Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kosovo Memory Book resolves the morbid "body count" debates

This is a brief article - these days, I am flat out following, and writing on, the Syrian revolution and apocalypse at

Nevertheless, given the previous prominence of the morbid "body counts" debates about how many Kosovar Albanians were slaughtered by Milosevic's racist and fascist ethnic cleansers in 1999 - with the favourite recycled article by the "anti-imperialist" left and the Islamophobic ultra-right being the one that answered either "very few" or "not enough" - I thought it was significant to note the final publication of the Kosovo Memory Book. I have copied an article about this below, with a link to the Memory Book.

This is the full list of the roughly 13,000 victims who were killed between 1998 and the end of 2000, including the 11 weeks of the NATO-Milosevic-KLA war in March-June 1999, the KLA uprising and brutal Serbian counterinsurgency of the year leading up this (1998-99), and the often brutal revenge against remaining Serb communities in the year or more afterwards.

As we always insisted at the time, the figure of approximately 10,000 Albanians killed, the most common figure cited at the time, was approximately correct - according to the article linked below, "the list includes 10,415 Albanians, 2,197 Serbs, 528 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians."

Of course, the 2197 Serbs killed is also a significant proportion, given that Serbs accounted for some 10% of the Kosovo population. Such figures have often been cited to suggest that the killings between Serb and Albanian forces was roughly proportional. This idea sits uncomfortably with known facts - eg, the fact that the "Serbian" massacre of Albanians was carried out by the Serbian state apparatus, the 4th largest military force in Europe, with overwhelming military superiority in advanced weaponry, whereas the Albanians were a guerrilla force lightly armed with AK-47's; and the fact that the mass killings of Albanians by this fascistic state corresponded the to the Nakbah-like expulsion of 850,000 Albanians - some half their entire population - from their homeland.

This contradiction is resolved when we understand that the 2197 Serb victims do not merely mean those Serbs killed in Kosovo by Albanian guerrillas during the war. Importantly, the figure also includes Serbs killed by NATO bombing within Serbia itself (as well as Kosovo); includes both military and civilian casualties; and includes Serbs killed in attacks by Albanians after the war ended until the end of 2000, in attacks motivated either by blood-lust revenge, opportunistic crime or a race-hate reflecting that of the oppressor they had just been freed from.

Saying this is in no way intended to diminish the importance of Serb civilians killed by NATO (really, how did bombing Serb civilians in Belgrade and Ljubijana, hundreds of kilometres north of Kosovo, help protect Kosovar Albanians from the Serbian armed forces in Kosovo - NATO only hit 13 Serbian tanks in the whole war, most in the last 10 days), still less of those killed in the period of post-war revenge and anarchy, innocent Serbs forced to pay for the crimes of the Serbian military and Chetnik bands who were safely back in Serbia following their rape and pillage of Kosovo.

However, what it does is underline that the war itself (on the ground, as opposed to NATO's air war), was absolutely a war of disproportionate slaughter and ethnic cleansing carried out by a massive military machine against a civilian population defended by lightly armed guerrillas, and the relative numbers do indeed represent this fact, because between the NATO bombing and the post-war revenge, virtually the entirety of the 2000 killed Serbs can be accounted for.

Michael Karadjis

Balkan Insight
10 December 2014

A wide-ranging list of more than 13,000 people of all nationalities who died or disappeared during the Kosovo conflict was published online to mark Human Rights Day.

Milka Domanovic | BIRN | Belgrade

[PHOTO}: The Kosovo Memory Book website.

The list of 13,517 people who were killed or went missing between January 1998 and December 31, 2000, including civilians and members of armed forces, was published on Wednesday on a website called the Kosovo Memory Book <>.

The list includes 10,415 Albanians, 2,197 Serbs, 528 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians. It was created by the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre and the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo and was last updated on November 7.

The database says that 8,661 Kosovo Albanian civilians were killed or disappeared, as well as 1,797 Serbs and 447 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians. The rest of those registered were fighters.

"It is a result of years of research, which is based on the statements of witnesses and family members given to researchers from the Humanitarian Law Centre and Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo, as well as on data from court documents, forensic reports, armed forces records, NGOs and media reports, war diaries and other documents," the Humanitarian Law Centre said in a statement.

[PHOTO]: Women in Black human rights protest in Belgrade.

Meanwhile at a press conference to mark Human Rights Day, several Serbian NGOs warned that the Serbian government was failing to tackle rights issues.

Sonja Biserko from the Heksinki Committee for Human Rights said that the situation in Serbia was worse than 10 years ago, arguing that "Serbia is a divided society, primarily on ethnic grounds".

"The unwillingness of Serbia to overcome the legacy of the recent past and distancing itself creates tensions in regional affairs, as it was recently the case with the return of [war crimes defendant] Vojislav Seselj," Biserko said.

Marijana Toma from the Humanitarian Law Centre also spoke at the press conference, saying that Serbia was not issuing enough indictments for war crimes and that only low-ranking perpetrators were being prosecuted, while "the responsibility of middle- and high-ranking police and army officials is almost completely neglected".

Serbian peace group Women in Black also gathered in Belgrade on Wednesday to mark Human Rights Day with a protest action entitled 'Enough Terror'.

Activists held up placards listing human-rights problems and banners that read "I will always be an activist" and "I will not live in fear".

Stasa Zajovic from Women in Black said that it was impossible to speak about progress in the field of human rights.

"What's done [by the authorities] is done on a declarative level, and we want this action to point out to the difference between the real situation and promises," she said.

Human Rights Day is marked annually on December 10 to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted on December 10, 1948.


remember the "body count" debates ? ​