Bosnia War: Identifying the Victims of Srebrenica

Collection with 29 media items created by Michael Biach

Bosnia and Herzegovina 20 Aug 2014 00:00

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic stormed through the UN peacekeeping enclave into the city of Srebrenica, executing over 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys. Now labeled a genocide, the event is considered the worst episode of European mass murder since World War II, and was the wake-up call for the West to push for the cease-fire that ended the three-year Bosnian conflict. Now, 19 years after the event, pieces of the bodies are still being found in over 300 mass graves, often in several different locations due to the perpetrators’ attempt to cover up the crime. Most of the identification work is done by the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP), established in 1996. The process of contacting family members is a psychologically stressful one from start to finish, as survivors re-live the agony of the loss while deciding to hold a funeral immediately or to wait until all the remains have been found. 6,066 victims have been buried so far during the annual anniversaries of the massacre in Potocari, Bosnia. The number of burials decrease every year, with 175 bodies buried in 2014.

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Bosnia And H... Mass Graves Missing Persons Europe Bosnian War Bosnian Muslims

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Srebrenica 01
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

A mother is weeping at her son’s grave minutes after the burial at the 19th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide where 175 newly identified victims have been laid to rest.

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Srebrenica 02
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

Men carry coffins during the commemoration at the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide where 175 newly identified victims were buried.

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Srebrenica 03
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Bosnian women mourn at the coffin of a relative prior to the mass burial at Potocari on the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

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Srebrenica 11
Tuzla
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Dragana Vučetić, Senior Forensic Anthropologist at the International Committee for Missing Persons (ICMP), with human remains from a Srebrenica-massacre related ‘secondary mass grave’. For four years now, ICMP has tried to extract DNA and connect it to blood samples in their databank. Sometimes it is not easy to extract DNA from bones, and often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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Srebrenica 04
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

In the mortuary of Tuzla’s Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) rest several hundred body bags with the remains of victims from the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The dead have been identified through DNA analysis but not yet all of their remains have been found. Sometimes family members of the killed victims decide to wait to hold a burial until all bones have been excavated. The identification process is complicated by the fact that in the days and weeks following the Srebrenica massacre ‘primary mass graves’ were unearthed and the remains buried in many different ‘secondary mass graves’ to cover tracks.

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Srebrenica 05
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Human remains from a secondary mass grave. Forensic anthropologists from Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) have tried to extract DNA from the bones and connect it to blood samples in ICMP’s databank. Until now they didn’t find a match. Sometimes it is not easy to extract enough intact DNA from bones, and often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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Srebrenica 06
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
18 Aug 2014

Human remains from a recently discovered secondary mass grave. The bones belong to various victims and are not yet identified.

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Srebrenica 08
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

A woman is fainting and another is weeping during the burial of a close relative at the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

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Srebrenica 09
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

Women mourn while one faints as her son is buried during the 19th anniversary of the annual commemoration of 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

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Srebrenica 10
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Dragana Vučetić, Senior Forensic Anthropologist at the International Comitee for Missing Persons (ICMP), with human remains from a Srebrenica-massacre related ‘secondary mass grave’. For four years now ICMP has tried to extract DNA and connect it to blood samples in their databank. Until now they didn’t find a match. Sometimes it is not easy to extract DNA from bones, often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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Srebrenica 11
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

In the years following the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica - years before DNA identification was accurate - ICMP has produced two books with clothings and valuables found with/next to vicitms in mass graves so that relatives were able to identify their loved ones. Today identification process is only done by DNA tests (match of blood and bone samples).

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Srebrenica 07
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Dragana Vučetić, Senior Forensic Anthropologist at the International Comitee for Missing Persons (ICMP), with human remains from a Srebrenica-massacre related ‘secondary mass grave’. For four years now, ICMP has tried to extract DNA and connect it to blood samples in their databank. Until now they didn’t find a match. Sometimes it is not easy to extract DNA from bones, and often identification is not possible because of the lack of blood samples from relatives.

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Srebrenica 13
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

Coffins with newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide are carried to their burial sites.

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Srebrenica 22
Srebrenica
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

The bones in these plastic bags in the mortuary of Tuzla’s Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) will be laid to rest in already buried coffins. Sometimes relatives decide to bury their loved ones even when not all bones of the body have been identified yet. These newly identified bodies will be buried in the graves in Potocari near Srebrenica.

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Srebrenica 18
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Blood samples store in Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD). Identification of missing persons with DNA tests is only possible if a blood reference sample of a close relative is available. ICMP and ICD have made numerous campaigns to encourage relatives of war victims (many of them already living in diaspora abroad) to give blood samples to make identification possible.

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Srebrenica 19
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

Bosnian women are mourning prior to the mass burial in Potocari during the 19th annual commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. In the back the men are praying in front of the coffins of 175 newly identified victims found in mass graves all over the country.

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Srebrenica 16
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

Relatives of Nermin and Samir Selimovic are burying the coffins of the then 19 and 23 year old boys during the 19th anniversary of the annual commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

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Srebrenica 20
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
11 Jul 2014

Coffins with victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide are burried during the 19th annual commemoration in Potocari.

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Srebrenica 21
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

In the mortuary of Tuzla’s Podrinje Identification Project (PIP) rest several hundred body bags with the remains of victims from the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The dead have been identified through DNA analysis but not yet all of their remains have been found. Family members of the killed victims have decided to hold a burial until all bones have been excavated. The identification process is a complicated one because in the days and weeks following the Srebrenica massacre, perpetrators unearthed ‘primary mass graves’ and scattered the remains in many different ‘secondary mass graves’ to cover their tracks.

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Srebrenica 06
Tuzla
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

A team member of Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD) shows a blood sample taken from a relative of a missing person to extract DNA for further identification process. Identification of missing persons with DNA tests is only possible if a blood reference sample of a close relative is available. ICMP and ICD have made numerous campaigns to encourage relatives of war victims (many of them already living in diaspora abroad) to give blood samples to make identification possible.

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Srebrenica 22
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

A team member of Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD) shows a bone sample taken from a mass grave near Bosanski Brod. He will soon try to extract DNA from the bone and hopefully the sample will match with a blood sample given by a relative of a missing person to be identified. Identification of missing persons with DNA tests is only possible if a blood reference sample of a close relative is available. ICMP and ICD have made numerous campaigns to encourage relatives of war victims (many of them already living in diaspora abroad) to give blood samples to make identification possible.

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Srebrenica 23
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

A team member of Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD) is working on a blood sample taken from a relative of a missing person and extracting DNA for further identification process. Identification of missing persons with DNA tests is only possible if a blood reference sample of a close relative is available. ICMP and ICD have made numerous campaigns to encourage relatives of war victims (many of them already living in diaspora abroad) to give blood samples to make identification possible.

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Srebrenica 24
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

A team member of Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD) shows a blood sample taken from a relative of a missing persons. Identification of missing persons with DNA tests is only possible if a blood reference sample of a close relative is available. ICMP and ICD have made numerous campaigns to encourage relatives of war victims (many of them already living in diaspora abroad) to give blood samples to make identification possible. "We have received blood samples even from Australia" says Edin Jasaragic, ICD's managing director.

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Srebrenica 15
Tuzla
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Staff of Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD) is handling the blood sample given by a relative of a missing person from the 1990s war in Bosnia. She is extracting DNA from the blood sample which will be stored in ICMP's databank to make identification possible. Identification of missing persons with DNA tests is only possible if a blood reference sample of a close relative is available. ICMP and ICD have made numerous campaigns to encourage relatives of war victims (many of them already living in diaspora abroad) to give blood samples to make identification possible.

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Srebrenica 25
Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Staff members of Tuzla's Identification Coordination Division (ICD) try to match blood samples of relatives from Bosnian war victims with samples from exhumed bones from mass graves.

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Srebrenica 08
Sarajevo
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Ana Bilic, head of ICD's DNA laboratory is explaining results from the DNA extraction from bone samples. A lot of bones samples don't have too much intact DNA to be extracted, but with special hight tech machines it is possible to extract even the smallest DNA piece and reproduce it for further identification process. Nevertheless even in some cases, this is not possible and identification process cannot be continued.

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Srebrenica 07
Sarajevo
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

The greatest problem the scientists of ICMP are facing is that a lot of bones don't have enough valuable DNA to be extracted from bone samples. With special machines seen in the background, even the smallest piece of intact DNA can be extracted and then reproduced to enlarge the DNA segment necessary for DNA match with blood samples.

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Srebrenica 09
Tuzla
By Michael Biach
19 Aug 2014

Samples of DNA extracted from bones as well as blood samples are stored in ICMP's data base. If both samples match, a missing person can be identified. ICMP has worked on missing persons in the Balkan wars as well as in international catastrophes like Hurricane Catarina or the Indian Ocean Tsunami.