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Report Suggests 10,500 Kosovar Albanians Killed
in ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Campaign
In 1999, from March through June, Serbian forces killed about 10,500 people in what seems to have been a systematic campaign to rid Kosovo of its ethnic Albanians, according to a recent report issued by AAAS and by the American Bar Association Central and East European Law Initiative.
The report, entitled Political Killings in Kosova/Kosovo, March--June 1999, is based on information contained in 3,353 interviews with refugees, which were conducted by a handful of non-governmental organizations that were operating in refugee camps during the conflict.
“Through a statistical analysis of these data, this study concludes that approximately 10,500 Kosovar Albanians were killed between March 20 and June 12, 1999,” according to the new report, which was written by Patrick Ball, deputy director of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, and by three others -- Sandra Eyster, a consultant to the science and human rights program, and Scott Carlson and Wendy Betts from the ABA.
The report points out that its purpose is not only to estimate the number of people killed, but also, “the timing and placement of the killings.” By comparing the refugee flows from certain regions to the deaths reported in those regions, the authors suggest that the killings were used as a form of intimidation “to facilitate mass forced evictions.”
“Killing patterns established in this report mirror refugee flows closely,” the report said. “The fact that the increases in the number of reported killings fluctuate in unison with refugee flows is consistent with the proposition that there was coordinated campaign targeting ethic Albanians.”
The authors hope to accomplish several goals with this report. Their primary purpose is to determine how many people were killed in Kosovo, at whose hands, and with what purpose. But they hope also that their report will demonstrate the value of pooling information collected by non-governmental organizations. The report is based on data collected by AAAS, Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and by the ABA’s Central and East European Law Initiative and the Center for Peace through Justice.
“There are some NGOs that have not contributed their data to this project,” Ball says. “We are not asking them to cooperate in collecting data. We just want them to know that after they have published their findings, there is a second process that will allow us to look much more deeply into statistical patterns from the point of view of multiple organizations. This allows us to understand what the data say when taken together, which is much stronger than any single perspective taken alone.”
An earlier AAAS report, Policy or Panic? The Flight of Ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, March--May 1999, compared the number of people who left each Kosovar municipality over time to the times when NATO bomb attacks occurred, and concluded that only a small fraction of ethnic Albanians fled in the wake of NATO’s bombing raids.
“We don’t let people get away with claims of moral equivalence between actors in a political conflict,” Ball said. “Apologists for the perpetrators may say that atrocities are committed on both sides. But if one side is responsible for 93 percent of those atrocities then the claim is absurd. It’s a lie.”
With more data from other NGOs, the authors say they could fill in gaps in their study, which lacks information from refugees who escaped over the border with Macedonia.
“We think if we can get some of this extra data, we will have evidence that shows there was a centrally controlled operation run out of centrally located unit,” says Scott Carlson, co-author of the report and director of the ABA’s Central and East European Law Initiative. “All evidence is consistent with that hypothesis. We believe there was such a campaign, and I’m relatively confident that with working with other organizations, we’re going to get close to (proving it).”
As the Serbian leadership changes hands, the data in the report could help the nation’s new leaders face up to the consequences of the military’s actions in Kosovo, Carlson said.
“The new Serb leadership needs to directly address the evidence of ethnic cleansing,” Carlson said. “We want to help this country move on, but that can't happen if those responsible are not held accountable.”