10 July 2020: To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), the Srebrenica Memorial Center and BIH artist Šejla Kamerić launched an art project that casts light on the scientific process of finding and identifying war victims in a mission for truth and justice.
The project, titled Forensic Archive: From One Learn All will be developed in coming years and will feature a permanent exhibition at the Srebrenica Memorial and a digital platform. The installation projected on the walls of the Potocari Battery Factory – which houses the Srebrenica Memorial – on 8 and 9 July, ahead of the 11 July anniversary of the Genocide was generously supported by the Government of the United Kingdom and is a part of the launch of the project.
By using different media in a crossover between science and art, the project presents the scientific facts on the basis of which the victims of the Srebrenica genocide were found and identified. It highlights the notion of absence and the search for the missing, aiming to inform, educate and evoke emotions. It is designed as a living monument of a complex organism that constantly maps and connects information within itself.
ICMP’s DNA laboratory system went online in 2001 and today almost 7,000 of the 8,000 persons who disappeared in July 1995 have been accurately identified. In addition, through DNA-based identifications, ICMP was able to reveal the extent to which perpetrators attempted to conceal their crimes. Typically, a person missing from the Srebrenica genocide is found in three to four different mass graves, often many kilometers apart.
Using DNA-based identification methods, ICMP has assisted in the identification of almost 7,000 of the 8,000 persons who were missing following the Genocide. ICMP scientific data, including DNA records, Genocide victims have been admitted as evidence at trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The evidence has been cross-examined in great detail numerous times and consistently upheld.
“Despite overwhelming forensic evidence of genocide and rulings by multiple international and local courts, denial of the Srebrenica genocide persists to this day,” said Matthew Holliday, Head of ICMP Western Balkans Program. “The use of modern scientific methods to identify Srebrenica victims establishes incontrovertible facts about the events in Srebrenica. This art installation sends the world a clear message: Facts and evidence established by science constitute a starting point for accepting the past and for building a future grounded in the rule of law. Upholding a transparent and truthful account of what happened in the past is essential for peace.”
Šejla Kamerić noted: “Our responsibility to the generations to come is to have a record of past based on indisputable scientific facts. Facts that speak of suffering but also of the complexity of the process to establish the truth. The role of art in this project is to present scientific evidence and various archival materials about the war in a simple way and to a wider audience.”
Emir Suljagić, Director of the Srebrenica Memorial, added: “When we look back at what has been done, we tend to easily overlook one important point, leading from the ‘rumour’ about genocide to established facts about genocide. That point is ICMP and their domestic partners who developed DNA analysis, introduced new practices and brought about a complete change in the process of identifying the victims. The perpetrators thought that mass graves would hide their crimes. They could not have imagined they would be exposed in such a clear and scientifically accurate way. That is why Forensic Archive is important, it is an important piece of the puzzle, which everyone who visits the Srebrenica Memorial should learn about.”
The Srebrenica Genocide was the premeditated and organized murder of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in July 1995, in and around the town of Srebrenica. The atrocity was committed in the final stages of the three-and-a-half-year conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It took place after the UN-declared Safe Areas of Srebrenica and Žepa had fallen to Bosnian Serb armed forces.
Efforts by the families of Srebrenica victims, authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and their international partners – including ICMP – have showed that it is possible to find more missing persons than anyone would have thought possible when the genocide occurred. Despite challenges, including the denial of the events surrounding Srebrenica and political developments that continuously threaten to derail the process, the work to find the remaining missing must continue until all victims have been accounted for and all survivors, regardless of their religious or national background have access to rights.
ICMP is a treaty-based international 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. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.
Šejla Kamerić is a Bosnian visual artist who has received widespread acclaim for her poignant intimacy and social commentary. The weight of her themes stands in powerful contrast to her particular aesthetic and choice of delicate materials. Her works have been included in numerous collections worldwide, including that of Tate Modern, London; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris; MACBA – Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art; Vehbi Koç Foundation, Istanbul. Kamerić received the European Cultural Foundation’s Princess Margriet Award for Culture in 2011.
This event is generously supported by the Government of the United Kingdom