Bosnia’s Institute for Missing Persons is excavating the site of a suspected mass grave containing 29 Bosniak women and children killed in the village of Zecovi in the Prijedor area in July 1992.
Bosnia’s Institute for Missing Persons said on Thursday that it is now in the second day of an excavation in the Zecovi area, at a site where 29 female and child victims could be buried.
“This is the fifth time we have searched for the mass grave at this location. The mortal remains of 29 killed residents of Zecovi should be here. They were killed in the period from 1992 and the victims were women and children,” said the institute’s spokesperson, Lejla Cengic.
One of the relatives of the victims who could be buried in the suspected mass grave, Fikret Bacic, said he has been searching for over two decades for the remains of his wife, children, mother and other family members who were killed in Zecovi.
Bacic said that if they are discovered, the bodies would be key pieces of evidence in the trial of Bosnian Serb soldiers, police and officials accused of being responsible for the crimes in Zecovi.
“Allegedly one of the defendants charged with crimes in Zecovi said somewhere – not directly to investigative bodies – that some of the bodies were located underneath a transmission tower in Bacici [a hamlet in the Zecovi area, where the current excavation is taking place],” Bacic said.
However Bacic said that he has been “convinced from the very beginning that there was nothing there” at the transmission tower location.
The defendant he claimed had spoken about the grave location was Zdravko Antonic, one of the suspects who was on trial for the Zecovi crimes until he died earlier this year.
Dusan Milunic, Radomir Stojnic, Radovan Cetic, Dusko Zoric, Zoran Stojnic, Zeljko Grbic, Ilija Zoric, Zoran Milunic, Bosko Grujicic, Ljubisa Cetic, Rade and Uros Grujcic and Rajko Gnjatovic are still on trial for murders, torture, sexual violence and the destruction and confiscation of property owned by local residents in Zecovi in July 1992.
The indictment alleges that after the murder of 32 women and children in the hamlet of Gradina in the Zecovi area on July 28, 1992, Dusan Milunic, Radomir Stojnic and Radovan Cetic ordered troops and policemen to remove the corpses in order to conceal traces of the crime.
According to the charges, Milunic was the commander of the Rasavaci Company with the Sixth Battalion of the Bosnian Serb Army’s 43rd Brigade, Stojnic was the commander of the reservist police station in Rasavci, while Cetic was the president of the local Serb Democratic Party and the Crisis Committee in the village of Rasavci.
The remaining defendants were members of the Rasavaci Company, police forces and other groups.
Testifying in his own defence, Milunic denied knowing where the bodies of the women and children were buried. He also denied having ordered the ‘cleansing’ of the area.
The defence is currently presenting its evidence in the trial, which began in April 2015.