Mass grave unearthing begins
Jul 31, 2003
Bulldozers are removing layers of soil from a mass grave believed to contain several hundred victims of Bosnia's war in the 1990s and which could be the largest ever found.
The grave, in mountainous countryside near the eastern town of Zvornik, is thought to contain the bodies of Muslim civilians killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and others killed in Zvornik at the start of the war.
Some 20 people, including a forensic expert from the The Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal, were marking the area off with tapes, while two bulldozers removed low plant cover and dirt from the grave.
"It covers an area of four by 49 metres where more than 500 bodies could have been buried," Masovic said.
Experts were tipped off two years ago about the site - in an area known as Crni Vrh or Black Peak in the Serb-controlled area of Bosnia - by a person who saw the burying of the bodies.
But its discovery was kept secret because of fears it could be disturbed and exhumation work is only now beginning because forensic experts were engaged at other sites.
Some 7,000 Muslim men and boys are believed to have been summarily executed after Serb forces overran the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995 in what is considered the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.
Many of the victims were buried twice, as the Serbs have removed many of the bodies from their initial resting places in a bid to evade detection. The Zvornik site is one such "secondary" grave.
Such graves often contain skeletons that have been crushed and compressed into a hole by bulldozers, and body parts which have been jumbled together, which makes identification and even determining the exact number of victims very difficult.
DNA analysis, which is both expensive and long, remains the only reliable tool for the job.