Lazete 1 (also known as Orahovac 1) is a primary mass grave located 12 kilometres north-west of the city of Zvornik, near the village of Orahovac. The Lazete 1 gravesite was first investigated in 1998 as part of Srebrenica cases and exhumed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY between July 13 and August 3, 2000.
Aerial photos show that the ground in Orahovac was disturbed between July 5 and 27, 1995 and again between September 7 and 27, 1995. Another primary mass grave was also found in the area, which was named Lazete 2 by ICTY investigators.
Forensic investigations showed that the gravesite was disturbed, bodies were dug up and moved to other locations in an attempt to hide the crime. It has been estimated that a total of 195 bodies were originally in the grave, and approximately 68 were removed. Strips of material tied around the head or placed over the face were recovered from 89 human remains and were probably used as blindfolds. Forensic analyses of soil/pollen samples, blindfolds, ligatures, shell cases and aerial images of creation/disturbance dates further revealed that bodies from the Lazete 1 and Lazete 2 graves were removed and reburied at secondary graves named Hodzici Road 3, 4 and 5 some ten kilometres away.
The Lazete 1 location is now an ordinary field, unmarked, with a house in ruins in the middle of the field. The main road is on the right side and on the left there’s a lane that leads to the underpass and the other gravesite, Lazete 2. Where the two roads meet, there’s a drinking fountain. One of the witnesses to the crime, a member of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Zvornik Engineering Brigade, recalled seeing dead bodies while going to get water in between breaks from digging the mass grave.
The victims who were buried at Lazete-1 had been part of a larger group of Bosniaks who were held overnight in the town of Bratunac and were then sent in a convoy of 30 buses to the Grbavci school in Orahovac in the early morning of July 14, 1995. When they arrived, the school gym was already half-full of prisoners who had been brought in since the early morning. ICTY testimony suggests there may have been around 1,000 people detained in the school, while survivors estimated that there were around 2,000. Some of the prisoners were taken outside and killed. One witness said that Ratko Mladic arrived on the day on which there were executions outside the school.
The ICTY found that in the late evening of July 13, 1995 and during the day on July 14, Drago Nikolic and Milorad Trbic, working together with personnel from the Military Police Company of the Zvornik Brigade and Military Police Platoon of the Bratunac Brigade, under the supervision of Vujadin Popovic and Ljubisa Beara and under orders from their superior command, including the Deputy Commander of the Zvornik Brigade, Dragan Obrenovic, organised and facilitated the transportation of hundreds of Bosniak males from in and around Bratunac to the Grbavci School in Orahovac, with knowledge that those prisoners were to be collected and summarily executed.
In the early afternoon of July 14, 1995, Zvornik Brigade personnel under the supervision of Nikolic and Trbic then transported the prisoners from the Grbavci School in Orahovac to execution sites less than one kilometre away, where they were lined up and shot in the back by personnel including members of the 4th Battalion of the Zvornik Brigade. Those who survived the initial gunfire were killed with an extra shot. Two adjacent meadows were used; once one was full of bodies, the executioners moved to the other. While the executions were in progress, earth-moving equipment was already digging the graves, survivors said. A protected ICTY witness codenamed Witness N, who survived the shootings by pretending to be dead, reported that Mladic drove up in a red car and watched some of the executions.
Nikolic accompanied the trucks to and from the execution field on several occasions, while Trbic personally executed several of the victims himself. Approximately 1,000 Bosniak men were killed. On July 14 and 15, 1995, members of the Zvornik Brigade Engineering Company used heavy equipment to bury the victims in mass graves at the execution site.
The ICTY’s trial chamber found Radislav Krstic, the Deputy Commander and Chief-of-Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Drina Corps, guilty of genocide – its fisrt verdict establishing that genocide was committed against Bosniaks from Srebrenica. He was sentenced to 46 years in prison although the sentence was subsequently shortened to 35 years.
The ICTY also found that Ljubisa Beara, the chief of security of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Main Staff, was told to organise, coordinate and facilitate the detention, transportation, summary execution and burial of the Bosniak victims murdered at Orahovac. Beara was assisted by, among others, Vujadin Popovic, Drago Nikolic and Milorad Trbic.
Beara, Popovic, Nikolic and Trbic were found to have supervised, facilitated and overseen the Orahovac executions, and the ICTY convicted them of genocide. Vidoje Blagojevic, commander of the Bratunac Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for aiding and abetting the murder and persecution of Bosniaks in the Srebrenica area, as well as aiding and abetting the murder of Bosniaks in Bratunac. Dragan Jokic, chief of engineering of the Zvornik Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, was sentenced to nine years in prison for the murders of Bosniaks in Orahovac, at the Branjevo Military Farm in Pilica and in Kozluk, and for providing engineering resources and personnel to dig mass graves for the executed victims.
Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment under a first-instance verdict for the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, among other crimes.