By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#116, June 27, 2001
SFOR troops provide security support to the International
Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International
Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) in their task of recovering
the remains of the bodies from a mass grave near Foca/Srbinje.
Germans soldiers from Filipovici camp carry out this mission.
of Foca - At the exhumation site, German soldiers guard and patrol
the area. The General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), Annex
1A, article VI, states that SFOR "shall have the right to
fulfil its supporting tasks, within the limits of its assigned
principal tasks and available resources, and on request."
The mass grave has been found at Malua mount, in south-eastern
Republika Srpska, Multinational Division - South-east (MND-SE),
in the German area of responsibility (AOR). German troops from
the Filipovici camp are carrying out the mission. " Our mission
is to protect exhumation teams with patrols, and to evacuate them
if necessary. We are protecting the site, 24 hours per day,"
explained 1st Lt. Grotkopp, second in command of Filipovici camp.
ICMP and ICTY
this case the SFOR intervention started after receiving one supporting
request from ICTY. "SFOR has to provide a safe and secure
environment to both organisations (ICTY and ICMP). But they do
not have the same level of support; ICTY gets more than ICMP.
In the case of Malua mount, ICTY requested 24-hour protection
in order to avoid attempted tampering of evidence," said
French Gendarmerie Lt. Col. Prunier, SFOR liaison officer to ICTY
and ICMP. "Normally for ICMP, SFOR has only to secure the
environment, doing round patrols in case of low threat, and 24
hours a day on the site in case of high threat. In certain circumstances,
SFOR may escort to and from the exhumation site," Prunier
explained. "As ICTY and ICMP liaison officer, I accompany
the ICMP commissions and the ICTY investigators on the field in
order to assess the threat and determine the level of the SFOR
The mass grave is a 33-meter-deep natural well among the forests
of the Malua mount, in a slope where no path reaches. At
the bottom of the grotto are the bodies in a small area between
15 and 18 m², with a crater of 1.5-metre radius. In this
place civil workers remove from the pit white plastic bags containing
the remains of corpses, which are laid by the side. The conditions
in the pit are very hard, the bottom surface is a small area;
which can only permit five persons working at the same time.
ICMP forensic doctors work, one of them broke her leg while going
down the ladder inside the natural grotto.
"Today (June 18) is our ninth day we have been working, 47
bodies have been found, and 80 bodies in total are expected to
be found. All of them have their hands tied with a rope and in
the area around the pit there were spent casings," said a
civilian worker from a Bosniac commission. It is important to
know that ICMP assists and monitors exhumations to civil BiH commissions
that carry out the task (B-Serb from the Republic Srpska, and
B-Croat and Bosniac from the Federation) and in each opstina (municipality)
there is a local commission, too. ICMP was set up by the Peace
Implementation Council in Florence on June 13, 1996, as "a
team of international forensic scientists to monitor exhumations,
to establish an antemortem database and to assist with exhumations
where other means of investigations have proven unsuccessful or
where there is reason to believe that exhumation will provide
an efficient means for resolving cases."
|Thanks to DNA it will be
possible to identify the remains. The Deoxyribonucleic acid
is a characteristic of the nucleus of the chromosomes, composed
of two twisted lines in double spiral and each one made in
molecular succession, which contains genetic information.
Therefore if we know this succession, different for each person
and inherited from our respective progenitors, and knowing
other DNA from relatives, it would be possible to determine
if these remains belong to the person who we are looking for,
On June 10, the chairperson of this organisation,
James Kimsey, accompanied by Queen Noor of Jordan, who was on
a tour of the Balkans promoting the work of ICMP, officially opened
one ICMP-backed DNA-laboratory. It could help the identification
of the remains from corpses of mass graves throughout BiH. This
laboratory, specialising in blood, is based in Tuzla, a city located
in the northeast of the Federation (Canton 3, MND-N area), where
a great amount of body bags containing the remains of unidentified
corpses from the war are stored in the forensic service. There
are two other DNA-laboratories in BiH, one in Sarajevo specialising
in bones, and the other in Banja Luka, which is inoperative at
the moment. The figures of missing persons fluctuate, the International
Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) estimates about 17,000, but other
organisations speak about 25,000 to 30,000 persons.
First the found bodies will go to the Visoko morgue, where an
autopsy will take place. The process of authentication will start,
all the unidentified bodies will be tested in a DNA laboratory.
Exhumation and identification are part of the investigation, ICTY
looking for evidence in war crimes. The French Press Agency AFP
reported: "The bodies found in the grave are believed to
be those of some 400 non-Serb civilians, killed in the Foca prison,
which was turned into a concentration camp after Serb forces overran
the city at the outbreak of war."
"SFOR also provided information about possible mass grave
sites. First we give the elements to ICTY; if ICTY is not interested
in, they can transfer this information to ICMP," concluded
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