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Finnish forensic expert Helena Ranta: Because of report on Racak everyone pressured me

Findings of the Finnish forensic team who investigated the murder of ethnic Albanians in Racak, Kosovo in January 1999 are again under spotlight of Serbian public. The reason for reviving the “old case” is the statement of American diplomat William Walker, former Head of Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), who recently stated that he will continue where he left off in 1999 – to achieve the project of Great Albania.

Srđan Ilić: Helena Rant in Pristina 1999.
Photo: Srđan Ilić / Helena Rant in Pristina 1999.

Serbian media and politicians are accusing the former US diplomat and Head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo (KVM) for involvement in tampering with the findings of the Finnish experts who performed autopsy of 40 remains of Kosovo Albanians.

It was also stated that, based on the fabricated report, NATO made the decision to bomb former Yugoslavia.

Serbian media claim that Finnish expert, Helena Ranta, changed her position on Racak, and that the facts in her statements today differ from those in the report published in March 1999.

In an interview for Insajder, Ranta said that she did not change her position on the report, stating that it is not the first time Serbian media have fabricated her statements.

Ranta told Insajder that the bodies of victims were never moved, that the clothes on the bodies was not changed, and that all victims were shot from a short distance.

A popular “theory” in Serbia is that the Racak case was fabricated, and that it was the terrorists of the Kosovo Liberation Army who were killed in the fight but their uniforms were changed with civilian clothes afterwards.

Ranta told Insajder it was not only the US diplomat Walker who tried to influence her and the findings of her team, but other diplomatic circles and representatives of Serbia as well.

“William Walker wanted me to confirm who committed this in Racak. I could not do that, I am a scientist, not a politician or diplomat or something else. I said that I was not going to draw any conclusions,” said Ranta.

Serbian media outlets claim that Walker was so annoyed with Ranta’s refusal to cooperate that he threw pencils at her, but as she explains, there was an incident but without throwing things at the meeting.

“I do not know why Walker behaved like that. He had some pencils in his hand and he broke them and threw them on the table in front of me. That was all. It was childish. He denies this, of course, but there were people present there, so…,” said Ranta.

However, Ranta stated that not only Walker wanted to influence her work and report.

“Some international actors asked me if I could make some more far reaching conclusions and I said no. Serbian authorities asked me to reveal the information on the ongoing investigation and I denied that also. I do not want to reveal the names of those who asked me. When the investigation was over, the results were presented to the Serbian side,” said Ranta.

According to her words, Serbian authorities wanted to know the findings of the investigation that was still ongoing, this is against the rules.

“Only when your report is finished, you can then reveal the information. Serbian authorities are familiar with all the results from the investigation because when we finished, we presented them result. But they wanted information during the investigation,” stated Ranta.

Ranta also told Insajder that the murders were commited where the bodies were found, but Serbian “popular theory” says otherwise.

“We have obtained bullets and fragments of bullets from the ground where bodies were found. Bullets and their fragments were found three to eight centimeters deep in the ground. Also, the trajectories in the wounds suggest that they were killed from close range,” said Ranta.

She also said that the team of forensics managed to obtain DNA from the bullets matching all 40 victims who were brought to the autopsy. Ranta said that gunpowder test was not done on the victims since it needed to be done hours after shooting and not days.

In the report of the Finnish team, it was also stated that at least four pieces of guns were used in the killing.

“Every gun leaves a unique mark on the bullet. Based on the marks on bullets and casings found at the scene, we have concluded that at least four weapons were used in the murder,” said Ranta.

In an exclusive interview with Insider, Ranta has expressed regret over her formulation at a press conference in 1999 when she described Racak as “a crime against humanity.”

"I am a pathologist and I called Racak crime against humanity as a human, not as a lawyer because I am not one. Every murder is a crime against humanity. I'm sorry that my statement was interpreted differently,” said Ranta.

She said that she does not understand why the Racak case is taken as a symbol when there was great suffering of Serbian and Albanian civilians before and after the events in Racak.

"I'd like people to remember everything before and after Racak. Many civilians were killed on both sides during the conflict in Kosovo. I remember that, during his trial at The Hague tribunal, Slobodan Milosevic blamed me, saying that it is more or less because of my investigations in Racak that Serbia was bombed.

I have to remind you that in the autumn of 1998, NATO already started preparation for the bombing, which was long before my investigation. I want the people to remember that,” she concluded.

There was no point in doing a gunpowder test

“The gunpowder test, which many talk about, must be done within a few hours for the results to be accurate.

The bodies of people killed in Racak had been in contact with many people, they were transferred to the mosque, and only after a few days they were transferred to Pristina. So, there was simply no point in doing the test after that,” she said.

"We have repeatedly discussed that, even in the trials at the Hague tribunal. It would be amateur even to suggest a test on gunpowder a few days after death. Still, I wonder how it does not reach the public,” said Ranta.

She added that the paraffin glove test is not reliable and that, already in the sixties, the Interpol recommended that it does not work.

Serbian pathologists, who started analyzing the bodies found in Racak a few days before the Finnish pathologists, claim that they did paraffin gloves test and that they found traces of gunpowder on almost all the bodies, which was the proof for Serbian side that the victims were members of the KLA killed in combat.

Milivoje Pantovic

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