War crimes forensic investigators leave Croatia

War crimes forensic investigators leave Croatia

ZAGREB, May 10, 2000 -- (Reuters) An expert team from the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia has completed excavations of human remains in central Croatia and left the country, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We have completed work for now in Gospic...the team has left the country," Paul Risley, spokesman for the Hague-based ICTY, told Reuters.

Forensic experts and their heavy equipment moved on to neighboring Bosnia, leaving behind investigators to look for other possible mass grave sites in the former frontline town of Gospic and across Croatia, Risley said.

"We are not finished yet," he said.

After a month of work, the team unearthed about a dozen sets of human remains in a suburb of Gospic called Obradovic Varos, scene of bloody battles between Serb irregulars and Croatian troops early in the 1991-95 independence war.

The ICTY is searching for evidence that several dozen Serb civilians were killed by Croatian police and troops at the outset of the war with Serbs who opposed the country's independence.

The remains were moved to Zagreb, where joint Croatian-ICTY teams will try to establish the cause of death and the identity of the victims, Risley said.

"The conditions in which they were buried were not perfect for this kind of examination," Risley said, adding that the bodies were compressed under rubble and concrete from a nearby house that was blown up.

"It was a very difficult site, but we worked on a very precise tip," Risley said.

The ICTY experts were apparently not so successful with another site near Gospic they worked on in the past few days, where they failed to find any evidence of possible war crimes, local media reported.

Risley declined to comment, but said: "We do not have any active sites that they (the expert team) can work on at the moment."

The presence of international investigators drew angry protests from local veterans, but the new center-left government of Prime Minister Ivica Racan made sure the team had police protection during their work.

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