Here are some excerpts from Ethnic Cleansing - An Attempt at Methodology written by Drazen Petrovic from Sarajevo University Law School for the European Journal of International Law in 1994:
"Ethnic cleansing is a litteral translation of the expression etnicko ciscenje in Serbo-Croatian/Croato-Serbian. The origin of this term, .. ,is difficult to establish. Mass media reports discussed the stablishment of 'ethnically clean territories' in Kosovo after 1981. At the time, it related to administrative and non-violent matters and referred mostly to the behaviour of Kososvo Albanians towards the Serbian minority in the autonomous province within the SFRY.
The term derived its current meaning during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina,... As military officers of the former Yugoslav People's Army had a preponderant role in all these events, the conclusion could be drawn that the expression 'ethnic cleansing' has its origin in military vocabulary. The expression to clean the territory is directed against enemies, and it is used mostly in the final phase of combat in order to take total control of the conquered territory. ...
Analysis of ethnic cleansing should not be limited to the specific case of former Yugoslavia. This policy can occur and have terrible consequences in all territories with mixed populations, especially in attempts to redefine frontiers and rights over given territories. There is a new logic of conflict that relies on violent actions against 'enemy's' civilian population on a large scale, rather than on war in the traditional sense i.e. between armed forces. Examples of this logic and policy abound today (the extreme case being Rwanda).
..., very precise violations of international law can be recognized: from intolerance and discrimination, ethnic and religious exclusivity, dominance and the sense of superiority of one group to crimes against humanity and genocide. Further, the motivating factors behind ethnic cleansing policies in the former Yugoslavia are not historical, but stem from strategic political interests.
It is important to underline .. that the policy of ethnic cleansing fundamentally represents a violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. ... Only when the means and methods of ethnic cleansing policies can be identified with genocidal acts, and a combination of different elements implies the existence of intent to destroy a group as such, can such actions represent genocide. ... Behind most policies of ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia are not historical factors, but very precise strategic interests of the current political leadership.
It is essential that the new term is not used to replace pre-existing definitions in international law. So far the international community has been employing precisely this term, but only as an excuse not to comply with duties laid down by international law. ...
... it is hoped that the Tribunal will apply well defined tenants of international law rather than emotive phrases and terms, so far, 'ethnic cleansing' has been used merely as a political rather than as legal term."