Carevo Polje is a primary mass grave located in the city of Jajce in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. The mass grave was discovered at the local graveyard and consisted of two pits a small distance from each other. The graves contained the remains of Bosnian Serb war victims from the municipality of Donji Vakuf. In 1998, the remains of 81 people were exhumed from the pits, including two children aged seven and nine. Twenty-one years later, in 2019, the remains of at least two people, believed to be Serbs killed in the 1992-95 war, were exhumed from another hidden grave in Carevo Polje.
The mass grave site remains unmarked. Families of the dead and war victims’ associations have been attempting to mark the murder site with a memorial plaque, but permission has not yet been granted by the municipality of Jajce.
In September 1995, Bosnian Croat troops attacked a convoy of Serb refugees from Donji Vakuf who were trying to escape to safety further north in the Serb-held city of Banja Luka, some 100 kilometres away by road. While the bus in which they were travelling was passing through the abandoned village of Bravnice, near the town of Jajce, it was attacked and 81 civilians were killed. Nine Bosnian Serb Army soldiers were also killed, police said, and a number of people were injured. Civilians who were captured in the ambush were taken to detention facilities.
The Hague Tribunal’s verdict acquitting Croatian Army generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac said that from September 8 to 15, 1995, the Croatian Army and Croatian Defence Council, HVO units, working with the Bosnian Army, conducted Operation Maestral with the aim of taking control over an area near the Bosnian towns of Drvar, Sipovo, Jajce, Bosanski Petrovac, Bosanska Krupa and Kljuc.
The verdict said that one of the units participating in Operation Maestral was the 4th Guards Brigade of the Croatian Army, commanded by general Damir Krsticevic, who later became Croatia’s defence minister and deputy prime minister from 2016 to 2020. Krsticevic has denied that the brigade was involved in the Bravnice ambush, insisting that it was at its headquarters in Split when the attack happened.
A survivor of the ambush in Bravnice, Nadezda Jankovic, insisted that the 4th Guards Brigade was involved in the attack. “Members of that army were in a trench, from where they attacked the bus and halted it, while the HVO members came from the other side, across the bridge, and they condemned the attack and offered help,” Jankovic told BIRN.
She said she saw soldiers in camouflage uniforms after the attack: “They went past us, laughing. They said they had butchered us well. There were also some soldiers who came up to us and dressed our wounds. Those soldiers had symbols of the HVO and a [Croat] checkered flag on their sleeves.”
No one has ever been charged with the killings in Bravnice. The Bosnian state prosecution has been conducting an investigation.