The mass grave in the Gorice neighbourhood of the Bosnian city of Brcko was found in 2006 and it is the largest clandestine gravesite in the area. The Gorice mass grave contained 277 human remains, according to the International Commission on Missing Persons. So far, 136 individuals have been identified from the remains that were exhumed.
The Gorice gravesite is located some ten kilometres north of the city, right on the banks of the River Sava. It is an abandoned field, marked with one plaque put up by locals, which says that remains of the Bosniaks and Croats killed in the area from 1992 to 1995 were found at the location.
It is a secondary grave, and was dug by Bosnian Serb forces in order to conceal the bodies of those killed around the Brcko area at the beginning of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and initially buried elsewhere. According to forensic reports, the mass grave was four metres deep.
From April 1992, Bosnian Serb forces fought to gain control over Brcko, which lies near the border with Croatia. With the assistance of local Serb authorities, Bosnian Serb troops expelled Croat and Bosniak residents from their homes and held them at detention centres where many were killed, tortured, beaten or otherwise mistreated.
Captives were illegally detained and abused at the Brcko police building, the local hospital, the Luka prison camp, the former Partizan sports building, and the Yugoslav People’s Army barracks. The crimes were committed by members of military, police and paramilitary forces.
Some of the executions were filmed by foreign journalists and caused worldwide condemnation. After that, the cover-up operation to hide victims’ bodies started.
Many court witnesses said that the bodies of those killed were transported from the detention centres to mass graves using trucks from the local Bimes meat factory. Near the factory, according to several witnesses, there was a primary mass grave used to dump the bodies during the early years of the war. Later, as the bodies started to pile up, they were dug up and re-buried in Gorice. Many witnesses also said a number of bodies were thrown into the River Sava.
Two Bosnian Serb fighters, Goran Jelisic and Ranko Cesic, pleaded guilty to crimes in Brcko at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Jelisic, who described himself as the ‘Serbian Adolf’, was a senior guard at the Luka detention camp. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, and the Hague court’s verdict described his behaviour as “repugnant, bestial and sadistic”. Cesic, who was a police officer, was sentenced to 18 years for murder and rape.
At the Bosnian state court, there is also an ongoing case against Djordje Ristanic, who was president of the Brcko wartime presidency and is charged with taking part in a joint criminal enterprise to persecute Bosniak and Croat civilians in the area from April to December 1992.
Ristanic is also charged with the rape and sexual abuse of both men and women at detention centres in Brcko and with the destruction of mosques in the area.