on the work of the European Union Forensic Expert Team in Kosovo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1998 – 2000
July 2000

This document has been condensed to remove sections not concerning Racak. For the entire document, click here.

The executive summary on the activities of the European Union Forensic Expert Team in Kosovo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in accordance with the decision (98/736/CFSP) adopted on 22 December 1998 by the Council of the European Union, introduces general information on the main activities of the EU Forensic Expert Team enacted between 1 January 1999 and 30 June 2000.

In its work, the Team has followed internationally recognised standards and recommendations set forth for medicolegal investigations.

This summary will be complemented by 31 July 2000 with a statement of accounts, certified by the University of Helsinki, detailing the amount and nature of expenditures entered into concerning funds received in accordance with the Agreement ratified between the Commission of the European Union and the University of Helsinki. These documents together form the Final Report of the Team.


The European Union Forensic Expert Team (EU-FET) in Kosovo was established in response to requests from the international community, including the EU and non-governmental human rights organisations, to provide forensic expertise to investigate the sites of alleged grave violations against civilians in the territory of Kosovo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The Team began its work in October 1998, with these activities funded to the end of December 1998 by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs with a total of FIM 1 500 000. From 1 January 1999 onwards, the funds were granted by the Council of the European Union. Accordingly, this summary covers the period funded by the EU.[1] However, where necessary, activities relating to the earlier phase are explained briefly.


The Forensic Team included a team leader, forensic pathologists, forensic odontologists, an anthropologist, forensic investigators (ballistics, documentation, photography, surveying and videotaping), x-ray technicians, autopsy technicians, an explosives expert, a liaison officer and a secretary. In addition, a project secretary handled the administrative issues at the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, and ad hoc personnel contributed to fact-finding issues, when certain specific expertise was needed to assist the Team’s activities. However, the number of experts representing various disciplines has always been adjusted to meet the requirements of specific tasks and prevailing political situations in the areas of operation. Specialised analytical services have been provided by laboratories possessing the advanced equipment needed for the second stage of analysis.


In November 1998, when the Team began the investigations in Kosovo, FRY, six sites were chosen and agreed upon with representatives of the FRY both in Belgrade and Pristina. After weeks of negotiation in Pristina, the District Court of Pristina finally issued a Court Order to the Team for investigations at selected sites in Glodjane, Gornje Obrinje, Golubovac, Klecka, Orahovac and Volujak. In October 1998, representatives of the Team had visited five of these sites, excluding Klecka. Preliminary scene investigations were conducted at Gornje Obrinje, Orahovac and Volujak. Moreover, human remains recovered by Yugoslav authorities from Klecka and Volujak were documented and investigated by the Team. Preliminary arrangements for further investigations, including collection and analysis of both published and unpublished information, at other sites were made.

In early December 1998, after duly informing the District Court of Pristina of the planned exhumation on 10 December 1998, the temporary grave site at Gornje Obrinje was visited, the site surveyed for scene investigation and individual graves marked. However, when on 10 December 1998, the Team was to begin investigations at the site, it was detained by armed Yugoslav forces and prevented from proceeding to Gornje Obrinje. The Team then returned to Finland and pursued analysis of the material and documentation collected from Klecka and Volujak at the facilities of the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki. While these analyses were in progress, other developments materialised, which subsequently affected the Teamís working schedule.

In response to urgent requests made by the OSCE - KVM and the Ministry of Justice of the FRY after the discovery of some 40 - 45 bodies of ethnic Albanians in the vicinity of and at the village of Racak on 16 January 1999, it was agreed[2] that the EU Forensic Expert Team would immediately return to the FRY to perform autopsies on the Racak victims and to report its findings to the EU as a matter of highest priority. It was also agreed that these investigations would be covered by the Joint Action of 22 December 1998. Within a week, the Team travelled to Pristina both to perform and monitor autopsies and to verify autopsies already performed or in progress by Yugoslav forensic experts, from the Institutes of Forensic Medicine of Universities in FRY, at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pristina. These autopsies were also monitored by two Belorussian experts.  

