslav territory, so the Finns were accepted as compromise.

Officials in Belgrade, aware of the potential impact the forensic report might have on foreign sentiment about the conduct of its army and paramilitary forces, have mounted a sustained propaganda campaign to cast the forensic team's conclusions in a favorable, and, according to the sources, highly misleading light.

An article in today's editions of Politika, a Belgrade newspaper connected to the government, claimed for example that the team had established that all the victims all had fired weapons before their deaths and that the bodies of all of them had been moved. The chief public prosecutor for Serbia, Dragisa Krsmanovic, alleged similarly last week that forensic tests showed the victims all had been shot from a distance. As a result, he said, government troops could not be prosecuted for their actions in Racak.

The forensic team searched but found no evidence to support these claims. On the other hand, its findings cast doubt on the assertion of some Western officials, including Walker, that the bodies had been deliberately mutilated by government troops.

Although 45 people reportedly were slain at Racak, the Finnish team was given access to only 40 bodies. The investigators learned that at least five more bodies, including those of at least two women, were removed from the area and presumably were buried in a cemetery south of Racak, along with as many as seven others who apparently were wounded during the assault and died later.

Correspondent Peter Finn in Pristina contributed to this report.

Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company


The Guardian

8. 40 Kosovo Dead Said To Be Civilians

Wednesday March 17, 1999 12:58 pm

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) - A forensic team investigating the slayings of dozens of Kosovo Albanians, which prompted international outrage in January, concluded today that the victims were unarmed civilians.

But the report by the Finnish team stopped short of calling the killings a massacre or directly blaming the Serbs. It said many questions will remain unanswered because of the one-week delay before officials were able to investigate the bodies.

"What may have happened to the bodies during that time is difficult to establish ... with absolute certainty," the report said.

The sensitive report was released amid an ominous buildup of Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and with the two sides deadlocked at a second round of peace talks that continued today in Paris.

Fighting has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the past year in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic. About 90 percent of Kosovo's 2.2 million people are ethnic Albanians, and most favor independence.

Helena Ranta, head of the team, denied a report in The Washington Post today that described the team's findings as proof of an organized massacre and said some of the victims were forced to kneel before they were shot.

"If we want to speculate about what happened, we would be speculating for days," she told a news conference.

The Yugoslav government contends the victims in Racak (pronounced RAH-chak) were armed separatists or civilians accidentally caught in the crossfire of battle, and that Western powers accused its forces of a massacre in order to justify a push for military intervention in the province.

U.S.-led peace efforts intensified following the slayings of 45 ethnic Albanians in Racak, 25 miles southwest of Pristina, the provincial capital. The Finnish team, however, was only given access to 40 bodies.

According to the Post, Germany ordered the Finns to withhold some of their most inflammatory findings, including a summary of their investigation. Germany chairs the European Union, which sponsored the forensic investigation.

For more than a week, Serb forces massed in the north of the province have been pounding a rebel-held area between the towns of Kosovska Mitrovica and Vucitrn. The attacks appear aimed at driving a wedge between guerrilla strongholds in the region.

While the north was calm early today, fighting was reported in western Kosovo. The Serb-run Media Center said rebels attacked an army border patrol west of Djakovica and Yugoslav forces returned fire, dispersing the guerrillas and heading in pursuit of them.

The Serb center, which is close to government authorities, also said a police patrol was attacked on the Djakovica-Ponosevac road.

On Tuesday, clashes at the foot of the Cicavica mountains, 20 miles west of Pristina, left villages burning and sent hundreds of civilians fleeing.

The report on the Racak killings said pathologists determined that 22 of the people whose bodies were found in a gully by international monitors on Jan. 16 "were most likely shot where found."

Among the bodies they conducted autopsies on, she said, were several elderly men and one woman.

"There were no indications of the people being other than unarmed civilians," she said. However, she noted they could not say definitively that the victims had never used firearms.

From the pattern of bullet wounds, clothing and possessions on the victims, the pathologists found no reason to conclude they were killed accidentally or were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the separatist force that has been battling the Serbs.

William Walker, the American head of the international monitoring force in Kosovo, visited the site on Jan. 16 and immediately accused Serb security forces, who had been conducting a siege of the village, of a massacre.

