CNN Mission: Peace

Bosnian bodies recovered, despite Serb obstruction

Mass grave exhumation begins Sunday

U.N. recovering bodies

July 5, 1996
Web posted at: 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT)

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Defying Bosnian Serb objections, Finnish experts working under U.N. auspices recovered at least nine unburied bodies believed to be those of Muslims killed escaping from Srebrenica last year, the United Nations said Friday.

At the same time, the U.N. war crimes tribunal announced that the exhumation of mass grave sites in the former Yugoslavia will begin on Sunday.

"Despite not receiving promised authorizations from Serb authorities, the Finnish team began work Friday and at least nine body bags with remains were returned to Tuzla," Alex Ivanko, a U.N. spokesman in Sarajevo, said. "They may recover more bodies before the end of the day and they plan to work into the evening."

Verbal approval for the mission from Biljana Plavsic, the acting Bosnian Serb President, has been ignored by police in the area for days.

35 bodies found

Looking for bodies

The United Nations is trying to recover skeletal remains which have been lying exposed on a hillside in the Kravica area outside Srebrenica since Serb forces overran the supposedly U.N.-protected enclave in July 1995.

Ivanko said the team had removed some land mines from the Kravica site Thursday and was able to visually identify 35 bodies without any excavation.

Finland and the Netherlands are providing financial support for the mission to identify the remains and hand them over to Bosnian authorities in Tuzla for burial.

Sources close to the tribunal say they're concerned some mass grave sites scheduled for investigation may have been tampered with, and bodies and physical evidence removed.

Thousands missing

War crimes prosecutors believe that there are several mass graves in Srebrenica, where the first of several mass grave exhumations from Bosnia and Croatia are scheduled to take place over a three-month period. In the Srebrenica area alone, more than 6,000 Muslim refugees are still missing.

The exhumations, beginning Sunday, aim to establish the date and cause of the victims' deaths and their identities. Security and logistics support will be provided by peacekeepers from IFOR, NATO's peace implementation force.

'Mass grave' defined

The war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands is sending a team of 20 investigators, including forensic experts from Physicians for Human Rights, a Boston-based organization, according to a statement issued by the tribunal.

Prosecutors say they hope to unearth evidence supporting witness testimony of unarmed civilians being executed.

While there is no legal definition of mass graves, the United Nations has defined them as locations where three or more victims "of extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions" are buried, not having died in combat or armed confrontations.

CNN Correspondent Patricia Kelly and Reuters contributed to this report.

Related stories:

Related sites:

Related newsgroups:

Back to the top


Mission Peace nav bar

Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive