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Karadzic: Attempt to Hide the Bodies

9. December 2011.00:00
The trial of Radovan Karadzic in The Hague Tribunal continued with a statement by pathologist Christopher Lawrence regarding autopsies of the victims from Srebrenica that were exhumed from eight mass graves near Zvornik in 1998.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Karadzic’s trial resumed after a three-day pause because of his illness. The indictee told the Court that he “was cold”, and that he is not yet fully recovered. Former President of the Republika Srpska (RS) is indicted for genocide against more than 7,000 Bosniaks in Srebernica, which the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), under his supreme command, carried out after they took over Srebrenica on July 11, 1995.

Karadzic is also indicted for persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as for terror against civilians by a long-lasting shelling and sniper in Sarajevo and taking UN soldiers hostage.

Lawrence, expert of the Prosecution, explained that in the summer of 1998, he made autopsies of the posthumous remains from 2,239 bags and found that these were remains of “at least 883” persons, for which he was told that they were from Srebrenica. Lawrence said that on 203 out of 254 “almost intact bodies”, wounds inflicted by bullets from a firearm were visible.

Australian pathologist said that in majority of cases he could not determine the exact cause or time of death because the bodies had already been decomposed. According to Lawrence, conclusions about that could be brought on the basis of marks on the posthumous remains of the bodies, such as parts of bullets, the bandages on the eyes and hands, and on the basis of “obvious attempts to hide the bodies”

According to the testimonies of previous witnesses, who were digging the graves, many bodies to which Lawrence made autopsies were found in the “secondary” mass graves, which means that they have already been buried, but then moved to another location. According to the indictment, that was carried out by the VRS in the fall of 1995, in an attempt to hide traces of the crime.

Lawrence also said that the bodies for which he carried out the autopsies were not in uniform and that in the items found by them he did not see the weapons.

During cross-examination of the witness, Karadzic repeated the assertion that “Muslim fighters” were among those killed. According to the indictee, the evidence for this is the bandages that have been found in tombs, by which “Muslim fighters were decorated”, putting them over the forehead or around the belt.

Lawrence said that the victims whose arms and eyes were tied were not fighters, more like disabled elderly persons or “very young men”, whose bodies he autopsied. “If they were fighters, why anyone would invest so much efforts to hide the bodies?”, Lawrence asked.

Commenting on the findings of the autopsy that minors were found in tombs, Karadzic asked the witness whether he was also informed that during the war there “were underage soldiers” in the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who, as he said, these days are fighting for recognition of their rights.

“I do not understand the question. Do you suggest that they were fighters?” replied the expert of the Prosecution. “Yes, they were fighters,” confirmed the indictee.

Answering Karadzic’s question, Lawrence confirmed that he found several layers of clothing on many bodies. Karadzic suggested that this means that the victims were killed during the winter, rather than in July 1995, and the witness said that he “did not know” that.

In an additional interrogation of the witness, Prosecutors showed several photos of Bosniaks from Srebrenica taken in Potocari on July 12, 1995, who were dressed in shirts, vests, sweaters and jackets. Among them was photo of an elderly Bosniak man who was wearing a red vest. Then the shocking photo of the posthumous remains of the same Bosniak man was shown, found in the mass grave in Kozluk, in which the only clearly visible thing is the red vest.

Close to the end of the session, Andras Riedlmayer, the expert for destroyed Bosnian religious and cultural heritage during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, began his testimony. Riedlmayer’s testimony will continue on December 9. R.M.

This post is also available in: Bosnian