Human remains in a refrigerated mortuary room at ICMP\'s Podrinje Identification Project center in Tuzla
Human remains in a refrigerated mortuary room at ICMP’s Podrinje Identification Project center in Tuzla. Courtesy: ICMP

A guest blog from our colleague Csaba Szilagyi, Senior Human Rights Archivist at Open Society Archive (OSA):

In July 1995, over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically slaughtered on grounds of ethnicity in and around Srebrenica in roughly 72 hours by units of the Bosnian Serb Army. Since then, more than 6,000 victims exhumed from eighty mass graves have been identified.  In a lingering atmosphere of denial, which allows for the chief executioner of the genocide, General Ratko Mladić, to remain still at large, the Open Society Archive decided to give an answer to the “who did what to whom” question, without which it is impossible to come to terms with a human failure of such magnitude.  The exhibit, Srebrenica-Exhumation, opened June 2 at the OSA Archivum in Budapest.

The true scale and the predetermined and careful organization of the genocide are best revealed in the documents which have been produced as the result of the meticulous investigative work of police officers, homicide detectives, and federal agents employed by the Office of the Prosecutor of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  The map of war crimes created with the help of these “exhibits” provides compelling evidence as to the identity of the perpetrators and serves as a basis for their indictment and judgment. For example, part of the documents exhibited, including military orders, transcripts of intercepted radio communication, and fuel logs seized from various units of the Bosnian Serb Army, were used in the trial of General Radislav Krstic, the Commander of the Drina Corps, who was the first perpetrator in a Srebrenica-related ICTY case to be sentenced (to 35 years in prison) for aiding and abetting genocide. A precise yet somewhat detached analysis of documents and data, however, reveals that it is as important for the victims, who were given only codes and numbers in the various exhumation records, to regain their identities and have a proper burial and final rest.

Consequently, OSA’s reconstruction (see video) builds primarily on forensic reports, autopsies, military maps, site sketches and photos, aerial images from spy satellites, reflections of the investigators and forensic experts, testimonies by survivors and excerpts from films, which are presented partly in traditional forms and partly in computer installations in a reconstructed model of a mass grave, created with the tools of land art. The procedure is somewhat similar to that of a courtroom’s, where, as one observer noted, “The case is fleshed out with [documents], photographs taken from many angles and video evidence whose contemporaneous commentary is clinical and relentless.”

Additional archival sources offering an insight into the prehistory and afterlife of Srebrenica are also available: documents, books and audiovisual material from OSA’s extensive relevant collections are displayed for consultation in a research room attached to the main installation. Thus visitors, who wish to continue the exhumation by doing their own archival research, will become part of the exhibition themselves.  A series of carefully selected documentary films on Srebrenica are being screened in conjunction with the exhibition.

And this evidence continues to support the ongoing struggle towards justice: just this month two of Mladić’s high-ranking officers were convicted by the ICTY of genocide, extermination, murder and persecution, for their role in the Srebrenica massacre.

The exhibition runs until July 2, 2010.

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