On 17 March 1999, the Team submitted its report on the medicolegal investigations of victims found at Racak, consisting of 40 autopsy protocols, videotapes, photographs, x-rays, toxicological analyses and DNA profiles, to the Presidency of the EU (Germany).[3] In addition, a press conference was arranged in Pristina. Representatives of the Team left Kosovo only six days before the start of the NATO air strikes. 

After the completion of the report on victims from Racak, the Team planned to immediately return to Kosovo to continue the scheduled scene investigations at Glodjane, Golubovac, Gornje Obrinje and Orahovac, which had been postponed due to the urgency of the Racak investigations. However, the withdrawal of the OSCE - KVM, who provided the necessary logistics for the Team, and the decision to initiate NATO air strikes prevented the return of the Team to the area. During this time, the Team continued preparing the reports on investigations of Klecka and Volujak. These reports were submitted to the EU Presidency (Finland), the Ambassador of the FRY in Finland and the ICTY in December 1999. The Team also continued analysis of the materials gathered in Orahovac. Furthermore, on the basis of discussions in Helsinki on 15 February 1999 between representatives of the ICTY and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in understanding with the Presidency of the EU (Germany), the Team conducted further analyses on the materials from Racak. Accordingly, on 24 June 1999, the first draft of the preliminary analysis was presented to the ICTY in the Hague.

An essential part of any comparable mission would be a thorough scene investigation. Due to the weather conditions and the further escalation of violence, this was not possible in January and February 1999. However, in November 1999, the Team was able to continue its work at Racak and to conduct scene investigations at the gully in the vicinity of the village where, according to the OSCE, 23 bodies had been found on 16 January 1999. Later, in March 2000, after discussions between the representatives of the ICTY, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Team, a second scene investigation at Racak was conducted on selected village sites. All forensic materials and evidence recovered during these two missions were taken to Finland for further analysis. These activities are briefly described elsewhere (see page 19). Due to the nature of these investigations and the confidentiality of results, a separate, supplementary report including ballistics analysis has been submitted to the ICTY, completing the Team’s work in Kosovo, FRY.


The status of the work and investigations conducted by the EU-FET on different sites (see map below) is briefly summarised as follows:


On 16 January 1999, the bodies of 40-45 victims were found at Racak, Kosovo, FRY. They were documented at the sites where found by representatives of the OSCE, and later, on 18 January 1999, delivered to the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pristina, by Yugoslav authorities. During these developments, at the request of the OSCE, the EU agreed to add to the mandate of the EU Forensic Expert Team the medicolegal investigation of these victims. The autopsies were also locally authorised by the District Court of Pristina, Kosovo. The Team performed, monitored and verified the autopsies of 40 victims. Thereafter, the second-stage analysis of the materials gathered during the autopsies was continued in Finland.

On 17 March 1999, the copies of the Racak report (1428 pages), consisting solely of the autopsy protocols and related materials, were submitted to the EU (two copies), the District Court of Pristina (one copy) and the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pristina (one copy). The Presidency of the EU (Germany) later decided to submit one copy of the autopsy protocols to the ICTY. Thereafter, the Team continued to work on reports relating to other agreed-upon investigations.

 However, different technical issues relating to the incident at Racak remained open. Therefore, in November 1999, when it became possible, an additional scene investigation was conducted at the gully close to the village of Racak, where altogether 23 victims according to the OSCE were found. Moreover, in March 2000, further scene investigations were performed at selected sites at the village. The findings and materials resulting from these investigations have been incorporated in a supplementary report and, together with the autopsy protocols, complete the forensic work of the Team at Racak.

On 21 June 2000, three copies of the supplementary report (194 pages) on the findings of the two scene investigations, together with full documentation and analysis of any forensic evidence recovered at the sites, were submitted to the ICTY. In several schematic presentations, terrain profiles, models and photographs, the Team has adopted the location and position of each victim, as verified and photographed on 16 January 1999 by representatives of the OSCE, using the sternum as a reference point.

The forensic materials and evidence during scene investigations were recovered and documented by the members of the Team with the effective logistic assistance of the Finnish KFOR Battalion in Lipljan, Kosovo. In November 1999, metal detectors, which were adjusted to reach a depth of 30 cm, were employed and the total area of 170 m x 30-60 m was searched for metal objects. Several bullets and bullet fragments were found at a depth of 0 – 15 cm. The location of the victims, as verified by the OSCE on 16 January 1999, and the sites of recovery of bullets and bullet fragments coincide. Bullets were not found elsewhere in the gully or its vicinity. Moreover, cartridge cases were recovered on the surface of the ground, occasionally under leaves and silt. The majority of cartridge cases, recovered by the Team, were found under the bushes lining the gully. In some cases, other material of human origin was found in association with bullets. These remains were subjected to DNA extraction. Results did not contradict the assumption that the specific sample originated from one of the victims recovered on 16 January 1999. 

The chain of custody of all materials from the time of detection of evidence was restricted to members of the Team. All materials were taken to the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, and analysed there and at the Crime Laboratory, National Bureau of Investigation, Finland. 

To assist in testing and verifying possible scenarios at the sites, the Team also took aerial photographs, covering the gully and the village, in March 2000 with the assistance of KFOR. Furthermore, surveying of the terrain (tacheometry) of the gully was performed by GEODIMETER 400™, designed for measurements of distances, elevations and directions. A data base including some 850 points was subsequently created, covering an area of 170 m x 30-60 m. Thereafter, the TERRA computer programme was used to produce presentations, figures and terrain models of selected sites. These products can be utilised, for instance, in defining possible viewing sectors at selected heights at any given point in the gully (length 65 m, width 3.5-5 m, depth 1-2 m) and elsewhere. The difference in elevation along the entire length of the gully, where 22 bodies were verified by the OSCE, is 11 m and the surrounding vegetation (grass and mostly thorny bushes) reaches a height of 1.5 m, further limiting the viewing sectors.  

Ballistics reports were also included in the supplementary report submitted to the ICTY. These specifically addressed the recovered cartridge cases, bullets and bullet fragments, giving details of cartridge type, calibre, batch, manufacturer and any identifiable landmarks, in addition to analysis of elements. These investigations were performed at the Crime Laboratory, National Bureau of Investigation, Finland, which is a testing laboratory T79, accredited by the Centre for Metrology and Accreditation, fulfilling requirements of the standards of SFS - EN 45001 and ISO / IEC Guide 25. The results achieved on the basis of the recovered materials make it possible to deduce the number of weapons used for firing. Unfortunately, due to the absence of weapons, it was not possible to match the bullets and cartridge cases. 

In January 1999, during the medicolegal investigations in Pristina, the Team’s access to any foreign objects discovered and removed from the bodies, was surprisingly restricted. The members of the Team were only allowed to photograph the recovered foreign objects, while the chain of custody over the recovered materials was limited to police investigators from the Office of the Investigating Judge, Danica Marinkovic, of the District Court of Pristina. Therefore, comparisons of any recognisable landmarks must rely on photographs taken during the autopsies, and the bullets and other materials recovered during the Team’s investigations in November 1999 and March 2000. 



Gornje Obrinje




[See the full Executive Summary for these reports.] 


[1] EU funding was based on the Joint Action (98/736/CFSP), adopted on 22 December 1998 by the Council of the European Union concerning a forensic expert mission in the FRY, and the Agreement ratified between the Commission of the European Communities and the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, with special reference to Article 3, paragraph 1, subparagraph c.

[2] The OSCE turned to the European Union for assistance and the Union subsequently decided that the EU Forensic Expert Team should investigate the incident. Forty of the bodies discovered at Racak wee removed by Yugoslav authorities from the village to the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University in Pristina.

[3] Copies of the report were also submitted to the Investigating Judge, Danica Marinkovic, of the District Court of Pristina, in accordance with the understanding on the Yugoslav Law on Criminal Procedure, and to the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pristina.

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