A mass grave was discovered in 2000 on the banks of the River Drina in the village of Slap, four kilometres from the town of Zepa and 50 kilometres from the city of Visegrad.
A total of 124 bodies and one body part were discovered at the site, which was exhumed in October 2000 by the Bosnian Missing Persons Commission and named Slap 1. A second grave, named Slap 2, was found a few kilometres downstream, where a further seven bodies were buried. To this day a total of 119 people were identified.
Information about the location of the gravesite was given by one of the local Bosniak men who buried the bodies, which were retrieved from the River Drina after they floated downstream from the direction of Visegrad.
From mid-May 1992 to 1995, local residents in Slap saw hundreds of bodies floating down the river from the direction of Visegrad. In order to retrieve the bodies, they usually used rowing boats to pull them to the riverbank. One of the local men, Mevsud Poljo, told the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY that he buried more than 150 bodies on the riverbank.
Before burying the bodies, locals would search for any identification documents and write down the description of the victims’ clothes and other details. When they first started to discover the bodies, they would contact the local police in the town of Rogatica and a forensic team would come and inspect the bodies. Later on, as the war progressed, with electricity and telephone lines not working, it was not possible to inform the police any more. Bodies that were deemed to have decomposed too much to retrieve were left in the river.
Autopsies conducted by the International Commission on Missing Persons confirmed that in most of the cases, the cause of death was gunshots. Eighty-seven per cent of the bodies were Bosniak men, with a smaller proportion of women. The majority were aged between 30 and 60, but one victim was a child who was between seven and 12 years old at the time of death. In a number of cases, ligatures were found with the bodies. Many of the bodies had blunt force traumas – injuries caused by beating before death.
Today the Slap 1 gravesite is marked with a memorial plaque which was installed by the local community.
Each year in June, victims’ families and missing persons associations commemorate the wartime killings of 3,000 people in the Visegrad area with a ceremony at which they throw roses into the River Drina.
Nineteen people have so far been convicted of committing war crimes in the Visegrad area by the ICTY, the Bosnian state court and the Sarajevo Cantonal Court. Of these 19 war criminals, nine were convicted of rape and sexual abuse. A further 12 suspects are currently on trial at the Bosnian state court, and five more at Belgrade Higher Court in Serbia.
Those who have been convicted have so far were given a total of 246 years in prison, while Milan Lukic, who was the leader of the White Eagles or Avengers, a Bosnian Serb paramilitary group, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the ICTY for participating in the murders and expulsions of Bosniak civilians in Visegrad in 1992 and 1993. The Bosnian prosecution has subsequently charged Lukic with crimes against passengers kidnapped from a train at Strpci railway station in February 1993 and then killed.
According to the Bosnian Missing Persons Institute, 920 people went missing from the Visegrad area during the war, and the remains of 445 of them have been found and identified so far.