FBI to send forensic team to Kosovo
June 12, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation plans to send forensic experts to Kosovo to assist in an international investigation of reported war crimes by Yugoslav forces, FBI Director Louis Freeh said on Saturday.
The first contingent of 25 FBI personnel was scheduled to fly to Europe on Saturday and will begin to investigate alleged massacre sites in Kosovo once those sites can be secured by NATO peacekeepers, he said.
"The FBI will use its entire range of resources to gather any evidence of atrocities in Kosovo and present any such findings to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia," Freeh said in statement.
In recent years, the FBI has helped investigate suspected war crimes evidence in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Other FBI forensic experts, as well as specialists from the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, will arrive in Kosovo during the coming weeks. They will work together with the International Criminal Tribunal and other NATO and U.N. members, said Freeh.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked U.N. member nations to volunteer forensic experts for a quick entry into Kosovo to collect evidence of alleged mass slayings and other crimes.
Annan made the request after an appeal from the outgoing chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Louise Arbour, who said in a letter released Friday that she needed 300 forensic experts to gather evidence.
The tribunal wants the experts to scour sites "preferably before the refugees return to their homes and villages" which, in most instances, will be crime scenes, Arbour wrote.
She argued for quick action based on the tribunal's experience in Bosnia, where war crimes investigations sometimes didn't occur until months or years after the fact and evidence at crime scenes had long since been tainted or lost.
Arbour said the tribunal lacks the resources to quickly pull together the needed forensic experts on its own. She said her team of 10 investigators, lawyers, analysts and translators was ready to go to Kosovo.
Arbour's team has been denied entry to Kosovo to investigate allegations of massacres carried out by Serb troops against ethnic Albanians. But now, with Yugoslav troops withdrawing from the province and an international peace force entering, investigations can begin in earnest.
The tribunal, based in The Hague, two weeks ago indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four top associates for alleged atrocities.
Justice Department Correspondent Pierre Thomas and Reuters contributed to this report.
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