RENAUD GIRARD has covered virtually all the Yugoslav wars of
disintegration on the spot for the French daily "Le Figaro". Here is my
rough but accurate translation of his lead article published on
January 20, 1999:
KOSOVO: OBSCURE AREAS OF A MASSACRE
The images filmed during the attack on the village of Racak contradict the
Albanians' and the OSCE's version
Did the American ambassador William Walker, chief of the OSCE cease-fire verification mission to Kosovo, show undue haste when, last Saturday, he publicly accused Serbian security forces of having on the previous day executed in cold blood some forty Albanian peasants in the little village of Racak?
The question deserves to be raised in the light of a series of disturbing facts. In order to understand, it is important to go through the events of the crucial day of Friday in chronological order.
At dawn, intervention forces of the Serbian police encircled and then attacked the village of Racak, known as a bastion of UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA) separatist guerrillas. The police didn't seem to have anything to hide, since, at 8:30 a.m., they invited a television team (two journalists of AP TV) to film the operation. A warning was also given to the OSCE, which sent two cars with American diplomatic licenses to the scene. The observers spent the whole day posted on a hill where they could watch the village.
At 3 p.m., a police communique reached the international press center in Pristina announcing that 15 UCK "terrorists" had been killed in combat in Racak and that a large stock of weapons had been seized.
At 3:30 p.m., the police forces, followed by the AP TV team, left the village, carrying with them a heavy 12.7 mm machine gun, two automatic rifles, two rifles with telescopic sights and some thirty Chinese-made kalashnikovs.
At 4:40 p.m., a French journalist drove through the village and met three orange OSCE vehicles. The international observers were chatting calmly with three middle-aged Albanians in civilian clothes. They were looking for eventual civilian casualties.
Returning to the village at 6 p.m., the journalist saw the observers taking away two very slightly injured old men and two women. The observers, who did not seem particularly worried, did not mention anything in particular to the journalist. They simply said that they were "unable to evaluate the battle toll".
The scene of Albanian corpses in civilian clothes lined up in a ditch which would shock the whole world was not discovered until the next morning, around 9 a.m., by journalists soon followed by OSCE observers. At that time, the village was once again taken over by armed UCK soldiers who led the foreign visitors, as soon as they arrived, toward the supposed massacre site. Around noon, William Walker in person arrived and expressed his indignation.
All the Albanian witnesses gave the same version: at midday, the policemen forced their way into homes and separated the women from the men, whom they led to the hilltops to execute them without more ado.
The most disturbing fact is that the pictures filmed by the AP TV journalists -- which Le Figaro was shown yesterday -- radically contradict that version.
It was in fact an empty village that the police entered in the morning, sticking close to the walls. The shooting was intense, as they were fired on from UCK trenches dug into the hillside.
The fighting intensified sharply on the hilltops above the village. Watching from below, next to the mosque, the AP journalists understood that the UCK guerrillas, encircled, were trying desperately to break out. A score of them in fact succeeded, as the police themselves admitted.
What really happened? During the night, could the UCK have gathered the bodies, in fact killed by Serb bullets, to set up a scene of cold-blooded massacre? A disturbing fact: Saturday morning the journalists found only very few cartridges around the ditch where the massacre supposedly took place.
Intelligently, did the UCK seek to turn a military defeat into a political victory? Only a credible international inquiry would make it possible to resolve these doubts. The reluctance of the Belgrade government, which has consistently denied the massacre, thus seems incomprehensible. -- END --
Short comment: Not entirely incomprehensible, since Belgrade is convinced that the U.S.-led "international community" is determined to frame the Serb side in order to justify NATO bombing. The hasty and virulent William Walker condemnation of the Serbs for "the most horrendous" massacre he had ever seen (and that after four years in El Salvador!), not to mention the latest in a series of fatal "captures" of Bosnian Serbs accused of war crimes, has only confirmed the view of most Serbs that they can expect only unfair condemnation, not justice, from such "investigators".