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<nettime> M. Chossudovsky: NATO's Claim of Ethnic Cleansing challenged

                             Michel Chossudovsky

Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and author of The
Globalization of Poverty, Impacts of IMF and World Bank Reforms, Third
World Network, Penang and Zed Books, London, 1997. 

Member of the Canadian antiwar movement. 

Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Ottawa, February 2000

NATO's two main justifications for bombing Yugoslavia on humanitarian
grounds have been refuted by the Western alliance's own official figures
and documentary evidence. These justifications rest on two central

1) the alleged indiscriminate mass killings of Albanian civilians (premise
number one); 

2) the implementation of a deliberate policy of mass deportations or
"ethnic cleansing" (premise number two). 

"Premise number one" has been invalidated by the FBI and European forensic
teams working under the auspices of the Hague Tribunal (ICTY). The
forensic and police investigators have uncovered several hundred bodies in
grave sites in Kosovo as opposed to the 10,000 to 100,000 civilian
massacres claimed by NATO and Western governments as a pretext for waging
the War. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had announced that President
Milosevic was "set on a Hitler style genocide equivalent to the
extermination of the Jews during World war II".1 "We've now seen about
100,000 military aged men missing... They may have been murdered", echoed
US Defense Secretary William Cohen. 2 "Genocide is starting," stated
German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping.3... 

The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) (while upholding the war crimes indictment
against members of the Yugoslav government), has acknowledged the
exhumation of 2,108 bodies in Kosovo from grave sites in Kosovo.4 This
figure includes the deaths of ethnic Albanians, Serbs, Romani and other
ethnic groups who died during the war (23 March 9 June 1999)  from all
known causes (including politically motivated executions and massacres of
civilians, NATO air strikes, the groundwar between the KLA and the
Yugoslav Armed Forces and natural causes). 


"The allegations of indiscriminate mass murder, rape camps, crematoriums
have not been borne out" by the police investigations and forensic
evidence. 5 In the absence of "premise number one", the policy of mass
deportations directed against ethnic Albanians (premise number two) is
being upheld by NATO and the Western media as "a sufficient justification" 
for launching the war. In the words of Madeleine Albright "opposing ethnic
cleansing is central to our values... We are reaffirming NATO's core
purpose as a defender of democracy, stability and human decency on
European soil."6

Yet the recently released Report entitled "As Seen, As Told: Analysis of
the Human Rights Findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission" 
suggests that the allegation of mass deportations is also a fabrication. 7
Although heavily slanted in its main conclusions, OSCE figures suggest
that there were proportionately more Serbs (as a percentage of population) 
fleeing Kosovo than ethnic Albanians which puts an obvious question mark
on NATO's assertion that organized mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians
were taking place. 

According to OSCE numbers and Kosovar Albanian sources on population size
and distribution, an estimated 45.7 percent of the Albanian population and
59.5 percent of the Serb population had fled Kosovo during the bombings
(i.e. from 23 March to 9 June 1999).8

The OSCE report summarises the balancesheet of ethnic Albanian refugees as
numbering 862,979. In a secluded footnote at the bottom of the main table,
the report nonetheless acknowledges that:  "In addition [to the 862,979
ethnic Albanian refugees], more than 100,000 Serb IDPs [Internally
displaced persons] are estimated to have left Kosovo and to have been
registered in Serbia and Montenegro". 9 Whereas ethnic Albanians
(including those who fled to Montenegro) are categorized as "refugees",
Serbs who fled Kosovo during the same period are casually identified as
"Internally Displaced Persons". The figures for ethnic Albanians are very
precise in contrast to those indicated for the Serbs in the footnote. The
number of refugees belonging to other ethnic groups who fled the province
during the bombings is not even acknowledged. 

According to Kosovo Albanian sources, the Province had a total population
of 2.1 million of which 90 percent are ethnic Albanians, 8 percent Serbs
and 2 percent are other ethnic groups.10 Based on these figures (which are
accepted both by NATO and the postconflict KLA provisional government) 
there were an estimated 1.89 million ethnic Albanians and 168,000 Serbs in

In accordance with the above population breakdown, the exodus of Serbs (as
a percentage of population) was larger than that of the ethnic Albanian
population. According to OSCE numbers (from UNHCR sources), it is
estimated that 45.7 percent of the Albanian population and more than 59.5
percent of the Serb population fled Kosovo during the bombings (i.e. from
23 March to 9 June 1999). 

In other words, Serbs who ostensibly were not the target of "ethnic
cleansing perpetrated by the Serbs" had also fled the theatre of the war
in Kosovo. If there had been a deliberate and cohesive policy of ethnic
cleansing and massacres directed against ethnic Albanians, the percentages
would have been markedly different and this is something which NATO was
cautious not to reveal to public opinion while the bombings were ongoing. 

The above estimates depend on the veracity of the OSCEUNHCR refugee
figures as well as on the reliability of the data on population size and
distribution. In estimating these percentages, we have accepted official
OSCE UNHCR refugee numbers at face value, namely that the OSCE Report had
not artificially "inflated" the number of ethnic Albanian refugees nor had
it "deflated" the number of Serbs who fled Kosovo during the bombings with
a view to vindicating NATO's claim of ethnic cleansing. We have also taken
Kosovar Albanian assumptions pertaining to population size and
distribution.  In other words, the percentages are derived from their
numbers!  Moreover, it should be emphasised that the percentage of Serbs
who left Kosovo estimated at 59.5 percent is based on the 100,000 figure
given by the OSCE. Yet the OSCE report states that the number of Serbs who
fled Kosovo during the same period is "more than 100,000". 

