BELGRADE - 'After what I saw in Racak, I do not hesitate to describe that crime as a massacre, as a crime against humanity nor do I hesitate to accuse Serbian security forces,' announced American William Walker, the head of the OSCE verification mission in Kosmet at the time, describing what for some of the domestic and world public was a shootout between the Serbian police with the KLA stronghold in Racak.
Walker's judgment, articulated before any expert had had a chance to look at the place of the event, was followed by the decision of the U.S. and NATO to bomb FR Yugoslavia.
Two years later, a report by the Finnish experts was made public which states that after looking at the 40 bodies discovered in Racak 'there was no evidence that this was a massacre' and that 'there are no signs of execution on the bodies'. In an exclusive interview with Blic, the former head of the OSCE verification mission, William Walker, who is now a retired diplomat of the State Departments, comments.
Because of your actions in Racak, many people hold you personally responsible for the blowing out of proportion events which led directly to the bombing of Yugoslavia?
Of course, I've thought about Racak often and I remember that day very clearly. I still have not found anyone who was with me that day on the hill above Racak, including members of the mission and reporters from throughout Europe, who did not reach the same conclusion as I did - that the special police and army forces of Slobodan Milosevic entered the village a day earlier, having previously shelled it with artillery, and collected all the men and boys. They took them away unarmed and the next morning they were dead. Whether those men and boys were members of the KLA or inhabitants of the village is unimportant. Whatever they were, to take them away unarmed and murder them is a war crime.
If you believe in peace and justice, you have to condemn this and that is what I did. I had nothing to do with what followed Racak. I only tried to tell the world what I saw in Racak. Rambouillet was a chance for Milosevic to sign a peace agreement. He refused and that is what led to the bombing.
I am truly sorry if Serbs think that I am responsible for what happened after Racak. I spent some time in Eastern Slavonija, as the head of UNTAES, trying to help the Serbs there, so that bothers me. It bothers me that today Serbs think that I did something to hurt Serbia. That's not the case.
Is it true that representatives of the Serbian police came to you to inform you that a police operation would be conducted to get rid of a KLA stronghold and that they invited your representatives and AP cameramen?
General Loncar, who was Milosevic's military representative in the mission, told us a day before we were to find the bodies that there had been a conflict, in his words, with members of the KLA in 15 members of the KLA were killed. Only the next morning did I go to Racak and find the bodies.
As far as the reporters are concerned, I was not aware of that. No one brought me television footage of the events in Racak. We did have a patrol by the mission on the afternoon when the battle, or whatever it was, occurred in Racak. They found a few wounded people and took them to the hospital. Then they left the village and we had no idea what had happened until the next morning.
The patrol was in the village and it didn't see massacred bodies?
No. They didn't see what happened.
How do you comment on reports that the final report of the Finnish pathologists shows no evidence of execution or massacre?
I haven't seen those reports personally but here the issue has come up again. All I know is that I spoke with those pathologists in Kosovo and they always told us that nothing that they found there disproved the conclusions I had drawn. I don't know how to explain new reports which contradict this assumed scenario.
I would like to visit Kosovo because while there I met wonderful people of all ethnic backgrounds. I would also like to visit Belgrade even though that might not be the smartest thing to do right now.
Why do you think so?
If a large number of Serbs believes that I am responsible for the bombing, those emotions are probably very strong. I really would like to go. If President Kostunica were to invite me, I would go; but because of those emotions, perhaps I should put off that dream for some other time.
BELGRADE - The European Union will take adequate measures in the near future with regard to the new reports on the investigation by Finnish pathologists of events in Racak,' stated Helena Ranta, the head of the Finnish pathology team, when asked by Blic to comment allegations that the final report states that 'there is no evidence of a massacre or execution' in Racak.
'I think that it is best that I talk about Racak after the EU has undertaken adequate steps on this issue. I expect that the EU will enable parts of the report to be available to the public in the near future,' said Helena Ranta, who was sent to Racak by the EU.
Translated by S. Lazovic (Jan. 23, 2001)