Junio 18, 2007

Croatia: Operation Storm victims exhumed

18 June 2007 | 10:50 | Source: B92

ZAGREB, BELGRADE -- Exhumations have uncovered 160 ethnic Serb victims of the Croatian Army's Operation Storm in a mass grave in Petrinja.

Missing Persons Commission President Veljko Odalovic confirmed that there were both military and civilian victims of which 30 were women. Identification of the victims will begin shortly.

The grave is the largest known site of its kind in this region of Croatia. It contains the bodies of Serbs killed in August 1995.

"A lot depends on the quality of the samples we take. They are compared in the laboratory with the blood of the families of missing persons to see if they match, then we can say with 99.9 percent confidence that it is
the person in question," Odalovic said speaking about the identification process.

President of the Documentation and Information Center Veritas Savo Strbac said that Croatia purposely made the exhumation last longer than was necessary.

The grave site in Petrinja dates back to 1995, when the Croatian forces "sanitized the field" after conflicts had ended, moving the remains
to secondary graves in order to wait for the "right political climate"
to allow for the return of the remains to victims' families, he said.

Odalovic said that cooperation with the Croatian Commission for
Missing Persons finally gave some results and that he hoped the
ten remaining locations in the region will be investigated, adding that
he expected 500 more bodies will be found.

"Starting in the fall, we will work through the details with the Croatians. We will quickly begin investigations and agree on priorities," Odalovic said.

Although the exhumation was conducted on the request of the Hague Tribunal, the court has not indicted anyone in relation to the crimes committed against Serbs during Operation Storm in the regions of Banija and Kordun, the so-called Sector North.

Strbac said that this could be done by either the Serbian or Croatian
war crimes courts.

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