The pathologists, however, steered clear of such a characterization.

"The Racak events have been described as a 'massacre,"' the report said.

"However, such a conclusion does not fall within the competence of the EU forensic team or any other person having participated solely in the investigation of the bodies. The term 'massacre' ... is a legal description of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of persons as judged from a comprehensive analysis of all available information."

Wednesday March 17 8:16 AM ET


9. Autopsy report inconclusive on Kosovo massacre

by Kurt Schork

PRISTINA, Serbia, March 17 (Reuters) - The author of a long- awaited forensic report on the deaths of 40 ethnic Albanians killed in the Kosovo village of Racak in January said on Wednesday their deaths were a ``crime against humanity.''

But Dr Helena Ranta, who headed the Finnish forensic team hired by the European Union to conduct the 40 autopsies, refused to term the event a massacre or to blame Serbian security forces, as the head of the OSCE monitoring mission here did in January.

Ranta said that only criminal investigators from Yugoslavia or the Hague were competent to make such a determination.

``This is a crime against humanity, yes,'' the Finn said under tough questioning from reporters at a Pristina press conference.

``The question of who did it is not answered here.''

In Belgrade, Serbian Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic dismissed Ranta's report as irrelevant and lacking substance.

He said the report did not amount to an ``authorised statement'' as it represented her personal views on the deaths in Racak.

``The report is overflowing with contentious descriptions of situations, contradictions and improvisations `` Jankovic told state television late on Wednesday.

Ranta said her team's final report weighed 41 kg and included 3,000 forensic photographs and 10 hours of video.

William Walker, who heads the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) said there was nothing in the report that would lead him to revise his original allegation of a massacre by Serbian troops.

``My personal reaction is that I didn't hear anything in the presentation that contradicts my original conclusion,'' Walker told Reuters after Ranta's hour-long Pristina news conference.

``Whether we call it an atrocity, a massacre or a crime against humanity, as the doctor did, we have eyewitness descriptions, evidence, totally consistent with what I called it back in January.''

Ethnic Albanians, 90 percent of the population in Kosovo, who had hoped that Ranta would deliver a definitive verdict on the Racak incident left her press conference unhappy.

``Why did she even bother to come here?'' queried Baton Haxhiu, editor-in-chief of Koha Ditore, Kosovo's leading Albanian language newspaper.

Serbs were no less dissatisfied: ``This is an intentional fog over the truth,'' said Radovan Urosevic, director of the Serbian Media Centre in Pristina, after Ranta's presentation.

``We knew from the first moment in January that this wasn't a massacre. Her report was very unsatisfactory, unprofessional.''

The forensic report was being distributed to Yugoslav and European Union authorities on Wednesday and is scheduled to be handed on to the U.N. war crimes tribunal at the Hague. How or whether the report would be pursued was unclear on Wednesday.

On or around January 15 at least 45 ethnic Albanians were killed in Racak, where Serbian security forces were mounting a counter-insurgency operation.

Forty of the bodies were recovered and taken to the morgue in Pristina, where the Finnish team first viewed them on January 22, after they had been moved repeatedly, spoiling the 'chain of custody' vital to precise forensic analysis.

Government explanations for the deaths have included the suggestion that the dead were separatist guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who were killed in combat.

Some officials have said their uniforms were switched for civilian clothing after they were killed and 22 of the bodies were moved by the KLA to the gully where they were found and arranged to suggest a massacre by Serbs.

Ranta's report disputed most of those suggestions. In a printed summary of her findings she said that:

+ The 22 men found in the gully ``were most likely found where they were shot.''

+ ``There were no indications of the people being other than unarmed civilians.''

+ ``It is highly unlikely the clothes could have been changed or removed.''

As to the question of whether the dead were involved somehow in a battle with security forces, Ranta said: ``Most likely the answer is no, there was no fight.''

16:07 03-17-99


10. Autopsy report inconclusive on Kosovo massacre

By JOVANA GEC Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA,Yugoslavia (AP) - A forensic team investigating the slayings of dozens of Kosovo Albanians, which prompted international outrage in January, concluded today that the victims were unarmed civilians.

But the report by the Finnish team stopped short of calling the killings a massacre or directly blaming the Serbs. It said many questions will remain unanswered because of the one-week delay before officials were able to investigate the bodies.

``What may have happened to the bodies during that time is difficult to establish ... with absolute certainty,'' the report said.

The sensitive report was released amid an ominous buildup of Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and with the two sides deadlocked at a second round of peace talks that continued today in Paris.

Fighting has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the past year in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic. About 90 percent of Kosovo's 2.2 million people are ethnic Albanians, and most favor independence.

Helena Ranta, head of the team, denied a report in The Washington Post today that described the team's findings as proof of an organized massacre and said some of the victims were forced to kneel before they were shot.

``If we want to speculate about what happened, we would be speculating for days,'' she told a news conference.

The Yugoslav government contends the victims in Racak (pronounced RAH-chak) were armed separatists or civilians accidentally caught in the crossfire of battle, and that Western powers accused its forces of a massacre in order to justify a push for military intervention in the province.

U.S.-led peace efforts intensified following the slayings of 45 ethnic Albanians in Racak, 25 miles southwest of Pristina, the provincial capital. The Finnish team, however, was only given access to 40 bodies.

According to the Post, Germany ordered the Finns to withhold some of their most inflammatory findings, including a summary of their investigation. Germany chairs the European Union, which sponsored the forensic investigation.

For more than a week, Serb forces massed in the north of the province have been pounding a rebel-held area between the towns of Kosovska Mitrovica and Vucitrn. The attacks appear aimed at driving a wedge between guerrilla strongholds in the region.

While the north was calm early today, fighting was reported in western Kosovo. The Serb-run Media Center said rebels attacked an army border patrol west of Djakovica and Yugoslav forces returned fire, dispersing the guerrillas and heading in pursuit of them.

The Serb center, which is close to government authorities, also said a police patrol was attacked on the Djakovica-Ponosevac road.

On Tuesday, clashes at the foot of the Cicavica mountains, 20 miles west of Pristina, left villages burning and sent hundreds of civilians fleeing.

The report on the Racak killings said pathologists determined that 22 of the people whose bodies were found in a gully by international monitors on Jan. 16 ``were most likely shot where found.''

Among the bodies they conducted autopsies on, she said, were several elderly men and one woman.

``There were no indications of the people being other than unarmed civilians,'' she said. However, she noted they could not say definitively that the victims had never used firearms.

From the pattern of bullet wounds, clothing and possessions on the victims, the pathologists found no reason to conclude they were killed accidentally or were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the separatist force that has been battling the Serbs.

William Walker, the American head of the international monitoring force in Kosovo, visited the site on Jan. 16 and immediately accused Serb security forces, who had been conducting a siege of the village, of a massacre.

The pathologists, however, steered clear of such a characterization.

``The Racak events have been described as a 'massacre,''' the report said.

``However, such a conclusion does not fall within the competence of the EU forensic team or any other person having participated solely in the investigation of the bodies. The term 'massacre' ... is a legal description of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of persons as judged from a comprehensive analysis of all available information.''


11. Forensic Expert Calls Racak Deaths 'Crime Against Humanity'

PRISTINA, Serbia (Reuters) - Finnish forensic scientist Helena Ranta said Wednesday the deaths of 40 Albanians in the Kosovo village of Racak were a ``crime against humanity.''

``This is a crime against humanity, yes,'' Ranta, appointed by the international community to conduct autopsies on the bodies, told a news conference in Kosovo's regional capital Pristina. But she declined to lay blame for the killings or use the word ``massacre,'' saying such terms were outside her remit.

The head of the international monitors in Kosovo, William Walker, provoked fury from the Yugoslav authorities when he declared that the Racak killings were a massacre by Serb police. He also called them a ``crime against humanity'' for which he said the Yugoslav authorities were responsible.

Serb police said the dead were all killed in fighting and that ethnic Albanian guerrillas had manipulated the scene to make it look like a massacre.

Ranta said it was up to the appropriate legal organs to carry out a follow-up investigation to establish more about how the victims died and who was responsible.

