Michael Dobbs

Inside the machinery of genocide

In my last post, I published an overhead photograph of several hundred Muslim prisoners in a field at a place called Nova Kasaba in Bosnia, and posed a question: what happened to these people? The answer to that question is contained in the photograph above:  the vast majority of the men photographed by an American ...

International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia

In my last post, I published an overhead photograph of several hundred Muslim prisoners in a field at a place called Nova Kasaba in Bosnia, and posed a question: what happened to these people? The answer to that question is contained in the photograph above:  the vast majority of the men photographed by an American spy satellite around 14:00 on July 13 ended up in mass graves, like the one above at Branjevo Military Farm. 

By coincidence, a survivor from Branjevo testified on Thursday at the Yugoslav war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic. He appeared as a “protected witness” under the codename KDZ-333. Cross-examined by the former Bosnian Serb president, KDZ-333  said he was somewhere in the middle of the crowd in the American intelligence photo.  Before nightfall on July 13, buses arrived to collect the prisoners, who were ambushed by Serb forces after fleeing the United Nations “safe area” of Srebrenica.   The prisoners were taken to the town of Bratunac, where they spent the night in the buses.

The following morning, KDZ-333 testified, his group of prisoners was taken to an elementary school near the village of Pilica, thirty miles north of Bratunac.  They were herded into a gym where they were robbed of their remaining money and valuables.  Some prisoners were taken out and shot.  After two nights in the gym, they were driven to the Branjevo farm, where they were lined up in front of a pre-dug grave and shot on July 16, 1995.  KDZ-333 says that the bullets passed between his body and his arm, which is how he survived.

Other groups of prisoners were taken in buses to the same general area around the town of Zvornik, and detained in local schools.  After one or two days in detention, they were taken to execution sites nearby that were later identified through a combination of eyewitness testimony and American reconnaissance photographs. I have plotted these execution sites, associated detention sites, and embedded reconnaissance imagery on the Google Earth map below. You can use the controls at the top right hand side of the gadget to explore the area in depth.

Red icons on the map identify the execution sites; the blue icons mark the schools where the prisoners were detained. Click on any of the icons for further details. Double click any of the red icons in to discover overlays of the declassified American spy imagery used to locate the sites.  Single click any of the blue icons to see photographs of the schools where the prisoners were detained.

One of the overhead reconnaissance images, which shows the Branjevo military farm the day after the executions, is posted below.

 Twitter: @michaeldobbs

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