Slow process of identifying Srebrenica victims


Bones of those killed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina are slowly being identified.

By Bedrana Kaletović for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 03/01/13


Authorities say the remains of hundreds of Srebrenica victims may never be identified. [Bedrana Kaletović/SETimes]

In July 1995, Nura Mustafić lost her husband, Hasan, and their adult children Mirsad, Alija, Fuad, and many relatives in the Srebrenica massacre. She buried Hasan, but still hasn't buried their sons because their bodies haven't been identified nearly two decades after their deaths.

"The old photo of my family is all I have. And hope -- hope that I will find their bones. I keep thinking that at least one of my children is alive, and that he calls me 'Mother' at least once a year, I would be over the moon," Mustafić said.

After so many years of searching and waiting, many families still have not found the remains of their loved ones. The bones of murdered Srebrenica residents, according to experts, have been moved several times to different mass tombs, making the identification process more difficult.

"It seems that everyone agrees with the stalling of the identification process, and families are at the end of their strength. Many people have died and had no chance to bury their loved ones," said Hajra Ćatic, president of the Women of Srebrenica association.

Hundreds of unidentified remains rest in the identification center in Tuzla. Some of them cannot be identified because the entire family was killed. There are a large number of tiny bones which cannot be used in order to determine the DNA strands and hence, it cannot be determined where they belong.

"The families of the victims prevent us from [building] one common tomb where the unidentified bones would be buried. They believe that the bodies of their loved ones will be identified in the future, [but] keeping these skeletons costs [400,000 euros]," Amor Mašović from the Institute for Missing Persons told SETimes.

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On a few occasions, re-exhumations of already buried bodies were done in order to add the bones which were subsequently found and identified in secondary mass graves.

"During the identification of the remains, the question arises whether to bury the incomplete mortal remains or possibly wait for some time to find the missing body parts. The decision is left entirely to the families. Very often the family decides to bury incomplete remains, and with the family consent, we subsequently add to the already buried bones new parts which we determine on the basis of DNA analysis," Kešetović said.

Hiba Ramić, from the Veljaci-Bratunac 92 Foundation, said that the families of the victims are afraid of the deterioration of the mortal remains.

"We are all aware of the fact that bones and their composition deteriorate after a certain period of time, so we'll probably have this problem too. Therefore, we believe that it is necessary to begin with the burial of the victims in a common grave," Ramić told SETimes.

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