French newspaper and television reports today feature evidence apparently
ignored by U.S. media,
suggesting that the "Racak massacre" so vigorously denounced by the U.S.-imposed head of the
OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) "verifiers" mission to Kosovo, William
Walker, was a setup.
This coincides with reports in the German press indicating strong irritation
with Walker among other
Meanwhile, the ineffable State Department spokesman James Rubin appeared
tonight on CNN for
short glimpses between Clinton impeachment dronings, plodding forward amid questions from
journalists even more gung-ho for NATO bombings than he and his bride Christiane Amanpour,
whose love story apparently owes so much to the common anti-Serb cause. It seems the U.S. is
clueless as to the doubts being cast elsewhere on the "massacre" story, and the only questions
well-paid U.S. journalists could conjure up were variations on the theme, "why isn’t cowardly
NATO already bombing the Serbs?"
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
Racak. Did the American ambassador William Walker, chief of the OSCE
mission to Kosovo, show undue haste when, last Saturday, he publicly accused Sserbian 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
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
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
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.
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".
Doubts are cast on the reality of the "Racak massacre" even by LE MONDE,
which for years has
led the crusade against the Serbs. But Le Monde’s own correspondent, Christophe Chatelot, sent
the following report from Pristina:
WERE THE RACAK DEAD REALLY COLDLY
The version of the facts spread by the Kosovars leaves several questions
unanswered. Belgrade says
that the forty-five victims were UCK "terrorst, fallen during combat, but rejects any international
Isn’t the Racak massacre just too perfect? New eye witness accounts
gathered on Monday, January
18, by Le Monde, throw doubt on the reality of the horrible spectacle of dozens of piled up bodies
of Albanians supposedly summarily executed by Serb security forces last Friday. Were the victims
executed in cold blood, as UCK says, or killed in combat, as the Serbs say?
According to the version gathered and broadcast by the press and the
Kosovo verification mission
(KVM) observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the
massacre took place on January 15 in the early after-noon. "Masked" Serbian police entered the
village of Racak which had been shelled all morning by Yugoslav army tanks. The broke down the
doors and entered people’s homes, ordering the women to stay there while they pushed the men to
the edge of the village to calmly execute them with a bullet through the head, not without first having
tortured and mutilated several. Some witnesses even said that the Serbs sang as they did their dirty
work, before leaving the village around 3:30 p.m.
The account by two journalists of Associated Press TV television (AP
TV) who filmed the police
operation in Racak contradicts this tale. When at 10 a.m. they entered the village in the wake of a
police armored vehicle, the village was nearly deserted. They advanced through the streets under the
fire of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) fighters lying in ambush in the woods above the village.
The exchange of fire continued throughout the operation, with more or less intensity. The main
fighting took place in the woods. The Albanians who had fled the village when the first Serb shells
were fired at dawn tried to escape. There they ran into Serbian police who had surrounded the
village. The UCK was trapped in between.
The object of the violent police attack on Friday was a stronghold of
UCK Albanian independence
fighters. Virtually all the inhabitants had fled Racak during the frightful Serb offensive of the summer
of 1998. With few exceptions, they had not come back. "Smoke came from only two chimneys",
noted one of the two AP TV reporters.
The Serb operation was thus no surprise, nor was it a secret. On the
morning of the attack, a police
source tipped off AP TV: "Come to Racak, something is happening". At 10 a.m., the team was on
the spot alongside the police; it filmed from a peak overlooking the village and then through the
streets in the wake of an armored vehicle. The OSCE was also warned of the action. At least two
teams of international observers watched the fighting from a hill where they could see part of the
village. They entered Racak shortly after the police left. They then questioned a few Albanians about
the situation, trying to find out whether there were wounded civilians. Around 6 p.m., they took four
persons—two women and two old men—who were very slightly wounded toward the dispensary of
the neighboring town of Stimje. The verifiers said at that time that they were "incapable of
establishing the number of casualties of that day of fighting".
The publicity given by the Serbian police to that operation was intense.
At 10:30 a.m., it gave out its
first press release. It announced that the police had "encircled the village of Racak with the aim of
arresting the members of a terrorist group who killed a policeman" the previous Sunday. At 3 p.m., a
first bulletin announced fifteen Albanians killed in fighting. The next day, Saturday, it welcomed the
success of the operation which, it said, had resulted in the death of dozens of UCK "terrorists" and
the capture of a large stock of weapons.
The attempt to arrest an Albanian presumed to have murdered a Serb policemen
turned into a
massacre. At 5:30 p.m., the police evacuated the site under the sporadic fire of a handful of UCK
fighters who continued to hold out thanks to the steep and rough terrain. In no time, the first of the
Albanians who had got away come back down into the village, those who had managed to hide
came out in the open and three KVM vehicles drove into the village. One hour after the police left,
The next morning, the press and the KVM came to see the damage caused
by the fighting. It was at
this moment that, guided by the armed UCK fighters who had recaptured the village, they
discovered the ditch where a score of bodies were piled up, almost exclusively men. At midday, the
chief of the KVM in person, the American diplomat William Walker, arrived on the spot and
declared his indignation at the atrocities committed by "the Serb police forces and the Yugoslav
The condemnation was total, irrevocable. And yet questions remain. How
could the Serb police
have gathered a group of men and led them calmly toward the execution site while they were
constantly under fire from UCK fighters? How could the ditch located on the edge of Racak have
escaped notice by local inhabitants familiar with the surroundings who were present before nightfall?
Or by the observers who were present for over two hours in this tiny village? Why so few cartridges
around the corpses, so little blood in the hollow road where twenty three people are supposed to
have been shot at close range with several bullets in the head? Rather, weren’t the bodies of the
Albanians killed in combat by the Serb police gathered into the ditch to create a horror scene which
was sure to have an appalling effect on public opinion? Don’t the violence and rapidity of Belgrade’s
reaction, which gave the chief of the KVM forty-eight hours to leave Yugoslavia, show that the
Yugoslavs are sure of what they are saying?
Only an international inquiry above all suspicion will make it possible
to clarify these obscure points.
Finnish and Belurussian legal doctors were expected to arrive in Pristina on Wednesday to attend the
autopsies being carried out by Yugoslav doctors. The problem is that the Belgrade authorities have
never been cooperative in this matter. Why? Whatever the conclusions of the investigators, the
Racak massacre shows that the hope of soon reaching a settlement of the Kosovo crisis seems quite
Report by Christophe Chatelot, Le Monde, dated 21 January 1999.