U.N. TRIBUNAL DESTROYS EVIDENCE OF SREBRENICA GENOCIDE
PHOTO: Victim's belongings found inside of
Srebrenica genocide mass grave in Snagovo.
“This material was of enormous historical value,” says one former investigator, who asked not to be named because of his work with the tribunal. “This was the biggest act of killing in Europe since the Nazis. This was genocide. And for some of the families of the victims, this may have been all they had to mark their loss. This should be a scandal.”
BIRN had earlier revealed that it had received some indications suggesting that the material, that may have provided evidence pertaining to their murder, was destroyed.
During a meeting Wednesday with representatives of the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa, Serge Bremmertz, Chief Prosecutor from the Hague said that around 1000 materials found in mass graves with bodies of people killed after the fall of Srebrenica were destroyed due to a potential health hazard. Bremmertz said that the Prosecution has data about all those materials.
Muniba Subasic, president of the Association, told BIRN that Bremmertz explained that the destruction was not done during his mandate in the Hague, but that it was part of a regular procedure.
"We are strongly against that. Next month we will go to The Hague and meet with the ICTY president and some other people and tell them that we are unsatisfied because of this," said Subasic.
She added that she was aware that Hague investigators did find some things in some of the mass graves, and that that material was taken away.
"It is usually like that, when people from the Hague are at exhumations, they take away everything they find. If an exhumation is done only by domestic people, they usually call members of families and they ask us what we want to be done with the things they find. That is how I found a cigarette box from my late husband. I took it and give to museum in Srebrenica," added Subasic.
BIRN began to investigate the story after journalist Michael Montgomery (photo on the left) wrote about the case on his Blog, alleging that the destroyed material included a certain number of identification cards found in mass graves in which the killed Srebrenica residents were buried. Available unconfirmed data suggest that the personal identification cards were burnt at the Hague and their destruction was authorised by the Prosecutor’s Office at the Hague.
Montgomery’s sources claim that neither the Bosnian authorities nor the Srebrenica victims’ families have been informed of this.
"I have never heard of that. It is hard to believe in it," Hajra Catic, who left Potocari after joining a convoy of other women in July 1995, told BIRN.
Catic says that most Srebrenica residents did not have their personal documents with them at the time.
"We simply did not think about that, considering all other things that were happening at the time," Catic says.
Montgomery writes that three different sources had confirmed to him that the documents had been destroyed.
"This material was of enormous historical value," one former investigator told Montgomery. "This was the biggest act of killing in Europe since the Nazis. This was genocide. And for some of the families of the victims, this may have been all they had to mark their loss. This should be a scandal."
BIRN found out that the Prosecutor’s Office normally destroys some of the collected material after a certain period of time, unless the material has been admitted as evidence by the Court in the meantime.
In the course of the proceedings both the Prosecution and Defence teams propose their own evidence. The Trial Chambers then render decisions concerning the validity of the proposed evidence.