The Hague, 7 July 2023: In Srebrenica on 11 July, 30 victims of the 1995 Genocide will be buried. Their bodies have been exhumed from clandestine graves and identified. At least six of those to be buried this year were teenagers when they were murdered.
More than 7,000 of the 8,000 victims of the Genocide have been identified, the vast majority through DNA testing. The DNA-led process has been indispensable because the perpetrators of the Srebrenica Genocide tried to hide the evidence of their crime by systematically digging up mass graves in the weeks and months after the murders and distributing the bodies of victims in secondary and tertiary clandestine graves across eastern Bosnia.
On average, seven or eight separate DNA match reports are issued for each identified victim. This is because the bones of individual victims have been found in multiple mass graves.
In many cases, relatives of the victims choose to wait before burying the partial remains of their loved one. They do this in the hope that more bones will be added as a result of excavations in the coming years. It is for the bereaved to decide when they wish burial to take place. Many of the 30 victims who will be buried this year were identified in previous years, but the families chose to wait until more bones were recovered.
Following the burials on 11 July, teams from the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Prosecutor’s Office, and the International Commission on Missing persons (ICMP) will carry out 71 “re-associations”. In this process, which will take place from 12 to 19 July, human remains that have already been identified and buried will be exhumed, and bones that have since been recovered will be restored to the skeleton; the bodies will then be reburied. In each case, the families have been contacted and asked to give their consent to the re-association. Even these bodies, in many cases, will still be incomplete.
In years to come, families will wait to be contacted with news that more bones have been found. For survivors of the Genocide, the wait never ends.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so.