The mass grave in Branjevo in north-eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the first five mass graves to be discovered almost a year after the war ended. It was found by the investigators from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia about 130 metres from the Branjevo Military Farm, where more than 1,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica were executed in July 1995.
It is а deep, primary grave on the edge of a large, cultivated field near the village of Pilica on the western side of the River Drina, across a bridge from neighbouring Serbia.
The area where the grave was found is now almost unrecognisable and difficult to find as it lies in the middle of a recently-built village, spread among private houses, agricultural fields and a small forest.
The Branjevo Military Farm building was also torn down after the war and the Bosnian Serb authorities built a new neighbourhood at the site with a church, private homes, shops and other buildings. The land originally belonged to the Agroprom company, but in 1994 it was requisitioned by the Bosnian Serb Army’s Zvornik Brigade to produce food for soldiers.
А preliminary reconnaissance of the area was conducted in April 1996, while autopsy examinations of victims were carried out in October that year.
It was found that the victims were killed away from the grave and subsequently placed in it. The wrists of 77 of them were bound. According to a forensic report compiled by Physicians for Human Rights, all the individuals found in the mass grave were dressed in civilian clothing with the exception of one person who was wearing military trousers.
Forensic reports and witness testimonies at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, including testimony from people who were part of the killing squads, confirmed that most of the victims found in Branjevo grave were killed at the Pilica Cultural Centre by Bosnian Serb forces in mid-July 1995.
After the fall of Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb forces, captured Bosniaks were brought by buses to Branjevo Military Farm for execution. Survivors described being led in groups to a meadow littered with corpses and told to turn their backs. On July 16, 1995, soldiers at Branjevo Military Farm were ordered to go some five kilometres east to the Pilica Cultural Centre to kill around 500 Bosniaks who were being detained there. Firing and explosions could also be heard that afternoon in Pilica itself, coming from the direction of the Cultural Centre. No one survived the execution. The inside of the Pilica Cultural Centre was described as having corpses “piled up on each other, just lying there scattered all over the place” and the bodies – two of which were female – were all wearing civilian clothes. The bodies were then buried at Branjevo Military Farm.
So far, the ICTY and domestic courts in the Balkans have sentenced a total of 47 people to more than 700 years in prison, plus five life sentences, for Srebrenica crimes.