It’s been 22 years since Bosnia’s bloody 1992-95 war ended, yet the remains of numerous victims of genocide and war crimes still await identification.
Forensic anthropologist Dragana Vucetic spends her working hours in a forensic facility in the northern town of Tuzla collecting DNA samples from the bones of people killed in eastern Bosnia during the war, including in the notorious 1995 Srebrenica massacre, and reassembling their skeletal remains.
A U.N court ruled Wednesday in the case against Ratko Mladic, who led Bosnian Serb forces in their quest to dismember Bosnia, carve out an “ethnically pure” Serb territory and unite it with neighboring Serbia. The court found Mladic guilty of genocide and gave him a life sentence. Mladic was on the ground with his troops when they overran Srebrenica in July 1995 and proceeded to hunt down and slaughter around 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men and boys. He was charged with genocide for his role in the massacre.
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Throughout the war, Serb soldiers had been throwing their victims’ bodies in mass graves. In Srebrenica, they first dumped them in several large pits and then moved them with trucks and bulldozers to over 90 smaller clandestine mass burial sites attempting to hide the massacre.
When the search for the war missing began, it wasn’t unusual for the remains of one Srebrenica victim to be found scattered between several different mass graves, sometimes miles apart.
Vucetic’s employer, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), has pioneered a DNA-based system to identify the remains. Through their efforts, over 70 percent of the estimated 30,000 persons missing from the Bosnian war have so far been accounted for. The figure includes nearly 7,000, or almost 90 percent, of the victims of Srebrenica.