Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Prosecutors at the Hague tribunal have asked judges to allow them to reopen their case against wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic because of a recently discovered mass grave in Bosnia.
The gravesite, located in Tomasica in the northwestern municipality of Prijedor, was uncovered last September by the Bosnian authorities.
According to the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP), 401 sets of human remains have been found in the grave, of which 276 were mostly complete bodies. Of the 498 bone samples sent for DNA testing, 215 matches have found so far. The work is still ongoing and additional matches are expected in the coming weeks, an ICMP spokesman told IWPR.
Karadzic is charged with a number of killings in the Prijedor area after it was captured by Bosnian Serb forces in May 1992. He is also charged with responsibility for the murder and severe mistreatment of Bosnian Muslim and Croat prisoners in the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje detention camps in Prijedor.
Although the trial is nearly over, and the prosecution officially rested its case in May 2012, it argues that evidence relating to the Tomasica grave is “highly probative [furnishing proof] and directly relevant to the charged joint criminal enterprise for murder, extermination and persecution through killings committed in the context of the permanent removal of non-Serbs from Bosnian Serb claimed territory”.
The evidence now available would take only one day to present, lawyers say. Other evidence expected to be available in April consists of testimony from two forensic scientists and a forensic pathologist at the ICMP, who will present their conclusions on the identification and cause of death of persons found in the grave.
The prosecution contends that since this evidence was not available until well after it concluded its case, admitting it would be in the interests of justice, as its “value outweighs any prejudice that its admission at this stage might cause the accused”.
“The mass grave was made at a time when operations to forcibly remove the non-Serb population were ongoing, and before the detention facilities in the Prijedor municipality were closed. The size of the mass grave is such that it required planning and organisation as well as cooperation of the municipal authorities and Serb forces,” the prosecution states.
In a separate motion, the prosecution has asked to call 14 witnesses to rebut evidence that Karadzic presented in his defence case, specifically in relation to events in Bjeljina, Bratunac, Foca, Kljuc, Prijedor, Sarajevo, and Srebrenica. The prosecution has also asked to be given until September to file its closing brief, while Karadzic has requested one year to do so.
Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of Bosnia’s self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which "contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".
He is also accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.
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