“When we did an investigation in Racak, it was clear that there was an armed conflict, that it is about Albanian terrorists and that there are no questions about torture. Walker, however, said otherwise, and Serbia was bombed,” says Danica Marinkovic, former head of the investigative team of the District Court in Pristina.
Armed conflict occurred in winter 1999, more precisely on 15th January, between Serbian police and the members of Kosovo Liberation Army in village Racak. On that day, 40 members of Albanian terrorist organization was killed. However, former Head of Verification mission OSCE, William Walker, claimed that Serbian police committed a massacre against innocent civilians of Albanian nationality.
This statement was used as an argument directed against Yugoslavia, as a legal reason to start the was, actually, NATO intervention against our country.
“Nothing happened as Walker displayed it. It was all his plan, with the support of western powers. Idea was to present Racak as a massacre over innocent civilians and to use that as an initial capsule for bombing,” explains Danica who was the first one in Racak to perform investigation of the case.
That was, however, made difficult for her, considering that they were shooting at her and the rest of the team for the next two days from the nearby hills. Danica managed to enter the village on the third day.
“We first found massive amount of arms in Racak, hand grenades, ammo boxes, military uniforms, bags full with guns. We sketched it all, took photos and listed, and then loaded it in a truck. It was immediately clear for me that Racak was Kosovo Liberation Army headquarters, and not the village with innocent civilians, as western forces presented it to be.”
Associated Press and Reuters crews headed to the scene, they filmed everything Danica has seen, and listed it in the report. Those footage were, however, never aired.
“When I was called to testify about Racak, i said the names of all reporters and cameramen that were with me, and I asked them to testify, but that never happened. Videos simply disappeared.” said Danica.
When she saw the bodies, it was clear that there was an armed conflict and that there is no way there was torture.
“It was clear that they were Albanian terrorists because they had military markings, boots, military belts, pants, and jackets. With later search of the village, we found KLA headquarters, barracks with bombs, hand grenades, ammo. We even found a notebook with schedule of guard watches,” Danica remembers every detail she saw.
Serbian team started with autopsy of the remains on 19th January 1999. The autopsy was attended by forensic experts from Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Pristina, with the presence of two Belarusian experts and two representatives of the OSCE mission. The Finnish team of medical experts joined the autopsy on 22 January.
“Conclusion was that all died of fire arms and there was no signs of torture. The average age of those killed was about 45 years old. There were no executions, mutilation of the body, any kind of torture, nor shooting from close range,” remembers Danica.
Although the Finnish team agreed with the results of the autopsy, their leader, Helena Renta, refused to sign it and said she would do it when she returns again to Pristina.
“Two months later, on 17 March 1999, Renta in Pristina held a press conference. She called the killings of ethnic Albanians a “crime against humanity”. She denied Serbian reports that they were soldiers, and claimed that they were all in civilian clothes. “Probably” and “likely” were worlds often discussed during her presentation,” says Judge Marinkovic.
Based on this presentation, eight days later, NATO began bombing Yugoslavia.
It was not until 2008, Helena Renta, in her autobiographical book when she stated that a report on the incident was written under the pressure of the then head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, William Walker and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. She admitted that Walker asked her to present the entire case as a Serbian crime in the winter of 1999.
William Walker denied this statement of Helene Renta. What is even more sad is that monument was raised in Pristina to honor Walker.
Judge Marinkovic was banished from Pristina in the meantime.
“It happened after signing of the Kumanovo Agreement. I got the information that i should leave Pristina because they will arrest me first. I went, but first i copied all documentation in had. About Racak and other events on Kosovo and Metohija, which i witnessed. Two days after i left Pristina, members of KFOR, followed by Albanian terrorists, smashed into my office and they were pretty angry for not finding me there. That is when they said they will skin me alive when they find me,” said Danica shaking as if she is reliving the horror again.
Serbia waited for justice till 2005. When Judge Marinkovic got the call from Hague to testify in the case Racak.
“I was preparing testimony directly with Slobodan Milosevic who had Racak in his sentence. I was going to his prison every day. He was stunned with documentation i preserved. Even though i could knock many charges against him, the court did not allow me. I could testify only about Racak. And we knocked it out. Since i testified, the words “massacre in Racak” were never spoken again.”
Judge Nice could not settle with Judge Marinkovic testimony, so he went to Pristina to find evidence and witnesses against her.
“He was furious, he even tried to plant me a photo with a steep hill and a tree on it. And under the tree corpse of a child and a woman. I see the photo and i see that the ground is green where the corpses are placed. I see green grass and leaf on the trees. I look at him and i say “case Racak” happened on 15 January, and there was mud and snow everywhere, and there could not be any grass or leaf in January.”
That moment, International court dropped all charges against Serbian generals in Racak case.
“Also, i had the list of 40 killed that were identified, and the charge said that 45 innocent civilians were killed. When we compared the lists, only five people were the same. They put the names randomly. If we hadn’t proved the truth about Racak, who knows what would have happened to Serbia – said the Judge with anxiety in her voice.”
She adds that western forces used the same scenario in Iran and Afghanistan, and now in Syria.
In February this year, Danica Marinkovic was decorated with Golden Medal for professional integrity, personal courage and honesty. She experienced that as satisfaction and recognition for her honest work, even though the years after Racak were not easy.
She was branded, she wasn’t chosen again for the judge, and she was without a job or a friend for some time. Everybody avoided her. For ten years she could’t leave Serbia, not even to go to Skopje to see her mother and brother. She is happy that her grandson Trajko decided to follow her footsteps, even though she hopes that they won’t lead him to Kosovo and that he will avoid that hell.