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Evidence on the Bodies of Albanians May Have Been Tampered With
Says Finnish forensics expert, Helena Ranta
Kosovo Crisis Center news bulletin
January 27, 1999

PRISHTINA, Jan 27 (KIC) - Finnish forensic experts investigating how 45 ethnic Albanian villagers were killed in Rešak on 15 January may be unable to determine whether they were massacred or shot in battle because of the possibility of evidence-tampering, the lead pathologist said Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Ambassador William Walker, the head of the OSCE Kosova Verification Mission (KVM), accused Yugoslav security forces of killing the civilians and called the slayings a massacre. Helen Ranta, the chief of the Finnish forensic team examining the bodies of the Albanians, stressed Tuesday that she was not accusing anyone of tampering with the bodies, but said the possibility could not be ruled out. The bodies, including a boy and three women, were moved without supervision - first by ethnic Albanians to a mosque in Rešak and later by Serb police to the Prishtina morgue. In addition, Ranta said Yugoslav authorities had already conducted autopsies on about a third of the bodies before her team arrived. "The problem as we see it, it is difficult to reconstruct the 'chain of custody' over the bodies," Ranta was quoted as saying. "There is a possibility of contamination and a possibility of fabrication of evidence." Ranta said some of the bodies tested positive on paraffin tests, indicating they may have fired a weapon. But paraffin tests are widely discounted in U.S. courts because tobacco and fertilizers often give the same results as gunpowder, the AP writes, recalling that the dead were mostly farmers in a region where smoking is nearly universal among Albanian males. The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague, Louise Arbour, said last week she would take very seriously any evidence of tampering with the bodies. She said such an act could be seen as displaying "consciousness of guilt" by the perpetrator, AP recalls. Yugoslav authorities have permitted the Finnish team to examine the bodies, but have refused to permit the U.N. war crimes tribunal to conduct an on-site investigation. The Presidency of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), President Ibrahim Rugova's party, said in a press release on Tuesday "justice cannot be done by making unprincipled concessions to the Serbian military, paramilitary and police forces". "The investigation of the war crimes by the Hague Tribunal is a legitimate demand made by the international institutions, and, as such, it should be implemented fully", the LDK said. "The investigation of the Albanians massacred in Rešak is being carried by a Finnish team, together with Serbs and others chosen [by the Serb regime]. Replacing the expertise of the Hague Tribunal for War Crimes with individuals and institutions preferred by the Serb regime is unacceptable", the LDK presidency concluded.

Originally published at http://www.alb-net.com/kcc/27janar.htm


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