The stark transformation of Bosnian massacre grave sites

Nearly a year after 8,000 Muslims were systematically extinguished by Serbs in the “safe haven” of Srebrenica in 1995, investigators began the grotesque process of exhuming mass graves. On the 20th anniversary of the genocide, the search for the final undiscovered graves continues. 

The United Nations designated six Muslim towns in Bosnia as “safe havens” as violence between Serbs and Muslims escalated in the wake of the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the mid 1990s. But as the West failed to actually defend these areas, Serbs easily swept in on July 11, 1995. They herded and sorted Muslim men into warehouses for slaughter.

Last month, Reuters photographer Dado Ruvic traveled to many of the former mass graves where bodies were dumped. He found that many were overgrown, some scattered with trash and shards of glass. The sites are unassuming, but a sinister history lurks below the grassy surfaces. “Even though it happened 20 years ago, the wounds are still raw,” Ruvic said in an e-mail. 

Ruvic spoke with victims who were torn from their families, including one woman who found two of her husband’s bones and whose son is still missing. 

The hardest part wasn’t hearing these stories, because as a photojournalist I am very used to dealing with death and destruction. It was seeing the pain, sorrow, anger and crushed hope in people’s eyes,” Ruvic said.