MASS GRAVES AND OTHER ATROCITIES IN BOSNIA
US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Wednesday, DECEMBER 6, 1995
STATEMENT OF DAVID ROHDE
Mr. ROHDE. Thank you for inviting me here. I want to
say at the start that I am just here to present the
evidence I found at the sites; as far as policy matters go,
I will not be discussing them. I'm just here basically to
present evidence. I'm here as a journalist to present
what's public information, and that's all.
I would just like to make a short statement, and then
I'll step over to the side to use the different visuals.
Basically, over the course of a 3-month investigation, the
Christian Science Monitor was able to visit four of six
possible mass graves identified by U.S. intelligence around
Srebrenica; was able to find nine credible survivors of
mass executions; and found the combined evidence, those
eyewitness accounts, and also the evidence that was found
on the ground at these sites that indicates that at least
2,000 to 3,000 civilians were summarily executed by the
Bosnian Serbs in around a week after the July 11 fall of
The evidence also indicates that Ratko Mladic was
present at least at four of the execution sites hours
before the shooting began, and there's also evidence that
forces from Serbia-whether they were regular military or
irregulars is unclear-were involved in the attack.
According to experts I've spoken to in the region,
President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, due to the size of
this attack and even the size of the operation involved in
the executions, probably knew that these executions were
going on, but apparently did nothing to stop them. I just
want to step over to the side now.
Chairman SMITH. While you're walking over, Mr. Hoyer
and I are very pleased that you were released.
Mr. ROHDE. So am I.
Chairman SMITH. As you know, this Commission is
probably one of the most bipartisan groups in the House and
acted in that way, as we always do, asking for your
release. I'm just very happy that you're out unscathed.
Mr. ROHDE. I am, too, and I'd like to thank the U.S.
Government for the efforts they made to get me out. I
appreciate it. Hopefully, the evidence I found will lead to
justice being done in this whole issue.
I'll just start chronologically and try to keep this
short. If you want to interrupt me for questions, that's
fine. The first thing I did was in August. It was August
16. It was about 10 days after these two satellite photos
were released by the U.S. Government. [See Exhibits 1 and
2.] I was allowed into Bosnian Serb territory to do regular
reporting and luckily was not, as is usually the case,
given an escort. You have to have a Bosnian Serb guide
travel with you and control where you go. I didn't have
that, and I was able to go to these sites.
I first went to the lower photograph, and I was able
to find these two documents here on the bottom right. [See
Exhibit 3]. One of them is an elementary school diploma
that belongs to a young man named Smajic Murat. It's an old
diploma. The first place I went was this grave, this area
right here. I found these two documents here on my right.
The first document I found was this piece of paper here,
notes from a town meeting that was held inside the
Srebrenica enclave. It's dated here-you can make out the
numbers-14.03.1995, which would be March 14, 1995. The
meeting took place in Potocari, a village inside Srebrenica
where the U.N. base was.
I later found people who thought they had attended
this meeting. The town meeting was about how to get some
retarded children some help from international aid agencies
and about civil defense. I found the notes right here. This
was a pit that had been dug but not filled in. The paper
was sitting right on the edge. I don't know if possibly one
of the victims maybe threw it out of his pocket. It's not
clear to me.
Farther down here closer to the large area of fresh
digging, I found the diploma, again, that belonged to Murat
Smajic. I was able then to go to refugee camps and find,
unfortunately, Smajic Murat's brother. It's actually Murat
Smajic. The names are reversed there. His brother told me
that he, Murat Smajic, his brother, and father had all been
walking together among this group of 10,000 military-aged
men that Mr. Lupis talked about.
There was an ambush, and they were separated. At this
point, Murat Smajic is still missing. The reaction of his
family members was that they assumed he was dead. Again,
the importance of the evidence is that it linked Muslims
from Srebrenica to these sites.
There was one other thing I found here. These bottom
graves are about 100 to 200 yards from this area, and
walking in this area, I found here, sticking out of this
area, was a decomposed human leg. I found that.
The key thing about this site is the size of these
graves. The descriptions given by the survivors, especially
the man that Human Rights Watch spoke to, all fit the size
of these pits. This was along this paved road right here.
The road was crucial for Muslims to cross if they
wanted to make it to Muslim-held central Bosnia, and it
seems it was here that the Bosnian Serb forces set up. They
had APCs patrolling this road and another road in the area,
and they set up basically a killing ground where any
Muslims trying to cross this area would be caught and
And one last crucial bit of evidence: there was
another photograph that the United States did not release
publicly of a soccer field that was about a half-mile away.
I went to that soccer field. There are two men who were
survivors of other executions that were taken to the soccer
field. They, without my telling them, accurately described
every detail of this field. There's no doubt in my mind
they were there. Everything from the size of the field, the
buildings around it, to the kind of trees that surround it-
there's no question in my mind that they're telling the
What they told me was that Ratko Mladic addressed as
many as 1,000 to 2,000 prisoners at that field and told
them that they would not be harmed, that they were going to
be exchanged for prisoners, and they'd be returned to their
families. Those men were then taken away-here's Srebrenica.
This is the area I was talking about, what you could
call the killing ground. It was just crucial that anyone
who wanted to make it into government territory had to
cross through this area, and the main column of men moved
up through here. There are other survivors I spoke to who
talked of massacres in this area. In this area, there are
other graves. There's a grave here and another grave here
that have been identified by U.S. intelligence, and again,
these are the two that I visited in August.
The men that were gathered at this soccer field were
then taken-and Mr. Lupis referred to this-to Bratunac by
bus and held there overnight. This is important because it
indicates premeditation. They were then held there
overnight and then taken farther north, if you can see the
smaller map, up to the Karakaj area.
