THE HAGUE | 24.06.2015.

HUNDREDS OF ‘GROUPS’ IN TOMASICA MASS GRAVES

Forensic archaeologist Ian Hanson attended the exhumations of bodies from the Tomasica mass grave on behalf of the International Commission of Missing Persons. In his evidence at Ratko Mladic's trial, Hanson noted that 401 ‘groups’ of victim remains in civilian clothing were recovered at that location in 2013. Twelve years earlier, at least 298 bodies were exhumed at a nearby location of Jakarina Kosa. The bodies in Jakarina Kosa had been transferred to that location from Tomasica

After two fact witnesses whose evidence was heard almost entirely in closed session, the prosecution continued its short case on the Tomasica mass grave with the evidence of British professor of forensic archaeology Ian Hanson. As the deputy director for forensic sciences, archaeology and anthropology in the International Commission of Missing Persons, Hanson attended the exhumations of bodies in Tomasica from 4 September to 20 December 2013.

In addition to the witness and other staff from his organization, the exhumations were attended by the representatives from the BH war crimes prosecution office, crime technicians from Prijedor, medical examiners from Tuzla and staff from the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tomasica is part of the Ljubija iron mine complex in Prijedor. In the four months of exhumations in 2013, three graves were discovered there. The biggest grave is three meters deep on the average, 18 meters long and 10 meters wide. A total of 265 bodies, 95 body parts and 10 loose bones were found in the main grave. If we add to this the remains exhumed from two smaller graves, a total of 401 ‘groups’ of remains were recovered at the site: 275 complete bodies, 102 body parts and 24 bags of remains.

The prosecution has previously stated that the remains belong to the civilians killed in 1992 in the villages near Prijedor and in the Keraterm and Omarska prison camps. Hanson didn’t speak about identities of the victims: he was involved only in the exhumations and had nothing to do with the DNA analysis that followed. Hanson was only able to say that all bodies were dressed in civilian clothes. No uniform parts or items implying that the victims had been soldiers were discovered in the graves, Hanson explained.

Based on Hanson's testimony, it would seem that the operation to bury the bodies was well-organized. It was quite apparent that construction machinery had been used. Bodies were brought in immediately after death. They were promptly put in the pits and covered with soil. There were at least four ‘periods of activity’: this means that the graves were dug up at least four times.

The analysis of pupae and insects found in the mass grave point to the conclusion that the bodies were buried between April and September, Hanson explained. He was unable to pinpoint the year. The prosecution alleges that the year is 1992.

There were indications that there was a mass grave in Tomasica as early as in 2002. The OTP investigators were present when the ground was probed on 2002. As the witness explained today, the probes didn’t go deep enough and there were no results. Some bodies were found there between 2004 and 2006, but there were no major discoveries. Hanson noted today that a mass grave with at least 298 bodies was found in Jakarina Kosa in 2001. When the remains were matched later, it was determined that the Jakarina Kosa was in fact a secondary grave containing the bodies that had initially been buried in Tomasica.

In the second part of the hearing, Mladic’s defense began cross-examining the witness.