But she said there were no indications the people were anything other than unarmed civilians and there was no sign of tampering or fabrication of evidence.


12. Subj: Observations on Racak and Clinton Policy

Date: 99-03-17 18:46:45 EST

From: J - Wash. DC

As the Rambouillet talks end without Serbian agreement on a NATO force in Kosovo under the Clinton "peace plan," prospects appear to be waxing once again for airstirkes to compel Belgrade's acceptance of a NATO occupation force.

In building the case for the strikes, a major element appears to be a spin effort (mainly today's (3/17)) Washington Post article indicating that the January killings of 40 Albanians in the village of Racak were a "massacre": "that the victims were unarmed civilians executed in an organized massacre, some of them forced to kneel before being sprayed with bullets." This conclusion is reportedly based on a report by Finnish pathologists, the details of which have not been made public.

However, the "massacre" conclusion (as was made by U.S. special envoy William Walker immediately after the event prior to any investigation) is already being used to justify a prompt international intervention in the wake of the Rambouillet collapse. As reported by AFP (3/17):

"We believe the findings of this report support Ambassador Walker's on-the-ground conclusion on the day of the massacre ... namely that a massacre was committed at Racak," Foley said, referring to William Walker, head of a team monitoring the Kosovo ceasefire. [ . . . ]

Foley said the State Department had not yet seen the full report from the Finnish medical team, only a summary of the findings. [ . . . ]

"We call once again upon the Belgrade authorities to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and allow the international tribunal ... to conduct a full and impartial investigation of this and other possible crimes against humanity in Kosovo."

However, based "only on a summary," and as reported in the Post, it still appears there are factual problems in reaching the conclusion about Racak that the Administration wants to reach. Whether these are problems with the investigation by the Finns or problems in the Clinton/Post spin of the report is impossible to say until the full report is made public.

For example:

Post: "22 of the victims were slain in a gully on the outskirts of Racak, precisely where their bodies were found on the morning of Jan. 16. The gully is so narrow that these victims could only have been shot deliberately at close range, the sources said."

Comment: So what do the wounds indicate -- were they shot at close enough range to be seen as execution style, or were they fighters cornered in the gully and killed in the course of combat?

Post: "Western officials say the team found that the angle of the bullet wounds in the victims' bodies was consistent with a scenario in which some of them were forced to kneel before being sprayed with gunfire from automatic weapons. This "spray pattern" finding is among the sensitive details that officials said may be withheld at Wednesday's news conference."

Comment: "Consistent with" is not the same as "happened." Also, what is the difference in the "spray pattern" between someone forced to kneel before being shot execution style and someone crouching while firing or taking cover in the gully in the course of combat? Also, assuming that Serb security forces did summarily execute some of those killed (whether or not they had been engaged in combat) -- was it 2 of the 40, 38 of the 40? How many such killings turn this into a "massacre"?

Post: "Wounds on the bodies of some other victims evidently suggest they were shot while running away, the sources said. "

Comment: Being shot while running away is hardly inconsistent with being engaged in combat, especially if one side is getting the worst of it.

Post: Also cited is "other evidence -- such as their civilian clothing and possessions -- the team found no reason to conclude they were killed accidentally or were members of the Kosovo Liberation Army."

Comment: The fact that they were in civilian clothing is meaningless. The KLA includes both uniformed and non-uniformed combatants. A telling omission from the Post article is that there is no reference to whether or not any of the dead had residue on their hands indicating that they had recently fired weapons, which would be a much more reliable indication of whether or not we are talking about combatants. The Serb pathologists said they had found such residue; whether or not the Finnish pathologists addressed this question has not been disclosed.

To sum up, we still don't know what really happened at Racak. That will not stop the Clintonites and their media shills from using it as hype to drag Americans into this war.

The AFP and Post texts follow:

Agence France Presse

March 17, 1999 Kosovo-US-massacre 21:20 GMT

13. US says Racak forensic report confirms massacre

DATELINE: WASHINGTON, March 17

The United States on Wednesday said the Finnish forensic report on 40 ethnic Albanians found dead in Kosovo in January confirms that they were massacred.

