January 17, 2001, Wednesday, BC Cycle
15:17 Central European Time
SECTION: International News
HEADLINE: Finnish experts find no evidence of Serb massacre of Albanians
Finnish forensic experts in a final report on the circumstances of the deaths two years ago of some 40 people in the village of Racak in Kosovo found no evidence of a massacre by Serb security forces, a German newspaper reported Wednesday.
Berliner Zeitung said the report, which was made available to the Berlin paper prior to its publication, found no evidence that ethnic Albanian civilians had been executed by Serbian security forces in Racak.
The report by experts Juha Rainio, Kaisa Lalu and Antti Penttila would soon be published in the forensic magazine “Forensic Science International”, it said.
The bodies were found on January 15, 1999 in the hills above the village in the troubled Serbian province.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in spring 1999 it had found evidence for slayings of unarmed civilians in Racak, many of whom were found disfigured and shot at close range.
The alleged massacre strengthened Western resolve against then Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic despite official denials that Serbian forces had been behind the killings.
Belgrade authorities at the time insisted the bodies were slain rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army which they said had deliberately set up the scene to make OSCE observers believe there had been a massacre.
“Only now does the truth come out, at that time no one believed us,” a source in the Serbian Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
Rainio, Lalu and Penttila belonged to a panel of Finnish experts led by Helena Ranta that was asked by the European Union in spring 1999 to investigate the killings. The probe was carried out along with Serbian and Belarussian experts.
The report said the panel was unable to confirm that the victims were villagers from Racak. The experts were also unable to reconstruct the “events” prior to the autopsies of the bodies.
The report said even the exact site of the incident had not been
The three experts said there had been no evidence that the bodies had been disfigured after their deaths. The 40 bodies that had been examined had been found to show between one and 20 bullet wounds. Only in one case did they find traces of gun smoke that might point to an execution.