General Krstic Trial

Tribunal Update No. 178 Last Week in The Hague (May 29 - June 3, 2000)

General Krstic Trial

Tribunal Update No. 178 Last Week in The Hague (May 29 - June 3, 2000)

Saturday, 3 June, 2000

The prosecution opened with material evidence collected from the mass execution sites at Branjevo farm, the Pilica village House of Culture, the Petkovac dam, Kozluk, and the Kravica depot.

These sites, known as primary mass graves, had revealed a wealth of material evidence - bodies and body parts, rifle cartridges, blindfolds, ligatures and personal items belonging to the victims.

In the autumn of 1995, the prosecution contests, Bosnian Serb forces attempted to conceal the scale of the killings by exhuming the primary mass graves and removing the remains to so-called secondary graves scattered around the area. Nevertheless, the forensic teams at Branjevo farm still unearthed 53 complete bodies, 23 almost whole bodies and 170 body parts.

The judges asked why so much evidence remained at these sites if efforts had been made to remove traces of the crimes. Anthropologist, William Haglund, suggested the work had been done at night and by people who were not aware of the precise size of the graves or the numbers of bodies they contained.

The prosecution then presented evidence from the secondary sites. To date forensic teams have unearthed the remains of at least 1,883 persons from 17 graves. The forensic teams explained it was difficult to determine the exact number of bodies because the remains had been cut into several pieces when removed from their original burial places in 1995.

The forensic teams explained how a direct link could be proven between the remains found in the primary and secondary graves and the execution sites by comparing rock, earth and pollen samples found with the remains.

In addition, the teams carried out a comparative ballistic analysis of bullets and cartridges, analysed the fabrics used in blindfolds, in ropes and wires used to bind the victims hands, and tested a range of other objects found in the secondary graves.

The investigation revealed, for example, that 283 people executed at Branjevo farm were later reburied in a secondary grave, Cancari Road 12. Likewise an analysis of glass samples found in secondary grave Cancari Road 3 linked the victims to the primary grave site at Kozluk.

The Kozluk victims had been buried in a mass grave at the Vitinka glass factory's waste disposal. A search at that site had uncovered a number of "forgotten" bodies buried on top of thousands of broken bottles.

Pablo Baraybar, a forensic anthropologist from Peru, said the task facing experts such as himself was to establish the minimum number of bodies in each grave, as well as the sex, age and height of the victims. Baraybar said that of the 1,883 bodies exhumes so far, only one was confirmed as female.

The sex of a further 200 victims could not be determined with certainty, he said. Baraybar said as far as could be determined seven victims were aged between 8 and 12, 329 between 13 and 24, and another 1,574 over 25.

Pathologists John Clark and Christopher Lawrence headed the teams which carried out the autopsies on the remains. Clark immediately pointed to the limits of the pathological findings and explained it was difficult to establish the exact cause of death in many cases. He said the teams did not work "in ideal conditions and with ideals bodies."

Most of the remains were skeletons which had suffered multiple injuries after death, Clark said. The injuries included crushing damage from the weight of other bodies, earth and machinery, and cutting damage caused by the heavy digging equipment used to move the remains to secondary graves.

Clark said, however, that autopsies carried out on Kozluk victims revealed 89 per cent had suffered "pierce wounds". Several photographs were shown to illustrate typical wounds, mostly to the back of the head and spine.

Several victims, Clark said, had pierce wounds to their feet and arms, which would not have been fatal. It was therefore impossible to determine the exact cause of death in such cases, he said.

Lawrence, who described himself as "less conservative", pointed out that such wounds would prove fatal if left untreated. Both pathologists agreed it was "quite possible" some victims had been buried alive.

The judges asked if the pierce wounds were consistent with a combat situation. The forensic experts said this was unlikely as most of the wounds indicated the victims were shot from behind, were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs.

Next the judges queried the degree of organization required to exhume the original mass graves and transport the remains to secondary sites. Archeologist, Richard Wright, suggested the level of organization for such an operation would be less than that required to carry out the mass executions in the first place.

Wright indicated, however, that the relocation of bodies had been completed in a very short period of time. The more rapid the operation, Wright concluded, the greater the degree of organization required.

Head of the Srebrenica investigation, Jean-Rene Ruez, had opened the presentation of forensic evidence by stressing the "great effort" made by the Republika Srpska army to cover up traces of the crimes. Ruez pointed out that all primary and secondary graves were located within the Drina Corp's, and therefore Krstic's, zone of responsibility.

The Krstic trial will continue June 19.

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