Kosovo death toll: Probably 3000, maximum 6000

Seth Ackerman SAckerman at FAIR.org
Fri Aug 18 09:35:18 PDT 2000

> London Guardian
> August 18, 2000
> 'Motivated To Believe The Worst'
> by Jonathan Steele
> The horror in Kosovo was "a story that has not yet been fully told," the
> US defence secretary, William Cohen, told American marines on the aircraft
> carrier Theodore Roosevelt a few days after Nato ended its bombing
> campaign. "When it is, people all over the world will understand why it
> was that America believed it had to take action."
> Flushed with victory after 78 days of air strikes finally led President
> Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, Mr Cohen was
> still in combative mood as he visited US units around the Adriatic.
> Yet, as new details about the war emerge, Mr Cohen's "untold story"
> reveals the opposite of what he predicted. The reality of what was going
> on in Kosovo was less, not more, appalling than Nato claimed.
> The International Criminal Tribunal's disclosure that the final toll of
> bodies dug up in Kosovo would be under 3,000 contrasts starkly with the
> estimates of mass murder given by Nato while the bombs were falling. Mr
> Cohen told a CBS interviewer in May that 100,000 men of military age were
> missing, and "may have been murdered".
> David Scheffer, the US envoy for war crimes issues, put the figure even
> higher. He told reporters at Nato headquarters on May 18 last year that
> more than 225,000 ethnic Albanian men between the ages of 14 to 59 were
> unaccounted for.
> In fact, the atrocities during the Bosnian war were on a larger scale than
> Kosovo. Ethnic cleansing accounted for more people in Bosnia, and some
> 200,000 were murdered. The hyperbole over the atrocities in Kosovo seemed
> to flow from Nato's need to shore up public support for its bombing,
> especially when the air strikes failed to secure Mr Milosevic's surrender
> after the first few days. "It was hard to know what was going on. But we
> were motivated to believe the worst," recalls Jack Seymour, a former US
> state department official who works for the non-governmental British
> American Security Information Council.
> Although most Nato allegations of atrocities were covered by caveats that
> the reports could not be verified, officials knew these reservations were
> the equivalent of the small print in a contract. Headlines and soundbites
> were what counted. Nato also had the authority, spurious or otherwise, of
> data from intelligence.
> Brendan Paddy of Amnesty International says: "During the war people were
> asking us to stand up the figures of deaths and we said we couldn't
> corroborate them because we had no access to Kosovo. We didn't know to
> what extent Nato statements were based on military intelligence. If there
> was intelligence to back it up at the time, it would be useful if Nato
> would come forward now."
> When the war ended, Geoff Hoon, then a junior minister at the Foreign
> Office, said on June 17 last year that "at least 10,000" Albanian
> civilians were killed. Five months later the Foreign Office in a
> memorandum to the House of Commons repeated the phrase, saying it was
> based "on a variety of intelligence and other sources".
> But it continued to make assertions without providing evidence. The
> memorandum claimed that a "high proportion of bodies will never be
> recovered, given the degree to which Serb forces, fearing war crimes
> charges, attempted to destroy bodies". Was this unverifiable statement an
> alibi to explain the relatively low number of bodies being dug up? The
> Hague war crimes tribunal itself refuses to give a toll of murdered
> civilians. It is not its job to come up with a figure, officials say.
> Besides the bodies exhumed, the search for a final total would have to
> include the people reported missing and still unaccounted for. The
> International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), which has a mandate to
> trace missing people, has received 4,941 requests from families in Kosovo.
> In 1,573 cases the file was closed, with 199 missing people being
> confirmed dead and the Serb authorities admitting they were holding 1,374
> Albanian men in prisons in Serbia. Of the remaining 3,368 cases some 370
> are of people reportedly abducted by the Kosovo Liberation Army or Kosovo
> Albanian civilians.
> Neither the Red Cross or the Hague tribunal can say how many of the
> missing 3,000 coincide with the bodies unearthed. "Between 60 and 80% of
> the bodies which the tribunal unearthed last year were identified but they
> haven't given us the lists of names," says Victoria Romano, the ICRC's
> protection officer in Pristina, Kosovo. Even if no names on the two lists
> coincided, this would raise the total of the Serbs' potential victims to a
> maximum of 6,000, still substantially less than the Foreign Office's "at
> least 10,000".
> © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000

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