19.09.2007.

PROSECUTION CONTESTS FINDINGS OF OWN EXPERT

At the trial of the three former KLA commanders, the prosecutors are unhappy with the findings of a French forensic scientist about the length of time the bodies had been in the Radonjic lake canal. The expert drafted the report at the prosecution’s behest and now, in a strange twist, the prosecutors find themselves contesting their own evidence

As the trial of Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj continued, the prosecution, in a strange twist, found itself contesting its own evidence, presented in a forensic report commissioned by the prosecution. French forensic scientist Dominique Le Comte made two reports on the condition of several dozen bodies of Serbian, Albanian and Roma civilians found in the Radonjic lake canal in September 1998. Her main conclusion was that some of the bodies in and around the canal had been there a very short time before they were discovered. This might play into the defense’s hands, because its argument is that all or some of the bodies had been plated there by the Serbian police and that they, not the KLA, were responsible for the death of those people.

Dr. Le Comte’s findings are based on the presence or absence of insects and larvae in the bodies. To contest her conclusions, the prosecution now commissioned French forensic scientists Laurent Dourel, who specializes in this area of forensic science.

In her report, Dr. Le Comte states that the absence of larvae in some bodies indicates they were in the canal for a short time. Dourel offers an alternative explanation, noting that there can be a number of reasons for the absence of larvae and insects in bodies that remained in one place for a long time. First, the larvae crawl out of the tissues and burrow into the ground after pupation. Second, insects do not lay eggs into bodies in the process of skeletonization, because there isn’t enough tissue there to support larvae development. Furthermore, Dr. Le Comte could not draw her conclusions solely on the basis of video footage and photographs because in some stages of decomposition, the larvae in the bodies are so small as to be barely visible to the naked eye, Dourel explained.

In a brief cross-examination, Haradinaj’s defense counsel merely wanted the witness to confirm that he was unable to claim that the bodies at the lake canal had been brought there immediately before they were found or had spent a longer time there. Dourel confirmed that. The only claim he made was that Dr. Le Comte could not have drawn any firm conclusions about the time the bodies remained in the lake canal.

Although the prosecution did not intend to call Dr. Le Comte to testify, it will have to do it on the orders of the Chamber, who wishes to hear the other side, the expert whose report was not to the prosecution’s liking. The presiding judge told Dourel at the end of his testimony that he could be recalled to The Hague if any of the parties had additional questions for him after Dr. Le Comte’s testimony. There are no indications as to when she would be called to testify.