Bosnian Mass Graves

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

A harrowing news came from the Balkans in September 2017. Bosnian Missing Person Institute has found at least 137 clusters of bones, including 86 skulls of human remains on the cliffs of Vlasic Mountain, around the town of Travnik in Bosnia.

It is believed to be one of the biggest mass gravesites found in Bosnia and Herzegovina until now. These remains are possibly of the Bosnian Muslims and Croats who died at the hands of Bosnian Serb Police known as ‘Red Berets’ during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Although the perpetrators of this ethnic cleansing campaign were convicted by the country’s tribunal for a lifelong imprisonment, the people associated with the dead ones are still seeking justice because they have not been able to find the remains of their family members who had just vanished after the war.

The investigators had found that the remains were found at the bottom of the cave and were covered with an enormous amount of rocks. The massacre at the Vlasic Mountain was regarded one of the most notorious of the country’s history. 

The investigators of International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) claim that the hidden mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina would be akin to ‘solving world’s greatest forensic puzzle.’

Around 100,000 had died during the ethnic war involving Serbs, Croats, and Bosniak Muslims that resulted in the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. The Dayton Accords were constituted as a peace agreement, but about 2.2 million people were displaced. 

During the massacre at the Vlasic Mountain, the separated men were told to hand over all their belongings and were told that they were be going to be exchanged for prisoners at the nearby camp, but instead, they were killed and buried in the mountains. Only some of the men had survived who had jumped into the river when the shooting by the Serb police had started.

The whereabouts of most of the victims of the massacre at the Vlasic Mountain was unknown, until the recent investigation. This is not the first time an investigation of the missing persons has happened at the Vlasic Mountains. Before this, in the year 2010 and 2009, at least remains of 60 individuals had been exhumed and forensic analysis had been done. Since then, the investigations have been ongoing.

Over the course of time, the Bosnian war had been regarded as a major episode of genocide in the European history since the World War II. The cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina were regarded as abodes of cultures but later on, cities like Sarajevo and Prijedor became motifs of a war zone. The war was recorded in the first-hand narratives of many correspondents and also sketched in the stories of acclaimed political cartoonists and showcased in art exhibitions. 

At the end of the war, about 31,500 people were reported missing. Since then, the remains of 25,000 victims have been exhumed from hundreds of mass graves, according to the Bosnian Institute. There are still about 6,500 unaccounted missing people on their registry. 

Some estimates also suggest that over 40,000 people went missing in the Balkan Wars, a carnage similar to the Third Reich.

In 2013, the discovery of Tomasica mass grave burial site also made news headlines because it was claimed that about 360 individual remains (mostly Bosniak Muslims and ethnic Croats) were found. In Srebrenica massacre investigations, about 629 bodies were dug up. Very recently, another mass burial site was found in the eastern town of Vlasenica. The remains were of ten Bosnian Muslims killed in 1992. 

The war also had a vivid impact on many common Bosniaks. Some of the relatives of the missing members had devoted a significant amount of time in finding their missing ones in the quiet woods, undermining the risks of possible landmines beneath, with occasional encountering of a human shoe, a money wallet or a watch. However, the hope to find them has not gone away. 

Each year, many Bosniak Muslims commiserate the ‘International Day Of The Disappeared’ on 30th of August by paying homage to their dead ones in their prayers.

The impact of the Bosnian War has left deep imprints on our world and it cannot be undermined by any means. The role of United Nations in its peacekeeping stooped in the following time and the entity became unreliable with its dysfunctional operations. 

These instances of war also called for structural reforms because UN has been suffering at the hands of some superpower nations for their vested interests and inefficient vision. These realities haven't allowed the entity to shine at the times of human adversity in many conflict zones.

If we talk of Bosnia itself, the Dutch peacekeepers, known as ‘Dutchbat’ of the UN Peacekeeping Force still hang their heads in shame, in failing to protect an eastern Bosnian village, by being frightened and allowing it to be ravaged by Serb violence in the times of war.

By just making statements, the UN has escaped from its peacekeeping action plans. It has also failed to address the dynamics of war by helping people of many conflict zones. 

Bosnia remains one of those examples in its post-conflict period where justice still awaits in many ways.


Popular Posts