Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 13:23 GMT

World: Europe

Racak killings 'crime against humanity'

The killings prompted the latest attempts to secure a peace deal

A final report by forensic experts into the killing of 40 Kosovo Albanians in the village of Racak has failed to rule on whether they were massacred by Serb police.

But the report does conclude the victims were unarmed civilians.

Kosovo Section
Dr Helena Ranta, the forensic expert who led a team carrying out post mortems on the bodies, called the Racak deaths a "crime against humanity".

The killings provoked international outrage and prompted the latest efforts to secure a peace deal between the warring Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

The Serb authorities said the Albanians died in clashes after opening fire on police. But locals said they believed that Serb forces were to blame for the deaths.

Dr Ranta said there were no signs that the victims were anything other than unarmed civilians and that they were most likely shot where they were found.

Dr Helena Ranta: "They were unarmed civilians"
She said there was no reason to conclude that the victims were members of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army or that they were killed accidentally.

Dr Ranta told a press conference in Pristina, Kosovo's regional capital, said: "This is a crime against humanity."

But she added apportioning blame for the killings fell outside her remit.

Dr Ranta said her report should be the start of a longer, criminal investigation which would have the power to hear from witnesses.

Dr Ranta's Finnish team examined the bodies of 40 of the 45 Racak victims to determine how they died.

Orla Guerin reports: "Hundreds were needed to carry the coffins"
Their report coincides with the third day of peace talks on Kosovo, as international mediators in Paris attempt to secure a peace settlement between the rival factions.

The ethnic Albanians have said that they are ready to sign the three-year Kosovo peace plan, but the Serbs are continuing to reject both the deal and the presence on the ground of Nato peacekeeping troops.

Jacky Rowland, a BBC correspondent in Pristina, said Dr Ranta's team were keen not to say anything inflammatory which might disrupt the peace talks.

Yugoslav denial

[ image: Albanians said Serb forces were responsible for the deaths]
Albanians said Serb forces were responsible for the deaths
Controversy has surrounded the investigation into the Albanians' deaths on 15 January.

A pathologist, who carrried out an investigation for the Yugoslav authorities, denied that those who died were victims of a massacre. Dr Sasa Dobricanin said: "Not a single body bears any sign of execution."

Jacky Rowland in Pristina: "Experts wanted to avoid judgements"
The Racak killings also strained relations between the Yugoslav Government and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in charge of the Kosovo monitoring mission.

The head of the OSCE's mission in Kosovo, William Walker, said the deaths were a "massacre" by Serb police. He was ordered to leave Yugoslavia after pinning the blame on the security forces, but defied the expulsion order.

The 45 dead are among some 2,000 people who have lost their lives during a year of fighting in Kosovo.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

17 Mar 99 | Europe
Serbs' war footing

16 Mar 99 | Europe
Kosovo talks: What's on the table?

11 Feb 99 | Europe
Thousands bury Racak dead

21 Jan 99 | Europe
The forensics of investigating war crimes

19 Jan 99 | Europe
Eyewitness: Racak revisited

16 Jan 99 | Europe
Kosovo massacre: 'A twisted mass of bodies'

Internet Links

Kosovo Information Centre

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe


Serbian Ministry of Information

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift