on the work of the European Union Forensic Expert Team in Kosovo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1998 2000
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 Team gratefully acknowledges diplomatic assistance and support of the Presidency of the EU (Austria, Germany, Finland and Portugal), the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Embassy in Belgrade. In negotiations concerning related legal issues with Yugoslav authorities, the Team was advised by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Special thanks are also extended to numerous representatives of the EU Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (EU - KDOM) and of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Kosovo Verification Mission (OSCE - KVM). The Team is grateful for the valuable logistic support of the Finnish KFOR Battalion in Lipljan.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FORENSIC EXPERT 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. However, where necessary, activities relating to the earlier phase are explained briefly.
STRUCTURE OF THE TEAM
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 Teams 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.
FUNCTIONING OF THE TEAM
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 Teams 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 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). 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 Teams work in Kosovo, FRY.
SUMMARY OF WORK CONDUCTED AT SITES
The status of the work and investigations conducted by the EU-FET on different sites (for map, see below) is briefly summarised as follows:
In total, 39 victims were reported to have been found on 8 - 16 September 1998 in an artificial canal area near Glodjane, 7 km east of Decane, by Yugoslav authorities. The autopsies were conducted in Djakovica by Yugoslav experts from the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Belgrade, and three estimates for the time of death were given: May June, June July and mid-August 1998. The bodies, both identified and those who remained unidentified, were buried in Djakovica, Kosovo. Altogether, 12 victims were identified; among these were seven Serbs, four ethnic Albanians and one Roma. The Team was shown the original post-mortem (PM) documentation at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Belgrade, and in October 1998, representatives of the Team visited the site. Later, the Team received the finalised autopsy protocols and was asked to assist in the identification process. However, during the NATO air operations, new alleged atrocities were reported in Djakovica. Therefore, it became unlikely that the grave sites could be identified with certainty. Thus, the identification process of the 27 victims reached a standstill.Golubovac
Golubovac is located in the Drenica region, 5 km south of Donja Obrinja. The region has historically been the centre of ethnic Albanian nationalism, and at the beginning of August 1998, it constituted the largest area under the control of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Allegedly, on 26 September 1998, the villagers, who had fled from Golubovac, were given guarantees of safe return. However, of those who did return, a group of 25 men was gathered and 14 selected for execution. One managed to escape and investigators of the ICTY have interviewed this sole survivor. The 13 victims of the incident at Golubovac have been reported to be buried in two separate locations, which were visited by representatives of the Team in October 1998. However, the final death toll of late September at the village may exceed 20. Unfortunately, due to later developments, no further preparations, apart from photographing and videotaping the grave sites and the alleged execution site, could be made.
On 26 September 1998, 22 members of a Kosovo Albanian family were killed and buried in a temporary graveyard close to the village of Gornje Obrinje, 6 km west of Glogovac. Most of them were found at a gully near a makeshift tent. The incident raised much publicity, and in the original working schedule, the site was among the highest priorities of the Team. Later, a 23rd member of the family perished. The victims, including children, women, and some elderly and disabled persons, were all alleged to be civilians. In October 1998, the site, which is known to be heavily mined, was visited by representatives of the Team, and negotiations were initiated with the legal representative of the family on the eventual exhumation and subsequent autopsies of the victims, intended to confirm the probable manner and cause of death.
On 9 December 1998, after the District Court of Pristina had issued a court order for exhumation, preparations at the site were underway. The safety issues related to the work at the site were discussed with representatives of the KLA at their local headquarters. The local KLA commander had given the Team a guarantee of safe and unhindered access to the site. On the following day, due to unexpected obstruction by Yugoslav forces, the Team had to halt its convoy. After hours of negotiation on the road leading to Gornje Obrinje, to prevent the tense situation from escalating further towards a possible armed conflict, the Team decided to return to its headquarters and to postpone the exhumation. The main issues of the tense discussions on the road included the presence and safety of the Investigating Judge, Danica Marinkovic, of the District Court of Pristina, Professor Sasa Dobricanin and Dr. Suzana Matejic of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pristina. The validity of the issued Court Order was also questioned by Yugoslav authorities. The Team was accompanied by diplomatic representatives of the Presidency of the EU (Austria), the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Embassy in Belgrade. Logistic support was provided by the EU KDOM. However, later that same afternoon, a meeting was arranged in Pristina by the Serbian Minister of Justice, Dragoljub Jankovic. During these discussions, a suggestion was put forward by Minister Jankovic to concentrate on investigations at sites other than Gornje Obrinje. It is generally known that Gornje Obrinje has a very high symbolic value for the Albanians in Kosovo. Soon after the obstruction, an additional order was issued by the University Hospital of Pristina, restricting the Teams possibilities of conducting autopsies independently. Even though, for several reasons, it was not possible to return to the site to continue the work, the Team feels that this site should be investigated by representatives of the international community.
The small village of Klecka in south-central Kosovo had been used as the main training centre of the KLA. In late August 1998, the Yugoslav forces recaptured the stronghold, finding a lime-kiln and cremated human remains. At that time, two ethnic Albanians were arrested. While in police custody, one of them was questioned in the presence of a TV camera team and foreign journalists. The Yugoslav authorities stated the original death toll at approximately 100 individuals, later reducing that figure to 22, allegedly including women and children.
The human remains, which were recovered by Yugoslav authorities and subsequently investigated by local experts at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Pristina, were presented to the Team in October 1998, at which time they were also photographed. The related documentation, submitted to the District Court of Pristina, was also presented. This documentation alleged that the investigated material included cremated human remains of two men, one woman and two children, aged 8 - 12 years. The medicolegal investigations conducted thereafter by the Team included forensic analysis, osteological and anthropological analysis and measurements, x-rays and DNA analysis. In December 1999, the report (502 pages in length) summarising these findings was submitted to the Presidency of the EU (Finland) and the Ambassador of the FRY in Finland, to be forwarded to corresponding Yugoslav authorities.
In brief, the report states that the remains consisted of 89 major identifiable bones or bone fragments and a group of 108 small burnt bone fragments. DNA was isolated from bones and bone fragments with established laboratory methodologies. Using a DNA replication methodology (Polymerase Chain Reaction , PCR), nine autosomal microsatellite regions (D3S1358, vWa, FGA,
TH01, TPOX, CSF1PO, D5S818, D13S317, D7S820) were amplified. In addition, gender identification was performed by replication of the amelogenic DNA region.
On the basis of DNA analysis, the examined bone samples were determined to belong to three male individuals. Furthermore, there were 14 burnt fragments of adult human bone, which could not be linked to these three individuals. Of the 108 small fragments, 43 were successfully typed. According to forensic and anthropological investigations, all remaining unspecified bone samples were consistent with originating from the three bodies. The results do not indicate the presence of more than the three bodies specified.
Of the three bodies, one was established by forensic dental examination to be that of a middle-aged individual. The minimum age of another body, based on anthropological examination, was determined to be 45 years. All examined bones and bone fragments were confirmed to originate from adult skeletons.
The bone samples of one individual indicated wounds apparently resulting from two or three gunshots to the regions of the lumbar vertebrae and sacrum. Further, bone samples from the bodies indicated breakage of the spinous processes, cracking along the margins of the bones, fracture of the ribs and comminution of the skull. However, the vitality of these wounds could not be assessed. Should these have occurred over the lifetime, gunshot wounds are consistent with being the cause of death. In the absence of sufficient previous knowledge and a conclusive cause of death, categorisation of manner of death, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), cannot be determined. On the basis of the findings, the applicable alternatives include criminal homicide, war or inconclusive. Neither could accidental death be excluded.
Nor could time elapsed since death be accurately estimated on the basis of the Teams investigations. The speed of soft tissue loss and other post-mortem changes are dependent upon the temperature and humidity under which the body is situated as well as acidity, microbe activity, weather conditions, variations in all of these and other external factors. The examined bodies had presumably been deceased at least some months since soft tissue had, for the most part, disappeared. On the other hand, the remaining soft tissue had retained its density, and thus, time elapsed since death was at most a matter of years.
Legal proceedings against the two Albanians were started in early April 2000 at the District Court of Nis, where the jurisdiction of the District Court of Pristina had been transferred. The Team submitted one copy of the documentation to the Finnish Embassy in Belgrade in March 2000 and representatives of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the defence lawyers of the accused were duly informed. The Court denied the appeal of the defence to evaluate the Teams report on its findings as part of legal proceedings. Representatives of the UNHCHR are monitoring the trial.