Echoing the report's conclusion, State Department spokesman James Foley stopped short of saying who was responsible for the deaths and repeated calls for a full criminal investigation by the International

War crimes Tribunal.

"We believe the findings of this report support Ambassador Walker's on-the-ground conclusion on the day of the massacre ... namely that a massacre was committed at Racak," Foley said, referring to William

Walker, head of a team monitoring the Kosovo ceasefire.

Walker angered Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic and many Serbs when he pronounced that the deaths were a massacre and hinted Serb security forces were responsible.

The Racak killings spurred the current efforts of the international community to bring an end to the fighting in the troubled province.

Serb security forces are widely believed to have killed 45 Racak villagers including women and children, on January 15 in the town.

Foley said the State Department had not yet seen the full report from the Finnish medical team, only a summary of the findings.

Earlier Wednesday in Pristina, team leader Helen Ranta called the killings "a crime against humanity," but would not blame anyone for it.

Foley took a similar tack, arguing that a forensic report was not the equivalent of criminal investigation and urged Milosevic to drop his opposition to a war crimes investigation.

"We call once again upon the Belgrade authorities to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and allow the international tribunal ... to conduct a full and impartial investigation of this and other possible crimes against humanity in Kosovo."

14. Yugoslav Army Bolsters Readiness

By GEORGE JAHN

Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Fearing a possible NATO attack, the Yugoslav army bolstered its combat readiness, moving thousands of troops closer to Kosovo amid reports Wednesday that peace talks in France were on the brink of failing.

The war preparations also came as European Union forensic experts issued a report saying that dozens of ethnic Kosovo Albanians slain in January appeared to be civilians, not combatants.

Yugoslav army troops were setting up anti-aircraft missiles in the mountains northwest of Kosovo's capital, Pristina, rebel leader Suleiman Selimi said Wednesday in his first interview since being appointed supreme commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army last month.

Speaking to The Associated Press and another reporter at his home, Selimi said KLA fighters dug in at the Cicavica Mountains saw the missiles being unloaded from several covered trucks.

Senior officials with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the missiles could be the Yugoslav version of a heat-seeking, Soviet-built short-range missile that monitors have seen on regional roads.

Fighting has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the past year in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic. About 90 percent of Kosovo's 2.2 million people are ethnic Albanians, and most favor independence.

NATO has warned that Serb failure to sign on to a Kosovo peace plan could result in air attacks against Serbian and Yugoslav strategic targets.

A U.S. Defense Department spokesman warned Tuesday that the government forces "certainly are bracing for war.''

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said 16,000 to 21,000 Yugoslav army units are now on the perimeter of the Serbian province, up from about 10,000 reported two weeks ago and 4,500 in late February. Another 14,000 to 18,000 Yugoslav army forces were said to be deployed inside Kosovo -- not counting the thousands of heavily armed Serb police forces.

The ethnic-Albanian run Kosovo Information Center reported large movements of Yugoslav army and police forces throughout the province. In the northern Podujevo region, 30 army vehicles arrived Wednesday as reinforcements, it said.

In Pristina, the release of the final report on the slayings in the southern Kosovo village of Racak three months ago did little to end the controversy about whether the victims were massacred by Serbs or killed in battle.

 While the head of the forensic team, Helena Ranta, called the Racak killings "a crime against humanity,'' the report did not directly accuse Serb forces of a massacre, nor did it support Yugoslav claims the victims were either rebel fighters or civilians caught in crossfire.

"There were no indications of the people being other than unarmed civilians,'' said the report.

William Walker, the American head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, said the report -- which concluded the victims were likely unarmed civilians -- reinforced "my original conclusion.''

Walker initially described the killings as a massacre by Serb forces. On Wednesday, he told the AP that the report "bolsters what I said'' back in January.

A commentary on Serbian state-run television said Ranta "simply did not have the strength to specifically deny the earlier claims of massacre by William Walker.''

The Yugoslav forensic team that also examined the Racak victims said an important test to determine whether they had been carrying arms was not performed -- something Ranta also acknowledged to reporters on Wednesday.

More than any other single incident, it was the Jan. 15 killings of at least 45 ethnic Albanians in Racak, a village 25 miles southwest of Pristina, that galvanized international support for U.S.-led peace efforts.