Accounting for biases in the OSCE UNHCR figures and margins of error in
the data on population, the estimates do not support NATO's allegation of
a policy of mass deportation directed against ethnic Albanians. 

Ironically, the OSCE (also in a discrete footnote) acknowledges the
assumptions of Belgrade's 1991 Census data which indicates the ethnic
Albanian population at 82 percent of total population. Yet the Census was
boycotted by ethnic Albanians and the figures were never recognised by the
parallel provisional government of Kosovo. Why does the OSCE acknowledge
Belgrade's 1991 Census when NATO and KLA statements repeatedly indicate
that the ethnic Albanian population is at 90 percent? Based on the 1991
Census figures, the estimated percentage of each population group which
fled Kosovo would be 53.7 percent for the ethnic Albanians and more than
51.5 percent for the Serbs.11 Yet even when applying the assumptions of
the 1991 Census, NATO's claim of mass deportations is not borne out. 

The refugee crisis, we were told repeatedly during the War was limited to
ethnic Albanians. According to the Western media, Serb civilians had been
protected by the Serb police and Armed forces. The large scale exodus of
Serbs from Kosovo prior to June 9, 1999 (acknowledged by the figures
contained in the OSCE Report) was simply not mentioned. To reveal the
numbers would have discredited NATO's main justification for launching its
"humanitarian war". 


Other documentary evidence including an official report of the German
foreign ministry published prior to the War, confirms that there was no
evidence of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo in the months immediately
preceding the bombings. 

Who is lying? German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had justified NATO's
intervention pointing to a "humanitarian catastrophe", yet the internal
documents of his own ministry stated exactly the opposite: 

"Even in Kosovo an explicit political persecution linked to Albanian
ethnicity is not verifiable. The East of Kosovo is still not involved in
armed conflict. Public life in cities like Pristina, Urosevac, Gnjilan,
etc. has, in the entire conflict period, continued on a relatively normal
basis. The actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the
KosovoAlbanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military
opponent [KLA] and its actual or alleged supporters."...12

Moreover, a report of the United States Committee on Refugees (USCR) 
confirms a significant reduction in the number of refugees and internally
displaced persons in the period following the signing of the October 13
agreement between U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) President Slobodan Milosevic. According to
USCR, the overall refugee situation had improved with the entry of the
OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). The USCR report also confirms that
"KLA ethnic cleansing of ethnic Serb civilian population pockets
intensified in December [1999]" substantiating the results of the German
Foreign Office intelligence report.  But we were told time and again that
the Serbs rather than the KLA had been responsible for ethnic cleansing in
the months leading up to the War...13

The OSCE UNHCR figures on the number of refugees rather than supporting
NATO's main justification for waging the war, suggest that more than half
the Serb population had also fled Kosovo during the war. This tendency
could be explained by the fact that the KLA had been responsible for
relaying intelligence to NATO pertaining to potential targets in the
bombing operation. 

Moreover, a history of the war also suggests that the massacres and
atrocities directed against the Serbs by the KLA Military Command (amply
documented for the period after June 9) had already commenced prior to the
arrival of KFOR forces in Kosovo. 

NATO's two central postulates for waging the war respectively
"indiscriminate mass killings" and "ethnic cleansing" are not borne out by
the relevant data. 

What then was the justification for the humanitarian bombings? What was
the hidden agenda? Ultimately the truth must prevail, public opinion must
be informed and those who are responsible for waging this criminal war
must be brought to trial. 


1. Quoted in Peter Gowan, Kosovo; the war and its aftermath, Labour Focus
on Eastern Europe, no. 64, 1999, p. 26. 

2. CBS Face the Nation, 16 May 1999 quoted by Joyce Howard Price in The
Washington Times, May 17, 1999. 

3. Quoted in Peter Gowan, op. cit. 

4. Reuters, 10 November 1999. 

5. Wall Street Journal, 31 December 1999. 

6. Quoted in Time Magazine, May 17, 1999, p. 2526. 

7. OSCE, Kosovo/ Kosova, As Seen, As Told, An analysis of the human rights
findings of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission, October 1998 to June
1999, Warsaw, 1999. 

8. Ibid

9. Ibid. 

10. Figures for 1993. See Albania Worldwide Web,  See also Musa Limani, The Geographic
Position, Natural Riches, Demographic Characteristics, and the Economical
Development of Kosova, Pristina, The Association of Lawyers of Kosova,
1992. Kosovar Albanian estimates place the population of Kosovo at 2.3
million for 2000. 11. The Government of Yugoslavia 1991 Census data for
Kosovo identified a total population of 1,956,196 of which 82.2 % are
Albanians, 9.9 % Serbs and 7.9 % other ethnic groups. The Census was
boycotted by the ethnic Albanian population.  During the 1990s, the
evidence suggests that Kosovar Serbs left the Province in large numbers. 

12. Intelligence Report from the German Foreign Office, January 12, 1999
to the Administrative Court of Trier. j

13. See USCR

C Copyright by Michel Chossudovsky, Ottawa, February 2000. All rights
reserved.  Permission is granted to post this text on noncommercial
community internet sites, provided the essay remains intact and the
copyright note is displayed. The text can also be photocopied for
noncommercial distribution. To publish this text in printed and/or other
forms contact the author at or fax: 15144256224.

Michel Chossudovsky

Department of Economics,
University of Ottawa,
Ottawa, K1N6N5
Voice box: 1-613-562-5800, ext. 1415,  Fax: 1-514-425-6224
E-Mail:   (Alternative Email:

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