Where’s the Evidence of Genocide of Kosovar Albanians?

Alexander Cockburn writes for the Nation and other publications

So, is there serious evidence of a Serbian campaign of genocide in Kosovo? It’s an important issue because the NATO powers, fortified by a chorus from the liberal intelligentsia, flourished the charge of genocide as justification for bombing that destroyed much of Serbia’s economy and killed about 2,000 civilians.

Whatever horrors they may have been planning, the Serbs were not engaged in genocidal activities in Kosovo before the bombing began. They were fighting a separatist movement, led by the Kosovo Liberation Army, and behaving with the brutality typical of security forces. One common estimate of the number of Kosovar Albanians killed in the year before the bombing is 2,500. With NATO’s bombing came the flights and expulsions and charges that the Serbs were accelerating a genocidal plan; in some accounts, as many as 100,000 were already dead. An alternative assessment was that NATO’s bombing was largely to blame for the expulsions and killings.

After the war was over, on June 25, President Clinton told a White House news conference that tens of thousands of people had been killed in Kosovo on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s orders. A week before came the statement from Geoff Hoon of the British Foreign Office that, according to reports, mostly from refugees, it appeared that about 10,000 Kosovar Albanians had been killed in more than 100 massacres.


Of course, the U.S. and British governments had an obvious motive in painting as horrifying a picture as possible of what the Serbs had been up to, since the bombing had come under increasingly fierce attack, with rifts in the NATO alliance.

The NATO powers had plenty of reasons to rush charges of genocide into the headlines. For one thing, it was becoming embarrassingly clear that the bombing had inflicted no significant damage on the Serbian army. All the more reason, therefore, to propose that the Serbs, civilians as well as soldiers, were collectively guilty of genocide and thus deserved everything they got.

Teams of forensic investigators from 15 nations, including a detachment from the FBI, have been at work since June and have examined about 150 of 400 sites of alleged mass murder.

There’s still immense uncertainty, but at this point it’s plain that there are not enough bodies to warrant the claim that the Serbs had a program of extermination. The FBI team has made two trips to Kosovo and investigated 30 sites containing nearly 200 bodies.

In early October, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported what the Spanish forensic team had found in its appointed zone in northern Kosovo. The U.N. figures, said Perez Pujol, director of the Instituto Anatomico Forense de Cartagena, began with 44,000 dead, dropped to 22,000 and now stand at 11,000. He and his fellows were prepared to perform at least 2,000 autopsies in their zone. So far, they’ve found 187 corpses.

A colleague of Pujol, Juan Lopez Palafox, told El Pais that he had the impression that the Serbs had given families the option of leaving. If they refused or came back, they were killed. Like any murder of civilians, these were war crimes, just as any mass grave, whatever the number of bodies, indicates a massacre. But genocide?


One persistent story held that 700 Kosovars had been dumped in the Trepca lead and zinc mines. On Oct. 12, Kelly Moore, a spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, announced that the investigators had found absolutely nothing. There was a mass grave allegedly containing 350 bodies in Ljubenic that turned out to hold seven. In Pusto Selo, villagers said 106 had been killed by the Serbs, and NATO rushed out satellite photos of mass graves. Nothing to buttress that charge has yet been found. Another 82 Kosovars allegedly were killed in Kraljan. No bodies have been turned up.

Although surely by now investigators would have been pointed to all probable sites, it’s conceivable that thousands of Kosovar corpses await discovery. As matters stand, though, the number of bodies turned up by the tribunal’s teams is in the hundreds, not thousands, which tends to confirm the view of those who hold that NATO bombing provoked a wave of Serbian killings and expulsions, but that there was and is no hard evidence of a genocidal program.

Count another victory for the Big Lie. Meanwhile, the normally reliable Society for Endangered People in Germany says 90,000 Gypsies have been forced to flee since the Serbs left Kosovo, with the KLA conducting ethnic cleansing on a grand scale. But who cares about Gypsies?