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23 June 2009

Trbic: 3,737 Genocide Victims Confirmed

Two Prosecution expert witnesses speak about the identification of Srebrenica victims, whose remains have been exhumed from mass graves.

According to data available to Rifat Kesetovic, Head of the Podrinje Identification Project, PIP, up to the present date 3,737 victims of the Srebrenica genocide have been identified, while thousands of analysis reports are being processed. 

"I have been informed that a large number of analysis reports are being processed by the ICMP. The total number will therefore be close to 6,200 victims. The number I mentioned, that is 3,737, pertains to those for whom identification reports and death certificates had been issued by the end of last year," explained Kesetovic, who was asked to testify as an expert witness by the Prosecution.

The indictment alleges that Milorad Trbic, as a person responsible for the Military Police Squad, participated, in collaboration with other members of the Republika Srpska Army and Ministry of Internal Affairs, MUP, in the execution of more than 7,000 men from July 11 to November 1, 1995.

The expert witness explained that the identification procedure starts with exhumation, conducted "on the basis of an order issued by the Tuzla Prosecutor's Office", adding that "each discovered piece is assigned a numeric value and a special code, which is used all the way through the procedure until the final identification of a victim".

"Following our return to the PIP Center, the bags are opened. A court medical analysis and an anthropological analysis of the remains are conducted. After that we conduct a DNA analysis. In the end we use the data to issue a final certificate of identification," Kesetovic said.

He told the Court that, "it rarely happens" that the cause of death can be determined as well, considering the fact that a large number of the remains are found in "secondary mass graves which are damaged, and in fragments remaining after the bodies had been transported by large construction machines".

Cheryl Katmatzyk, forensic expert with the International Commission for Missing People, ICMP, appeared as the second Prosecution expert witness. She said that the Re-association Center in Lukavac, which she heads, has sent "more than ten thousand requests" for DNA testing to the ICMP over the last two years.

"DNA tests are crucial for our work, because the bodies are dissociated and fragmented. Without those tests it would be impossible to conduct a re-association of the fragments," she said.

Katmatzyk explained that the ICMP had determined that a certain number of secondary mass graves in the Srebrenica area "are interconnected".

"After having conducted DNA analyses, we have determined that parts of bodies of some people can be found in several different graves. On the basis of these findings, we have determined that there is a link between different graves, which means that they originated from one joint grave," the expert witness explained.

The indictment alleges that from August 1 to November 1, 1995 Trbic "and other people" facilitated and supervised the reburial of bodies, which were exhumed from primary mass graves, as well as their transportation to the secondary mass graves.

The next hearing is due to take place on June 29, 2009.

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