Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Eyewitnesses Confirm Massacres in Bosnia

By David RohdeStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 5, 1995


A FIELD just outside the Bosnian Serb-held farming village of Nova Kasaba is a mass grave holding the bodies of hundreds of Muslim men from the fallen United Nations ''safe area'' of Srebrenica, according to eyewitness accounts newly obtained by The Christian Science Monitor.

Skip to next paragraph

The new evidence - combined with a decomposed human leg and documents from Srebrenica found at the site by the Monitor on Aug. 16 - confirms Clinton administration allegations that Muslim prisoners were gathered on a nearby soccer field, addressed by Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, and executed on July 14 or 15.

Senior UN officials close to The Hague-based International War Crimes Tribunal say indictments for war crimes following the fall of Srebrenica, possibly involving General Mladic, could be issued within weeks. The officials also confirmed that the findings of a Monitor investigation, which concluded that more than 2,000 Muslim prisoners were executed and at least four mass graves exist around Srebrenica, are accurate.

Along with the mass grave in Nova Kasaba, three other mass graves exist around Srebrenica, according to Muslim men who arrived recently in government-held territory. In their first interview with a journalist, six men gave detailed descriptions of a grave near the village of Cerska, one man described a grave near Burnice, and three others a grave site at Karakaj.

The senior UN officials say an overwhelming amount of physical evidence of what could be the single largest war crime in Europe since World War II lies along a 20-mile network of roads in eastern Bosnia. But with the Bosnian Serbs saying the graves are filled with Muslims who died in combat, exhuming the bodies to examine how the men died is crucial.

Zagreb-based UN officials are concerned that if more leverage is not brought to bear on the Bosnian Serbs by the Clinton administration, the execution of thousands of Muslims could go unpunished. In the two months since US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright made a dramatic and unusual presentation of classified US spy-satellite photos to the UN Security Council and accused Mladic of ''extraordinary cruelty,'' US officials have not publicly raised the issue.

UN officials in Zagreb warn that the Clinton administration is following a policy based more on political expediency than pursuing justice.

And the senior UN officials close to the Tribunal say that two months after Ms. Albright's presentation, the US government still has not turned over all of the photos it has of the Srebrenica area.

In August, senior US officials said they had more satellite photos that showed other graves, which along with the Nova Kasaba site could hold between 2,000 and 2,700 bodies.

US interest has waned

UN officials have long accused the Clinton administration of releasing the Nova Kasaba photos to deflect criticism from its tacit approval of the Croatian Army's forced removal of 150,000 Serbs from the formerly Serb-held Krajina region of Croatia in early August. The issue of Srebrenica has been dropped, they say, because it no longer fits the administration's agenda.

The issue of war crimes is a crucial one for the Bosnian government and could scuttle the US-brokered peace talks. The Muslim-led Bosnian government is demanding that accused war criminals be turned over to the Tribunal, and access to what the human rights group Amnesty International says are 143 mass graves in Serb territory, be part of any peace agreement.

But without US backing, the demand is unlikely to be met. UN officials predict that the Clinton administration will try to ignore the issue as it hammers out a de facto partition of the country.

Mladic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have both been indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, a man who critics say should also be indicted as a war criminal and has the power to turn over Mladic and Karadzic, is refusing to cooperate with the Tribunal.

The Bosnian Serbs deny that any mass executions occurred following the fall of Srebrenica, and human rights groups, and investigators from the Tribunal have been denied access to the area.

The Nova Kasaba grave, which is large enough to hold 600 to 800 bodies, lies at the center of a killing zone created by Bosnian Serb forces as they hunted down more than 10,000 Muslim men from Srebrenica, only half of whom were armed, who tried to sneak through 60 miles of Serb territory to government-held central Bosnia.

The grave is located along a four-mile stretch of asphalt road between the villages of Nova Kasaba to Konjevic Polje that Muslims had to cross to make it to government-held territory. Thousands of them never did.