Clashes between Serb forces and the KLA on 17 22 July 1998 in Orahovac, 60 km south-west of Pristina, resulted in an unknown number of fatalities. Available information on the incidents from different sources varies, and accordingly, the total death toll ranges between 40 400. Allegedly, the bodies had been buried both in the garbage dump near the town and in Prizren, south of Orahovac. Forensic investigations of the former were further complicated due to considerable commingling of human and animal skeletal remains, and the presence of metal objects, such as cans, giving off signals during mine detection. Representatives of the Team visited the garbage site several times and documented the name plates, signs, changes in vegetation, partly visible coffins and new graves. The Team also drafted its preliminary working plan of the site. During this process, further related material and information were acquired from other sources.
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 Teams 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 Teams investigations in November 1999 and March 2000.
The bauxite mining area, Volujak, is located on the Grebnicka Mountain, 5 km south of Klina, at an altitude of 700 m. The site was discovered by Serb authorities on 3 October 1998, and the investigations were directed by the Vice President of the District Court of Pec, Veselin Cadenovic. Allegedly, the site was used by the KLA to hold prisoners in a near-by vertical cave. Human remains were recovered at the site and, after investigations performed by Yugoslav experts, the number of victims was estimated at 6, although only 2 skulls were reported to have been found. The assumed time of death on the basis of these investigations was 3-4 months prior to the discovery.
The human remains (see page 12) were shown to representatives of the Team in October 1998 and the Team was asked to conduct medicolegal investigations including forensic analysis, osteological and anthropological analysis and measurements, x-rays and DNA analysis. In December 1999, the report (411 pages) summarising these findings was submitted to the Presidency of the EU (Finland) and the Ambassador of the FRY in Finland, to be forwarded to corresponding Yugoslav authorities.
Samples, primarily from the skull and long bones, were excised for DNA analysis and DNA was isolated with established methodologies. Using the PCR, nine autosomal microsatellite regions were amplified. These included D3S1358, vWA, FGA, TH01, TPOX, CSF1PO, D5S818, D13S317 and D7S820. Gender identification was performed by replication of the amelogenic DNA region. For samples with unsuccessful extraction or replication, DNA isolation and replication were repeated at least twice. No reliable results were obtained for nine samples. On the basis of DNA analysis, the examined bone samples were determined to belong to five male individuals. No factors were revealed to exclude the possibility of all unspecified bones originating from the same male cadavers. Thus, the number of examined bodies is consistent with being five.
Gender was determined by examining the shape of the skull and hip bones as well as their gender-specific characteristics. Anthropological measurements were made by using the Pearson methodology with the Stewart modification. Determination of age from the pubic symphysis was accomplished by both the Suchey-Brooks and the Todd methodologies, using reference photographs and plaster reference models (Suchey-Brooks). To supplement these determinations, the developmental stage of the costal cartilage was also examined. For stature estimation, the Sjovold formula was employed. Stature was established using long bones of the extremities. Results were compared to the Trotter and Glesser formulae and tables.
Based upon anthropological and dental examinations of the specified bodies, one was established to be at least 45 and two at least 50 years of age. Age estimation of the two remaining cadavers could not be completed. However, all bone samples were identified as those of human adults.
In four bodies, a finding consistent with a gunshot wound was identified, and in one body, a finding suggestive of a gunshot wound was found. A bullet from an assault rifle was detected within the cerebral matter of one body. Bone fractures and skull comminution were present in all bodies. The vitality of these findings could not be assessed. If they were accumulated over the lifetime, cause of death is consistent with being gunshot wounds. Otherwise, cause of death cannot be established on the basis of bone samples. In the absence of sufficient previous knowledge and a conclusive cause of death, categorisation of manner of death, as recommended by the WHO, cannot be determined. On the basis of findings, the applicable alternatives include criminal homicide, war or inconclusive. In addition, accidental death could not be excluded.
The bones of three bodies indicated an accumulation of particulate x-ray-positive material which, when examined by electron microscopy and x-ray analysis, was shown to be of soil origin. Pathological changes included signs of wear and, in one case, osteophytes and hyperosteogenesis. Special identifying features of three bodies may possibly be used in identification, providing that reliable ante-mortem data is available.
No accurate estimate could be given of time elapsed since death, with limitations outlined on page 14 (Klecka).
 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.
 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.
 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.