At long last, the Big Lie can be laid to rest: the war in Bosnia did not result in "260,000 dead" or any such nonsense. Even though that figure is mentioned in just about every report mentioning Bosnia, and in recent months has been presented as a result of "most estimates," in truth it has always been a purely fictitious number, created for propaganda purposes in 1994.
Norwegian news agency NTB published a report on November 14 (original in Norwegian here), which challenges the 260,000 number using information by researchers of none other than the Hague Inqusition. These researchers claim the actual death toll is around 102,000, breaking down something like this:
"The researchers estimate the number of killed civilian Muslims and Croats to be around 38,000, while the number of killed civilian Serbs was about 16,700. Among military personnel, the researchers think close to 28,000 people were killed in the government army, mostly Bosnian Muslims. On the Serb side, 14,000 soldiers were killed, while a bit over 6,000 Bosnian Croat soldiers lost their lives because of actions of war."
To the best of my knowledge, this article is not available on the Web in English. I received the translation today from a reliable source, who credited it to Kristian Kahrs. All emphasis is mine.
102,000 killed in Bosnia
Published on Nov. 14, 2004
By Kjell Arild Nilsen, NTB (Norwegian News Agency)
The number of people killed in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was around 102,000, according to research done by the International Criminal Tribunalfor the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). This is half of earlier estimates.
The most common and most widely used number of killed persons in the Bosnia war has been around 200,000. But research shows that this number is too high.
Researchers at the court estimate the correct number to be a bit over 102,000.
This number deviates somewhat from a documentation project going on in Bosnia, and project leader Mirsad Tokaca concludes that the number of killed was between 130,000 and 150,000.
The research project is conducted by the two population experts Ewa Tabeau and Jacub Bijak, who works for the ICTY prosecution.
The results were presented at a conference for population experts, demographists, in Norway one year ago, but they have not been publicly known.
NTB has recently gained access to the material presented at the conference, and for the first time they published scientific calculations of how many civilians were killed in the terrible war in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995.
Civilians and military
102,622 civilians and military personnel were killed, Tabeau and Bijak conclude. 55,261 civilians and 47,360 soldiers were killed, including Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats.
The researchers estimate the number of killed civilian Muslims and Croats tobe around 38,000, while the number of killed civilian Serbians was about 16,700.
Among military personnel, the researchers think close to 28,000 people were killed in the government army, mostly Bosnian Muslims.
On the Serbian side, 14,000 soldiers were killed, while a bit over 6,000 Bosnian Croatian soldiers lost their lives because of actions of war.
"The project of the Sarajevo Research and Documentation Center also has a goal to document every single person killed in the war," tells project leader Tokaca.
He is not surprised about the numbers of the Hague researchers, but he thinks his own project will conclude with higher numbers.
"In October we had over 84,000 documented names of killed persons, and by the end of the year I think we will have around 100,000," he says.
The project ends this spring, and Tokaca's rough estimate is that they willend up with a number between 130,000 and 150,000.
"I don't like to make premature estimates. But it will be over 100,000, and surely under 200,000. Our list only includes persons killed as an action of war, not those who died of indirect reasons of war," says Tokaca who cannot give enough praise to the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Researchers Tabeau [and] Bijak have taken a clear reservation that the number could be higher than previously concluded.
Because the researchers work for the prosecution at the ICTY, the numbers have to be so certain that they can be used as documentation in the court.
Numbers for persons dying during the war because of lack of food, low temperatures, lack of medicines and other endeavors in the war inflicted on the civilian population are not included.
The researches are also careful to note that new documentation could influence the final result.
The most commonly used number for killed persons in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been 200,000, and this number has been repeated ininternational media since 1994.
The number originates from Cherif Bassouni, who was the leader of UN's expert commission investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, finishing their work in 1994.
Tabeau and Bijak conclude that this number is too high, and it was not based on an examination of the cause of death in every single case, rather a summary statistics based on numbers of killed and missing received by the commission in their work and added together.The researchers also reject other numbers presented, ranging from 25,000 to 329,000.
Norway's contribution has been essential to conclude the research.
The demographic unit at the office of the prosecution was established in 1998, and the two researchers said their positions would not be possible to fund without generous contributions from Norway's government.