Bosnia prepares mass funeral of Srebrenica victims

AP News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2011 11:15 AM
Bosnia prepares mass funeral of Srebrenica victims

Gravediggers and morgue workers are working overtime this week to prepare a funeral for hundreds of victims of the Srebrenica massacre whose remains were found in mass graves and identified through DNA analysis.

The funeral next Monday, at which 613 identified bodies will be laid to rest, will be part of commemorations on the 16th anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

"It's crazy here these days," said morgue employee Dzevad Beba, who makes sure the right name is tagged to the right coffin.

The victims were among over 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the eastern enclave of Srebrenica who were systematically executed after Serb forces overran the town on July 11, 1995 in the climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war that claimed 100,000 lives. An international court later labeled the killings a genocide.

The bodies of the victims were plowed into hastily made mass graves from which they have been exhumed over the years and identified through DNA analysis.

Once identified, the bodies are brought every year to the morgue in the central Bosnian town of Visoko where they are put in coffins and tagged.

The Visoko morgue was built before the war to accommodate 20 bodies. But weeks before the annual Srebrenica funeral, hundreds of coffins, wrapped in green cloth, are stacked up in almost all of the rooms and hallways of the facility.

This year, the tag on one coffin reads "Hakija Gabeljic 1969-1995. To be laid to rest at parcel 11, grave 7, Potocari, Srebrenica."

That's the pit morgue employee Nermin Gabeljic is personally digging for his nephew at the memorial center in Potocari, near Srebrenica, where identified victims are laid to rest every year.

"I dig here every year and this year I dug pits for four of my nephews and other relatives," said Gabeljic, leaning on his shovel as he took a break from digging among the sea of white gravestones.

Some 4,000 massacre victims have so far been buried at the center over the years.

"I'm glad I can contribute somehow," he said. "To be here, to meet the dead, to bury them and give them a dignified farewell as they go to heaven."