Legacy website of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Since the ICTY’s closure on 31 December 2017, the Mechanism maintains this website as part of its mission to preserve and promote the legacy of the UN International Criminal Tribunals.

 Visit the Mechanism's website.

The 1997 exhumations program commences in Brcko.

Press Release

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 29 July 1997

The 1997 exhumations program commences in Brcko

A Forensic team from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has commenced its 1997 exhumation program at a site in Brcko.

Members of the OTP forensic team have been present at the site for four weeks carrying out preliminary tasks. These tasks included a survey of the site for the presence of mines and unexploded ordinance and removal of an extremely large amount of rubble.

Human remains are now being removed however, for reasons of security at the site and not to prejudice ongoing investigations no further details concerning the remains can be released at this time.

The OTP forensic team consists of approximately 25 members including archaeologists, anthropologists, pathologists and logistic support personnel. Once exhumations at this site are completed the team will move to other sites. The location of these will be made public in due course.

The exhumation in light of the "Brcko indictment"

Photographs of this site first appeared in Time Magazine on 29 January 1996. This grave is related to the indictment issued on 21 July 1995 against Goran Jelisic and Ranko Cesic in connection with the confinement and the systematic killings of hundreds of Muslim and Croat men from Brcko at the Luka camp. Goran Jelisic was allegedly the commander of the Luka Camp and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Ranko Cesic allegedly held a position of authority at the Luka camp, and is charged with crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

It is believed that the exhumation of this site will provide corroborative evidence of the crimes alleged in the indictment. This exhumation and the subsequent post mortem examinations will enable the Office of the Prosecutor to establish manner and cause of death of the victims interred.

Through this exhumation, the OTP will also be seeking to gather evidence

for other ongoing investigations concerning alleged serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in this area.

Others involved

The authorities of Republika Srspka have been informed of the operation and invited to observe the exhumation.

The Stabilization international Forces (S-For) will assist by providing a secure environment for the exhumation team.


The funding requirements of the OTP for its 1997 exhumations program total $ 2,200.000. To date 50% of this sum has been raised through generous contributions from the following States: Austria, Canada, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Funding to complete the exhumation programme for 1997 is urgently needed and is still being sought from donors.

Background information on the 1996 exhumations

Between July and November 1996, a team of OTP Forensic experts exhumed five mass graves sites in the former Yugoslavia.

Four of these graves were in Bosnia (Cerska, Nova Kasaba, Lazete and Pilica) and were linked to massacres allegedly committed by elements of the Bosnian Serb army and forces following the take-over of the Srebrenica enclave in July 1995. Over 450 bodies were recovered from these four graves.

The fifth grave exhumed was located at the Ovcara farm near the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar, which fell to the Yugoslav People Army in late 1991. A total of 200 bodies were recovered from this grave, allegedly civilians removed from the Vukovar hospital and executed at Ovcara following the capture of the city.

Following the completion of each exhumation, all bodies were autopsied by a team of pathologists to determine the cause and manner of death and the demographic profile of the victims. Evidence of personal identification was also collected. At the completion of the autopsies, all remains and personal effects were returned to the relevant government officials for the ongoing identification process and return of remains to families.

The majority of the 650 victims recovered died from multiple gunshot wounds. Some were found with their hands bound and a number had been blindfolded prior to execution.

General information on the exhumation purposes

The OTP conducts an exhumation at alleged grave sites where it is believed that significant evidence can be obtained to support indictments issued, or alternatively to provide evidence in support of future indictments. Such results, in particular, help corroborate eyewitness testimony.

The OTP also endeavours to corroborate other evidence as to how the bodies came to be interred, the number of bodies, the manner and cause of death, age, sex and civilian or military status of the victims.

Identification of the human remains is currently pursued to the extent that it assists in establishing the above.

Note on the media policy

No access to the site will be granted to media representatives.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

For more information, please contact our Media Office in The Hague
Tel.: +31-70-512-8752; 512-5343; 512-5356 Fax: +31-70-512-5355 - Email:
press [at] icty.org ()