Numerous elderly men and a woman were among the victims, the pathologists confirmed.

The report concluded that at least 40 of the victims -- the team did not get access to five others -- were unarmed civilians who were killed at approximately the same time.

Twenty-two victims, discovered by monitors in a gully on a hill overlooking the village, were "most likely shot where found,'' and there was no evidence they had used firearms.

In Wednesday's only report of fighting, the Serb-run Media Center said rebels attacked an army border patrol west of Djakovica and Yugoslav forces returned fire, dispersing the guerrillas and heading in pursuit of them.

International officials gave varying reports of the people fleeing the fighting -- between 1,000 and 7,000.

17-Mar-99 16:43 EST


15. TEXT-Clinton's statement on Kosovo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The following is the full text of President Clinton's statement on Kosovo given at the beginning of his news conference Friday:

``Ladies and gentlemen, as all of you know, we have been involved in an intensive effort to end the conflict in Kosovo for many weeks now.

With our NATO allies and with Russia, we proposed a peace agreement to stop the killing and give the people of Kosovo the self-determination and government they need and to which they are entitled under the constitution of their government.

Yesterday the Kosovar Albanians signed that agreement. Even though they have not obtained all they seek, even as their people remain under attack, they've had the vision to see that a just peace is better than an unwinnable war.

Now only President Milosevic stands in the way of peace. Today the peace talks were adjourned because the Serbian negotiators refused even to discuss key elements of the peace plan. NATO has warned President Milosevic to end his intransigence and repression or face military action.

Our allies are strongly united behind this course. We are prepared and so are they to carry it out.

Today I reviewed our planning with my senior advisers and met with many members of Congress. As we prepare to act, we need to remember the lessons we have learned in the Balkans. We should remember the horror of the war in Bosnia; the sounds of sniper fire aimed at children; the faces of young men behind barbed wire; the despairing voices of those who thought nothing could be done. It took precious time to achieve allied unity there, but when we did, our firmness ended all that. Bosnia is now at peace.

We should remember the thousands of people facing cold and hunger in the hills of Kosovo last fall. Firmness ended that as well.

We should remember what happened in the village of Racak back in January, innocent men, women and children taken from their homes to a gully, forced to kneel in the dirt, sprayed with gunfire -- not because of anything they had done, but because of who they were.

Now, roughly 40,000 Serbian troops and police are massing in and around Kosovo. Our firmness is the only thing standing between them and countless more villages like Racak, full of people without protection, even though they have now chosen peace.

Make no mistake, if we and our allies do not have the will to act, there will be more massacres. In dealing with aggressors in the Balkans, hesitation is a license to kill. But action and resolve can stop armies and save lives.

We must also understand our stake in peace in the Balkans and in Kosovo. This is a humanitarian crisis, but it is much more. This is a conflict with no natural boundaries, it threatens our national interests.

That is what we must do in Kosovo.

Let me just make one other statement about this. One of the things that I wanted to do when I became president is to take advantage of this moment in history to build an alliance with Europe for the 21st century with a Europe undivided, strong, secure, prosperous and at peace. That's why I have supported the unification of Europe financially, politically, economically. That is why I've supported the expansion of NATO and a redefinition of its missions.

What are the challenges to our realizing that dream?

The challenge of a successful partnership with Russia that succeeds in its own mission. The challenge of a resolution of the difficulties between Greece and Turkey so that Turkey becomes an ally of Europe and the West for the long-term in the challenge of instability in the Balkans.

In different ways, all those things are at stake here.

I honestly believe that by acting now we can help to give our children and our grandchildren a Europe that is more united, more democratic, more peaceful, more prosperous, and a better partner for the United States for a long time to come.

I will say again to Mr. Milosevic, as I did in Bosnia, I do not want to put a single American pilot into the air. I do not want anyone else to die in the Balkans. I do not want a conflict. I would give anything to be here talking about something else today. But a part of my responsibility is to try to leave to my successors and to our country in the 21st century an environment in Europe that is stable, humane and secure. It will be a big part of America's future.''

17:43 03-19-99

 


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