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Exhumation of Remains from Tomasica Mine Described at Mladic Trial

24. June 2015.00:00
Testifying for the prosecution at the Ratko Mladic trial, forensic expert Ian Hanson said 371 sets of mortal remains were exhumed from the biggest mass grave in the Tomasica mine near Prijedor.

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Mladic, the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, has been charged with the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prijedor is one of the municipalities where the persecution reached the scale of genocide.

According to the prosecution, individuals found buried at the Tomasica mine were killed by Bosnian Serb Army forces in villages in Prijedor, during an ethnic cleansing campaign which took place in that area in the spring of 1992.

Hanson, the former deputy director of forensics at the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP), supervised the exhumation of the Tomasica mine in 2013. Hanson told the Hague Tribunal that the Tomasica remains include complete bodies, body parts, as well as individual bones. The final number of victims will be established once DNA identification has been completed.

Hanson said some of the bodies found in the Tomasica mine had previously been transferred to a secondary mass grave at Jakarina Kosa near Prijedor. Hanson specified that 130 complete bodies, 259 body parts, and the remains of at least 298 individuals were exhumed from Tomasica in 2001.

“The link between the remains found in Tomasica and Jakarina Kosa has been confirmed through DNA analysis,” Hanson pointed out.

Hanson said no military uniforms or military objects were found during the exhumations, only objects that people carry with them on a daily basis.

Hanson noted traces of excavation during the exhumation, as well as the crumbling of remains by heavy machinery, such as big backhoes. Some of the remains were found on the surface, and the grave was covered with a huge quantity of clay. Hanson said 40,000 m3 of land was removed during the excavation.

Hanson said bodies were buried in the grave at least four times and bodies were separated by layers of clay. The clay prevented oxygen from reaching the bodies, which means they have remained intact.

“The bodies were very well preserved, which confirms that they were buried shortly after their death,” Hanson said.

While being cross-examined by Branko Lukic, Mladic’s defense attorney, Hanson said his task wasn’t to determine the circumstances and timing of the death of the victims.

Hanson confirmed having obtained information from the Institute for Missing Persons of Bosnia and Herzegovina that between 800-900 bodies were brought to Tomasica from May to August 1992. The institute also confirmed that victims from the Brda area, near Prijedor, who were killed on July 20, 1992, as well as 120 individuals who were killed in the Keraterm detention camp on July 24, 1992, were found buried in the Tomasica mine.

Hanson said he and the ICMP hadn’t confirmed the institute’s numbers.

Lukic will complete Hanson’s cross-examination today, on June 25.

Mladic is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica, terrorizing the local population of Sarajevo through an artillery and sniping campaign and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian