The Hague, 8 December 2021: – The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is assisting the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) authorities in identifying human remains exhumed from the Dobro Polje site near Kalinovik in June 2021. Biological samples were taken from the exhumed remains and matched with reference samples provided to ICMP by relatives of the missing who last saw them alive in Srebrenica in July 1995. On 8 December 2021, ICMP submitted DNA match reports on ten Srebrenica victims to the BIH Missing Persons Institute (MPI).
“The Kalinovik site is the first mass grave linked to the July 1995 Srebrenica genocide to be exhumed since the exhumation at Kozluk in April 2016,” said Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program. “What is unusual about the Kalinovik site is that of all the Srebrenica genocide gravesites that have been recovered to date, it is by far the furthest distance from Srebrenica. Its location is only a few kilometers from the village of Godinjska Bara, near Trnovo, where paramilitaries of the ‘Scorpions’ unit executed six Bosniak prisoners from Srebrenica in mid-July 1995.”
On 6 May 2021, as a result of joint work by the BIH Prosecutor’s Office Special Department for War Crimes and SIPA, human remains were found in the Kalinovik area. The location, in Dobro Polje, is in inaccessible terrain covered with stones in the valley of the River Bistrica, along the M18 road.
The BIH authorities, with the assistance of forensic experts from ICMP, started the excavation on 31 May 2021. The human remains that were exhumed were highly commingled, scattered over a wide surface area, and covered with dirt and construction debris. The remains showed signs of summary execution. Ligatures were also found at the site.
On 22 June 2021 the exhumation process was completed. Based on the number of right tibia bones recovered at the site, ICMP forensic anthropologists estimated the minimum number of individuals exhumed at the location to be ten. As the bodies were so disarticulated, the court-appointed local medical-legal specialist took 64 bone and tooth samples for DNA testing.
Genetic profiles obtained from the samples have been compared to the genetic reference profiles of more than 100,000 relatives of persons missing from the conflicts of the 1990s held in ICMP’s database. Ten DNA matches were made of different individuals and these DNA match reports were submitted to the MPI for formal identification.
The authorities will determine the cause and manner of death. Additional match reports will be submitted to the Missing Persons Institute, which will facilitate the reassociation of the heavily disarticulated skeletal remains to the 10 individuals already DNA-matched.
The DNA analysis of the samples found in Kalinovik mass grave was funded within a project supported by the European Union and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
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 and other causes and to assist them in doing so.
To date, more than 70 percent of the roughly 40,000 persons missing from the conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia have been located through the combined and continuous efforts of the authorities with support provided by ICMP and with the broad participation of families of the missing. In November 2018 at ICMP’s Headquarters, representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia signed a Framework Plan formally undertaking to work together as the regional Missing Persons Group (MPG). With ICMP support, the MPG has developed into an effective regional mechanism which is assisting efforts to account for the 11,000 persons still missing from the conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
Since 1996, ICMP has helped the BIH authorities to account for more than 75 percent of the 30,000 who went missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including almost 90 percent of the 8,000 persons who were missing following the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. In addition, ICMP assisted in drafting the 2004 Law on Missing Persons and helped establish the MPI, which was inaugurated in 2005.
For more information please see the Factsheet on Kalinovik mass grave.