BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 18 November, 2001, 02:20 GMT
Kosovan doctors seek forensic support
 Zarife Miftari and Aida Berisha
Doctors hope to investigate deaths in their homeland
Two Kosovan doctors are studying forensic science in the UK to help them investigate the deaths of ethnic Albanians killed during the crisis in their homeland.

Aida Berisha, 32, and Zarife Miftari, 30, are studying forensic medicine at the University of Dundee to help them identify the victims of war and conduct homicide investigations when they return to the region.

We will be working on the bodies of people who were killed in the war

Dr Aida Berisha

The pair will assist in cases of rape and child abuse, as well as the mass killings of their countrymen and women by Yugoslav forces.

Dr Berisha said: "Forensic medicine forms an important part in law. We will perform autopsies to find out the cause of death and hopefully how those deaths occurred.

"We will be working on the bodies of people who were killed in the war. When you find mass graves you don't know what to expect."

Previously doctors in Kosovo were not able to travel to gain the knowledge they needed.

UN funding

But the two medics, from the Kosovan capital Pristina, received funding from the UN to study for a Masters degree in forensic medicine.

Forensics is an important part of the legal and justice system as it involves much investigative research to provide evidence.

In underdeveloped countries the lack of training in forensic pathology means criminals can get off due to poor scientific evidence.

Dr Peter Hall, chairman of Physicians for Human Rights UK, said the doctors' work in Kosovo would be a crucial part of attempts to bring to justice the perpetrators of mass murder.

For the relatives of those who died, the work is really important because they want to bury their loved ones

Dr Peter Hall

"You need the evidence that the people have been killed, by whom and why before you can accuse someone of doing it," said Dr Hall.

"Sometimes the bodies will have been reburied so they won't be in the positions that they were killed in.

"Often people were shot in graves themselves. It can be rather disorganised.

"Once the bodies are dug up, the job will be to identify the cause of death, if possible, using techniques such as x-rays.

Dental records

"They would use clothing that relatives would come along and recognise and dental records. Sometimes genetic information can be used.

"For the relatives of those who died, the work is really important because they want to bury their loved ones."

When the doctors return to Kosovo they will be working in the UN's Forensic Institute.

They see their role as pathologists as part of the search for the truth from the war in Kosovo and an essential part of the justice system.

The University of Dundee became involved in training international medics through work with human rights organisations.

Independent evidence is crucial for the delivery of justice

Prof Derrick Pounder

Professor Derrick Pounder, head of the department of forensic medicine, said: "In situations of conflict, misinformation from perpetrators, victims and the police is a big problem.

"Independent evidence is crucial for the delivery of justice."

The course, which started in October and runs until next September, is designed for overseas medical graduates who want intense training which is hard to get in their own countries.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Europe
Q&A: Kosovo's watershed vote
10 Jul 99 | UK
Trauma help for Kosovo
15 Nov 01 | UK
How we clear landmines
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories