Lake Perucac is an artificial lake on the Drina River, bordering both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and lying between the city of Visegrad on the Bosnian side and the town of Bajina Basta on the Serbian side. The location was used for the disposal of corpses during both world wars, as well as during the 1990s conflicts.
So far, the remains of 238 people who died in the 1990s wars have been identified in Lake Perucac, after being killed either by the Bosnian Serb Army or the Yugoslav Army and police. Some of the victims whose bodies have been found in the lake were killed in Srebrenica, Zvornik and Visegrad during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while 84 of the bodies were those of victims of the 1998-99 war in Kosovo.
The location of the mass grave is unmarked, and Lake Perucac is a popular tourist destination with summer houses, restaurants, cafes and water sports facilities. The artificial lake was created in 1966 to serve the needs of the hydroelectric power plant in Bajina Basta, a town some 13 kilometers away.
The first exhumations of bodies at the lake were carried out by the International Commission on Missing Persons in September 2001, when the remains of ethnic Albanian victims from Kosovo were found.
A decade later, after the site was re-examined after a request from the Institute for Missing Persons of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Working Group for Missing Persons in Pristina, there were more excavations, during which the remains of mostly Bosniak victims killed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina were found.
In 2013, even more human remains were found after the authorities lowered the level of the lake.
The remains of 10 children have been found at this lake, of whom the youngest, a boy named Haris Podzic, was three-and-a-half years old. The remains of 40 women have also been found, most of them from the city of Visegrad.
Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY described the atrocities committed in Visegrad during the Bosnian war as one of the “most notorious campaigns for the deportation of Bosniaks”. Most of the bodies were thrown into the River Drina, but the current washed them into the lake.
The bodies of people killed in the Kosovo war were dumped directly into the lake. After some of the corpses started floating near the dam of the hydroelectric power plant in Lake Perucac, Vlastimir Djordjevic, a high-ranking Serbian Interior Ministry official, said that “measures should be taken to clear up the terrain”. This was followed by a secret state operation to move the corpses from the water to a mass grave on the shore.
The operation was carried out by Interior Ministry operatives including Djordjevic who was later sentenced to 18 years in prison by the ICTY.
Several other people have been prosecuted by the ICTY for crimes related to the mass grave at the lake. The tribunal sentenced Mitar Vasiljevic, a former member of the White Eagles paramilitary group, to 15 years in prison for crimes committed in the area. It also sentenced Milan and Sredoje Lukic, both former leaders of the same paramilitary group, to life imprisonment and 30 years in prison respectively.