Over 7,000 Srebrenica Victims have now been recovered

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has assisted Bosnia and Herzegovina in accounting for almost 90% of those reported missing from the 1995 fall Srebrenica. 520 will be buried in the Potocari Memorial Center today.

ICMP estimates that between 8,000 and 8,100 individuals went missing from the 1995 fall of Srebrenica. In an effort to DNA identify these victims, ICMP has collected blood samples from 22,160 family members of 7,773 reported victims and compared them with DNA profiles from post mortem samples excavated from mass graves. Of the 7,040 unique profiles extracted from bone samples, 6,838 persons have now been DNA identified by ICMP.

Thus far, of the 40,000 persons missing from the conflicts of the 1990’s in the former Yugoslavia, over 70% have been accounted for. ICMP has assisted governments in the region in accurately identifying 16,722 persons, of which 13,964 relate to the Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to forensic experts, Srebrenica presents the most complicated forensic challenge in terms of locating and identifying the victims. This is because the initial mass grave sites containing the mortal remains of victims were disturbed and the contents removed and buried in a series of secondary sites in an attempt to conceal evidence. As a consequence, body parts are found disarticulated in numerous primary and secondary mass grave sites. In many cases body parts of one individual have been found in several different mass graves. ICMP forensic anthropologists use DNA analysis as a tool in re-associating disarticulated parts of the same body.

“The task of locating and identifying the 40,000 persons that went missing in the former Yugoslavia is an arduous one,” said Kathryne Bomberger, the Director-General of ICMP. “There is no doubt that the use of DNA technology has been instrumental in accounting for persons that would never have been found. This is clearly the case with Srebrenica. If DNA had not been used as the primary means of identification, we would never have known the identity of these 6,838 individuals,” she added. “We hope that by providing this type of assistance to governments, that we are not only helping victims of these atrocities, but also ensuring that governments in the region take responsibility for addressing this painful legacy of the conflict.”

ICMP was created in 1996, following the G-7 Summit in Lyon, France. ICMP endeavors to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other hostilities or violations of human rights and to assist governments or authorities in doing so. Since its establishment in 1996 ICMP has been funded through voluntary grants, donations and contributions from the following participating Governments: Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, The Holy See, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, The United Kingdom, The United States of America and The European Union.