Once they arrived in Karakaj, they said they were held
in a school in the Karakaj area. I visited the Nova Kasaba
site in August. I was able to find nine survivors in
September, and then on October 29 went back and was able to
get to the Karakaj area, which appears to be one of the
larger sites. This is where the men were taken. It was the
evening of Friday, July 14, according to the survivors,
when the executions were carried out at two sites there.
I was able to visit both sites around Karakaj and
found evidence of executions at both places. The most
damning evidence was near a village called Sahanici.
Everything about this site fits the description that
survivors gave. The account that Mr. Lupis read-the young
man who talked about two execution sites, firing going on
about 100 yards away, and digging going on at both sites-
well, I found two areas here and here of fresh digging.
This is just a graphic that the Monitor put together.
The survivors all described driving 2 or 3 minutes.
Two or 3 minutes away, I found a school that exactly fit
the descriptions of the survivors. I actually have a sketch
that one of them drew for me of the layout of the school.
This is a notebook I used at the time. I found this school.
It's a distinctive school in that it has a room added to
the side and a concrete playground just outside of it.
The prisoners were taken to that room and blindfolded
there and then loaded onto trucks in the parking lot.
There's a house next to it where they described a woman
watching them. This is also the school where Ratko Mladic
was seen addressing the troops. A young boy actually
watched me take pictures of this school, the same house,
and later on, when my film was developed by the Bosnian
Serb police, they told me that this school was a military
installation and that I should not have been taking
pictures of it. It appeared to be beat up and not being
used. Again, the fact they say themselves it's a military
installation adds credibility to the survivors' accounts.
One of the survivors from there also told me that the
men who were taken here were the elderly men who went to
the U.N. in Srebrenica and asked for help, but were instead
marched away by the Bosnian Serb soldiers. The U.N.-the
peacekeepers-did nothing to stop them.
In this area, along with the fresh digging, I found
shoes, socks, and different civilian clothes spread across
the areas of fresh digging. There's a railroad track
separating the two. The survivors described its being
adjacent to a railroad track. And the most damning evidence
I found was here in the woods, about 50 feet away. It was a
pile of clothing. I found at least 100 civilian jackets
Inside the pockets of the jackets I found two IDs. One
had a Muslim name on it, and one was from Srebrenica. I
think the most chilling evidence was in that pile: I also
found three canes and one crutch, and that corroborates the
account of a survivor who said he was taken there along
with the old men from Potocari. This is a man who can
barely walk. He badly damaged his leg in an accident.
Also, survivors described being forced to take their
jackets off before they were executed at the school. So all
together, it paints a grim picture. There were tracks of
heavy vehicles repeatedly coming up to the area. Just
everything about this site exactly fits what the describers
Again, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military
commander, was seen at this school by these three survivors
who described everything to me accurately. He spoke to
prisoners and told them they would not be harmed. His car
pulled up right here near the railroad tracks, and he
watched these executions carried out.
Again, everything else these survivors told me matched
perfectly to what I found. I have a couple of other things.
and then I will just sit back down.
I'm sorry. One thing I forgot to mention was that I
was able to get pictures, but my film was seized. I took
pictures of that area, the mass grave there. It appears
large enough. According to U.S. intelligence analysts, the
two graves at Nova Kasaba are large enough to hold
approximately 600 bodies.
The grave I found near Karakaj was slightly larger. I
would guess it can hold 800 bodies, and I was able to carry
out these items I found in the jackets. I told my Bosnian
Serb captors that these were my handkerchiefs and combs.
You're free to look at these. Unfortunately, they're not
very damning evidence, but it was all I was able to bring
out. They took everything else from me.
There are just a couple last points I wanted to make.
There is evidence that at least one of the six sites that
the United States knows about is one I have not visited,
that the Bosnian Serbs are digging it up. U.S. intelligence
said this last month. They have aerial photos of backhoes
being in the area digging it up, taking out some kind of
material, which could be bodies, and there's a possibility
the Bosnian Serbs are pouring acid onto the bodies and
According to the current peace deal, human rights
investigators and especially investigators from the War
Crimes Tribunal have access to all these areas, and U.S.
troops have the right to use force to go into these areas.
One last thing I'd like to say about being held by the
Bosnian Serbs: some of my Serb captors were very kind to
me, some were not. One night I was not allowed to sleep,
and they were convinced I was a spy. Others were very
It was very clear to me from the prisoners and the
guards I talked to that most Serbs don't believe that these
massacres happened. They believe the line of the Bosnian
Serb authorities that these are soldiers that were killed.
Again, I saw no evidence of any fighting going on in these
areas, and especially the site in Karakaj is 10 to 15 miles
from the main escape route Muslims would have used from
Srebrenica. So there's no explanation for these graves
existing in that area.
I think it's crucial that what happened there be
proven one way or another. The Bosnian Serbs may be right,
and these may be soldiers, but the evidence indicates
otherwise. With the peace agreement, there are guarantees
that more investigations can go on, and I hope that the
evidence I found will hopefully lead us to find out exactly
what happened in Srebrenica.
Chairman SMITH. Mr. Rohde, thank you very much for
your testimony and for your obvious bravery in going out to
those areas, recovering that information, and then making
it known at great risk to yourself, as the situation
certainly proved when you were arrested.
I'd like just to note that Mr. Zeliff has joined our
panel; fellow Commissioner Mr. Porter; chairman of the
International Relations Committee Ben Gilman; and Mr.
Moran. I'd like to ask our third and final witness, Dr.
Wolf, if she would present her testimony before we go to
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR