After 17 years, the man accused of the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II -- the 1995 massacre of at least 7,000 mostly men and boys taken from the U.N. "safe zone" in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war -- is finally facing an international court for his alleged crimes. The charges against Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, include 2 separate counts of genocide for his part on a war that left over 100,000 people dead. The capture of the man known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" was considered so critical that it became a precondition for Serbia's entry into the European Union.
The question of what exactly happened at Srebrenica -- and who is to blame -- is still controversial after nearly two decades. For years, even the location of the bodies of many of the men and boys was unknown. In preparation for the trial, which begins this week at the Hague, I have spent the last eight months investigating the events of the days surrounding the killing of thousands. This project, a partnership between the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Foreign Policy, has led to an in-depth exploration of where Mladic was during the killings, one of the key questions that both sides of the case will try to answer during the trial, which will be presided over by Judge Alphons Orie. Here, I'll share some of what I've discovered about the critical four days when the executions were carried out.
The above photograph shows the body of a Muslim man from Srebrenica that was recovered from the Kozluk mass grave site next to the Drina River, which forms much of the border between modern-day Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. As you can see from the markings on the photo, there is convincing evidence that this man was executed.