Mary Mostert on Racak, Original Sources 24 January 2001

Racak Autopsy Report and the Milosevic Indictment Top News in Europe

By: Mary Mostert, Analyst, Original Sources (

January 24, 2001

In today’s London Telegraph we find that the new Yugoslav president, Kostunica, met with Carla Del Ponte, prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) yesterday.  Del Ponte had demanded Kostunica produce Slobodan Milosevic so she could take him to the Hague and trim him for war crimes, such as the much reported massacre at Racak.  

Today it almost seems like ancient history, but actually it was only two years ago that we were hearing about a horrible massacre that had taken place at Racak, in Kosovo.  CNN reported on January 16, 1999:

 “It was the worst killing spree since an October truce largely halted more than seven months of combat.

 “The discovery of the bodies came one day after Serb police and Yugoslav Army units attacked ethnic Albanian villages in the area. Observers had been prevented from reaching the area on Friday.

 “Some victims had their eyes gouged out or heads smashed in, and one man lay decapitated in the courtyard of his compound.

 “The news agency run by the Kosovo Liberation Army reported 46 dead and said eight of them were fighters with the KLA, an ethnic Albanian rebel group seeking independence for the Yugoslav province.

 “Villagers said Serb police separated men from their families and led them toward the local police station. They later turned and herded them up the hill, where they killed them, the residents said.”

Two months later, largely because of the reports about Racak, Bill Clinton began bombing Belgrade and Kosovo.  Five months later, The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia indicted Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Yugoslavia, for “war crimes” which included the deaths at Racak, even though Milosevic, of course, was not IN Racak when the deaths occurred.  That prompted US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to exclaim, “We’re not talking to Milosevic except in one language and that’s bombing.”

The US media has responded by stepping up demands for an invasion of Yugoslavia. The indictment has been cited as proof that not only government leaders, but the entire Serb population is complicit in war crimes and must be punished. The Wall Street Journal on May 28 published a column entitled “Indictment Demands Invasion” which declared NATO could accept nothing short of the occupation of Belgrade and a program of “de-Nazification,” beginning with war crimes trials of the entire Serbian leadership.”

There is only one small problem with this whole scenario.  There is considerable evidence that there never was a massacre of Albanian civilians by Serbs in Racak.  In March, a week before the bombing started, Finnish pathologists issued a forensic report on the bodies supposedly found in a mass grave of people killed by cold-blooded Serbs.  

The Finnish report in “Politika” stated : “the authorized team of the Finish pathologists confirmed in their official report that in the Kosmet village of Racak, on the last 15th January, the massacre had not been committed and, therefore, there is no possibility to use this incident as an excuse for the military threat to Yugoslavia.

“According to that what “Politika” learns from reliable sources, in the report of the Finish specialists of medical jurisprudence there are even more details which indict the Albanian side than there were in already reported findings of our and Belarusian pathologists. In addition to other methods, the Finnish pathologists determined by a special analysis “paraffin glove” that all killed had previously shot from firearms. They also found out that their corpses were brought from some other place later on. In this way once more, and hopefully finally, the accusations of William Walker, Chief of the OESC Mission for Verification in Kosovo and Metohija, that the Serbian police committed the massacre of gathered helpless civilians was rejected as untrue.”

Yesterday, I received still another report about Racak by e-mail.  It was a translation of the general conclusions made by Professor Srboljub Zivanovic, a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and a member of the forensic archeology community in Britain.  One of his students was involved in the autopsies.   The findings of both sets of forensic experts were the same.  There just was no massacre at Racak.  There was a gun battle, CNN notwithstanding.  So, why should we care about all this now?  Perhaps we should care because we were hoodwinked into destroying a nation and killing several thousand people because of media reports about Racak, and because the people like Carla Del Ponte, prosecutor for the International Tribunal Carla  Del Ponte say Milosevic MUST be arrested and surrendered to The Hague for trial for war crimes.  

Kostunica not only didn’t turn Milosevic over to her, he gave her a bit of a tongue lashing. In an interview with Kostunica, an Italian newspaper, Torino,  Kostunica is reported to have said to her:   ‘We know exactly who is the author of the idea of aggression and who committed the largest number of attacks. It is the United States of America and there is no doubt that they are the most responsible.’

 “The Yugoslav President assessed that bombing violated not only Geneva conventions but also international law and basic moral norms. ‘Passenger trains, convoys of refugees, hospitals, refineries were bombed. All of that cannot be described except as a crime’, Kostunica emphasized.

 As a confirmation of that position, he specially pointed out to bombing with depleted uranium projectiles, which caused large ecological damage in the entire region.

‘Shame and all lies about depleted uranium clearly swam to the surface and it is the first serious reason to meet with Mrs. Del Ponte. I will ask her what she, as a prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, plans to do on the occasion of that crime’, Yugoslav President said.

 “Evaluating that ‘scale of responsibility exists’ and that, it is ‘naturally in accordance with military and political influence in North Atlantic Pact’, Kostunica underlined that “there are no doubts that the United States of America are the most responsible”.

None of the top American news sources today are reporting this story yet it is the lead story in most European countries.  The International Herald Tribune in Paris quotes Kostunica in an interview as saying: “Political change has happened both in Washington and in Belgrade,” he said, “and I truly believe the changes are for the better. I think Washington’s attitude towards Yugoslavia and the Balkans will be colored more by economics than politics. Good business and investment plans are far more beneficial than any hasty peace plans and quick solutions, which came too late in the past.”

“We are very interested in putting our relations with the United States on a new footing. The advantage of a new administration is that it is not responsible” for past decisions, Mr. Kostunica said. “I would like to see more understanding of the realities of Balkans,” he said. “For example, much has been said about a multiethnic society in Kosovo, but we are far away from that and have many displaced Serbian people, and much terrorism and violence that has been brought from Kosovo to Serbia.”

Asked if he was concerned that Washington might now pay less attention to Yugoslavia, Mr. Kostunica said that “in some ways it is paradoxical, but from one point of view the previous administration was paying more attention to this region than it should, and now there are consequences of this policy, such as Kosovo, and the fact that a large part of the Serbian economy has been destroyed, and now we also have this depleted-uranium affair” – a reference to the fact that the U.S. military used depleted-uranium shells in the Balkans that contained minute traces of the highly toxic substance.

The Clinton administration, Mr. Kostunica concluded, “was paying too much attention to us, and we are facing the consequences, which should be faced by the Americans as well.”

While America continues to pretend that bombing Yugoslavia for 79 days is of little or no consequence, what the new Bush Administration does about its aftermath could very well determine how the world views American leadership in the years to come.