Exhumations in Kamenica
Lt. Col. Andreas Steffan
First published in
SFOR Informer#147, September 12, 2002
It's unbelievable, what people can do with other
people, said Staff Sgt. John Billings, squad leader,
U.S. Army, stationed at Forward Operation Base (FOB) Connor,
located near Srebrenica. Billing and other troops stand in
front of a mass grave near Kamenica, 15 minutes away by car
from Srebrenica. It's the fourth mass grave the American squad
leader has seen in his seven-month SFOR tour. Until last year,
SFOR troops provided security for exhumations. Effective this
year, SFOR only monitors them.
Kamenica - Several thousands of Bosniacs died during the
Srebrenica massacres. Their murderers buried the bodies in
mass graves. Later, these bodies were put in other places,
called secondary mass graves. Often, big bulldozers were used;
so many bodies were put in two or more places. On of these
secondary mass graves was found beside the road from Kamenica
to Cancari in the municipality (opstina) of Zvornik. It was
the second of these kinds of mass grave found in the area.
And it will not be the last one. CR-05-000 is
the official number of the Kamenica mass grave, which was
dated from the end of the year 1995 / beginning of the year1996.
Only three ID cards
For Silvia Stankovic, judge of cantonal court of Tuzla, and
the rest of her crew, it is hard to work on this place. The
team found in the last three weeks over 150 body-parts, over
50 complete bodies and three ID cards. Only two victims could
be directly identified in this time. We expect that
we will find 400 corpses in this mass grave, said Eduard
Mehmedovic, exhumation's monitor of International Commission
for Missing Persons (ICMP). All parts and bodies from this
mass grave will be put into bags.
We don't like the word 'bag' in context with the exhumation.
So we say cases, explained Mehmedovic. Specialists and
civilian workers are doing their job in CR-05-000.
The aim is to identify all bodies in the mass grave. The Kamenica-Team
exhumed in total, nearly 4,000 victims. Only 200 victims could
Not such a large number, said Stankovic. But often,
the victims will not be found in one mass grave. Their parts
have been located in secondary graves after being removed
from the initial mass grave site.
It's good, that we can identify more and more victims
with DNA-analysis, explained the judge.
This is good because the families of the victims will acquire
a certainty as to what happened to their family members.
A penetrable smell permeates the air surrounding the digging
place. A small area, it is no more than five to ten metres,
but full with bodies and body parts. The specialists begin
It's a diffusing work, because you can not see at the
first view what you will find, explains Muhidin Tabakovic.
The 19 year-old Bosniac is one of the workers. During three
years, he worked first for International Criminal Tribunal
for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and now for ICMP. The reason
why he works here was that he wants to learn the English language.
Like Billings, he didn't know what he should think about the
There will be no answer of that, what people can do
to people, he said.
Other mass graves in this area
Often, bones with parts of clothes are found. It's quite on
secondary mass grave CR-05-000. Other specialists
take the minutes if a new body-part or a body will be found.
CR-05-298b is the number of one of these body-parts.
May be, one day, CR-05-298b will become a name.
Then, it will be one case of thousands, who will be cleared
up, and many other cases will follow.
We know about many other mass graves in this area,
said Mehmedovic. So, many, many years will be needed to cope
with these war crimes.
Nations of SFOR: US
Our Partners - ICTY