News 27 Jun 12

Bosnia to Inspect Remains in Ossuaries

Around 4,000 unidentified remains are held in 11 mortuaries and ossuaries across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and should be inspected soon in order to identify at least ten per cent of the bodies.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo

The State Institute for Missing Persons said that workgroups will be formed in order to visit the locations and perform the inspections.

Lejla Cengic, spokesperson for the Institute, has stated that DNA samples were taken from all 4,000 remains in the ossuaries, but that some bodies remain unidentified.

“One of the reasons is that some families who live abroad did not give blood. In some other cases there is no one to give blood, if the whole family was killed or the person had no next of kin. There were cases of a match, but the identification still did not happen because the families refused to take over the remains if the whole body was not found,” explained Cengic.

She said that in mortuaries and ossuaries across Bosnia and Herzegovina there is a certain number of remains of people killed in WWI and WWII, who most certainly will never be identified.

“In WWII the missing were not searched for. They decided to erect monuments at execution grounds, but people were not sought after. Remains of partisans and German soldiers were found,” said Cengic.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina there is a total of 11 mortuaries and memorial ossuaries under the Institute’s jurisdiction, eight in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – in Mostar, Visoko, Sanski Most, Gorazde, Travnik, Orasje and two in Tuzla – and three in Republika Srpska: in Banja Luka, Nevesinje and Eastern Sarajevo.

Most of the unidentified remains are kept in the two ossuaries in Tuzla, which store the remains found in mass graves linked to the murders of the non-Serb population in Srebrenica, Bratunac and Vlasenica. In the three ossuaries in Republika Srpska there are around 650 remains.

Cengic explains that the storing of a large number of unidentified remains in ossuaries represents a “big expense for the Institute”,  for this reason, it has been agreed, in cooperation with cantonal and district prosecutions, to form workgroups which will visit each of the places and inspect the remains.

The workgroups for solving unidentified mortal remains, according to Cengic, will consist of representatives of the Institute, prosecutions from each canton or region in Republika Srpska, and people from the police.

“They will try to establish exact facts in each mortuary and memorial ossuary. Basically, the workgroups will separate those who do not belong there, the remains which are not from this war, and those who cannot be identified, and there is an idea to bury the latter in court’s plots,” said  Cengic.

People at the Institute hope that this process may result in a certain number of new identifications, since reserve samples can be taken from some remains.

“We expect the action to bring us results, we are optimistic and we expect more than 10 per cent of new identifications. However, even if we found only ten per cent, or 400 new identities, it would be a big success,” concluded Cengic.

She said that the workgroups should start working “as soon and fast as possible”, since the meetings with the prosecutions have been already held and mandates and make-ups of the groups agreed upon.

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