Photos of clothes, jewelry to help identify Srebrenica victims

SARAJEVO, Jun 14, 2000 -- (AFP) Photos of half-rotten clothes or jewelry found among the remains of 354 persons, believed to be Bosnian Muslims, executed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, were published here Tuesday in a bid to help families identify their relatives.

Almost five years after some 7,000 Bosnian Muslims went missing, following the capture of the town by Bosnian Serb forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a book containing over 1,700 photos of personal belongings of some of the victims.

The bodies were found left on the ground some 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of Srebrenica.

"We wish to present a new tool which aims at contributing to the efforts of clarifying the fate of persons unaccounted for", Balthasar Staehelin, the head of the ICRC delegation, told reporters at the book's presentation.

Besides half-rotten jackets, trousers and shoes, the book also contains photographs of wedding rings. Several damaged pictures of children at family gatherings are also included in the book.

"Although it is going to be very painful for mothers, sisters and wives of the victims to see these pictures, it will help them to spend the rest of their lives knowing the truth about their loved ones," Amor Masovic, the head of the commission for missing persons, told the press conference.

Masovic said that families' lives were being disturbed by false reports that their relatives were alive and being detained in prisons outside Bosnia.

"The rumors go as far as saying that Srebrenica men are been held in a prison in Siberia," he added.

Some 500 copies of the book will be distributed to Bosnian towns where the majority of Srebrenica survivors currently live. The families are to be assisted by a specially trained ICRC team.

Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, a former eastern Bosnian enclave, protected by a lightly armed UN Dutch battalion, in July 1995.

More than 7,000 men went missing believed executed following the fall of the town. The rest of its mainly Muslim population was expelled.

Last year, the United Nations partially admitted its responsibility for the Srebrenica tragedy, for playing a largely passive role in Bosnia's bloody 1992-95 war.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has indicted several Bosnian Serbs for war crimes committed in Srebrenica, including their war-time leader Radovan Karadzic, who is still at large.

Staehelin said that nearly 4,000 remains exhumed so far from mass graves or found on the ground in the Srebrenica region, are being stored in a morgue in northern city of Tuzla.

Only 76 remains have been identified so far, because of an expensive process of identification based on the analysis of samples taken from living relatives.

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