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 Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 15:21 GMT
Scientists dispute Milosevic claim
Refugees, AP
Thousands of people fled their homes in 1999

US scientists have presented research at the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic to refute his allegation that Nato bombings were responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Kosovo in 1999 and the mass exodus of its people.

Dr Patrick Ball and colleagues said a new statistical study showed that Yugoslav forces loyal to Mr Milosevic were the most likely culprits behind an "organised campaign" of killings and expulsions.

More than 10,000 people are thought to have died during the conflict in Kosovo between March and June of 1999, with thousands more Kosovar Albanians displaced from their homes.

Mr Milosevic is defending himself at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. In relation to the events in Kosovo, he has been charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.

Counter claim

According to the indictment, Mr Milosevic and four co-accused bear direct responsibility for crimes that are alleged to include the deportation of 800,000 Kosovar Albanians and the murders of about 600 individually identified ethnic Albanians.

Trial, AP
Slobodan Milosevic says Nato and the KLA are responsible
The indictment has also been amended to take into account mass graves found outside Belgrade and charges stemming from sexual violence allegedly committed by Serb soldiers.

Kosovo is part of Serbia and Yugoslavia and former President Milosevic, as commander-in-chief of the Yugoslav army, had direct responsibility for the behaviour of the Serbian security forces in the province.

However, Mr Milosevic has always claimed there is no evidence to support the charges against him.

He contends that the deaths and the refugee crisis that occurred in Kosovo were the direct result of Nato bombs and the murders committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

'Consistent' findings

Now, a detailed statistical analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, led by Dr Ball, has shown that in the vast majority of cases the killings did not coincide with Nato air strikes or KLA action.

Dr Ball's team found that some of the highest levels of killings and refugee flows occurred before Nato airstrikes and KLA offensives - not after.

The research team collected their information from registries at border posts, from Albanian Government records and from data collected by the United Nation's High Commission for Refugees. Dr Ball said the study looked at 15,000 interviews and exhumation records.

The data were then crosschecked using internationally recognised statistical techniques.

"The findings of this study are consistent with the hypothesis that action by Yugoslav forces was the cause of the killings and the refugee flow," the researchers' report says.

The noted that the only time there was "a drastic reduction in killings and refugee movement" came during a ceasefire that the Yugoslav Government called to coincide with the celebration of the Orthodox Easter.

At The Hague

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