Srebrenica 21 years on: another 127 victims buried


On 11 July, family members and friends gathered at the Memorial Center in Potocari to pay their respects and bury 127 of their loved ones whose remains were found in mass graves and identified with the assistance of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

Since its inception in 1996, ICMP has been actively involved in the identification of the missing from Srebrenica; it played a key role in setting up the Potocari Memorial Center and it has worked continuously with families to help them find their loved ones and to ensure that they are able to assert their rights under the law.

The estimated number of persons missing as a result of the fall of the Srebrenica and Žepa UN Safe Areas in July 1995 is approximately 8,000. By analyzing DNA profiles extracted from post-mortem samples of exhumed remains and matching them to the DNA profiles obtained from ante-mortem (blood) reference samples, voluntarily provided by relatives of the missing, ICMP has so far helped to reveal the identity of 6,925 persons missing from the July 1995 fall of Srebrenica. The total number of those accounted for (by traditional, as well as DNA methods) is 6,959.

To date, 170,000 skeletal samples attributable to persons missing as a result of the fall of Srebrenica and Žepa enclaves have been recovered from 430 locations, including 94 mass graves and 336 surface sites. Ante-mortem reference samples have been collected from multiple family members of the victims, and DNA profiles extracted. ICMP has to date collected a total of 22, 287 reference samples representing 7,745 Srebrenica-related missing persons.

For persons reported last seen in Srebrenica or the surrounding areas in 1995, a total number of 17,509 DNA Matching Reports have been issued by ICMP, including 10,434 reports of re-associations of separated skeletal remains. The number of different individuals represented by these DNA Match Reports is 6,875.

ICMP forensic expertise has also been made available to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) State Court. ICMP has provided expert testimony of its forensic findings on numerous occasions. Fifty suspects have been put on trial at the BIH State Court for crimes committed in and around Srebrenica in July 1995. Of this number, 37 have been accused of the crime of genocide; 11 have been charged with crimes against humanity; and two have been accused of war crimes against civilians. A total of 20 accused persons have been tried at the ICTY for crimes related to Srebrenica. Fourteen individuals were convicted and one was acquitted. Three cases are ongoing: one is awaiting Trial Chamber judgment before the ICTY (Mladic), one case is on appeal before the Mechanism for International Tribunals (Karadzic), and in one case a retrial has been ordered before the Mechanism (Stanisic and Simatovic). Slobodan Milosevic died before the conclusion of his trial.

“Accounting for the missing has been indispensable in the struggle for justice, in the quest for the truth in confronting a crime in accordance with the application of the rule of law,’ said ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger, while expressing her deepest condolences to the families of the victims. Ms Bomberger also pointed out that, while more than 70 percent of the 40,000 people who went missing during the conflicts in the Western Balkans have been accounted for, the fate of around 12,000 persons, including almost 1,000 persons related to the fall of Srebrenica, remains unknown. “ICMP will seek to work in the Western Balkans as long as families of the missing and relevant institutions continue to request its assistance,” she said.

ICMP has 20 years of experience in helping governments to locate, recover and identify missing persons following armed conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, forced migration and other violations of human rights. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons and as such it has helped governments build rule-of-law institutions that successfully and impartially search for and identify missing persons. ICMP has also helped governments to develop legislation to enable families of the missing to assert their rights; and has assisted governments in using advanced forensic techniques.

ICMP is perhaps best known for its pioneering use of modern DNA techniques to identify almost 20,000 persons who went missing under a variety of circumstances in different parts of the world. It has developed an identification data processing system that enables families of the missing to become active participants in the process of clarifying the fate of their loved ones.

Additional information on latest facts and figures on Srebrenica genocide may be found in ICMP’s infographic available at: