Kosovo 1999 – Using MSE to Examine Political Claims

Patrick Ball expanded his use of multiple systems estimation (MSE) to clarify the history of a deadly conflict in Kosovo. The violence began in 1989 when Serbian President Slobodan Milošević revoked Kosovo’s autonomous status within the Republic of Serbia triggering fighting between Kosovar Albanians and the Yugoslav government. Allegations of widespread and systematic human rights violations were made against Serbian forces and NATO intervened to repel Serb forces from Kosovo. Ball and Scheuren gathered data from Albanian border crossings and other sources in the region. They used this information to examine the claim by the Yugoslav government that actions by NATO and the Kosovo Liberation Army opposition sparked the mass migration of Albanian refugees from Kosovo. Ball applied MSE to examine killings in Kosovo and compare this data with information about the scope of the conflict over time. This analysis was used to prosecute former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague where Ball confronted the former leader with statistical evidence of his alleged war crimes. HRDAG analysis found that the military activities of the KLA and bombardment by NATO forces were inconsistent with the observed patterns of refugee flow and the deaths of displaced people. HRDAG researchers concluded that the statistical evidence was consistent with the hypothesis that Yugoslav forces conducted a systematic campaign of killings and expulsions in Kosovo. This information was accepted by the court, but in another legal case against a Serbian military leader, judges rejected HRDAG’s arguments.