January 23, 1996
Web posted at: 12:25 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- With evidence mounting, the head investigator of war crimes in Bosnia made his case to NATO commanders Monday. Justice Richard Goldstone wants security for his investigators, who will sift through mass grave sites on Bosnian Serb territory.
"I think we reached a clear understanding which I'm confident will yield the sort of assistance we need," Goldstone said after the meeting.
His case may have been aided Sunday by the high profile inspection of several sites in eastern Bosnia by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck. Shattuck and two war crimes tribunal investigators toured near Srebrenica, the Muslim enclave that fell to Serb forces last summer.
Survivors told of round-ups and mass executions. Thousands are still missing. Shattuck toured a warehouse where civilians were allegedly mowed down by grenades and guns.
"There was evidence that some blood had splattered on the ceiling," he said. "There was no effort to remove that." (170K AIFF sound or 170K WAV sound)
Investigators are concerned about keeping that kind of evidence intact. A human rights group has already accused the Bosnian Serbs of digging up another mass grave in northwest Bosnia to destroy the evidence of atrocities.
The request for security puts the NATO implementation force in something of a difficult position. Its mission is a military one, and compliance with war crimes investigation is supposed to be a civilian issue. Involvement could call into question NATO's neutrality on the ground.
That was very much on the mind of the IFOR commander in Bosnia, who made his position clear on both Bosnian and Serb television.
"We will not guard grave sites," said Admiral Leighton Smith. "But we will provide a secure environment for the investigators." (221K AIFF sound or 221K WAV sound)
Further investigation of the sites should take place soon, but actual forensic work may have to wait until a spring thaw. NATO has promised aerial and ground patrols to keep watch over Bosnia's killing fields.
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