1995 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Washington, DC
Wednesday, DECEMBER 6, 1995


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 Srebrenica.

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 rounded up.

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 truth.

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 there.

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 told me.

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 destroying evidence.

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 supportive.

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 questions.