The Piljak mass grave was discovered and exhumed in 2001, at Mount Malusa, 29 kilometres from the town of Foca in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amor Masovic, the head of the country’s Missing Persons Commission, received an anonymous letter informing him that the bodies of 80 Bosniaks from Foca were buried there.
The letter was handwritten and said: “Mr. Masovic, I want to inform you that in 1992, 80 Muslim camp inmates were thrown in the Piljak Pit.” It said they had been taken from the KP Dom detention camp. It was signed “a Serb from Foca”.
The remains of 62 people were found at the bottom of the pit, all of them civilians. Pieces of rope found at the site showed that they had been tied up before the killings. The empty ammunition shells found around the pit indicated that the victims were brought there alive and executed at the site.
The pit is 33 metres deep and located on a slope which has no path leading to it. Documents that were discovered during the exhumation confirmed that the victims were last seen at the KP Dom detention camp in Foca.
The location of the mass grave is unmarked and not easily approachable, hidden deep among the forests of Mount Malusa.
In April 1992, Bosnian Serb forces occupied Foca and surrounding areas populated by Bosniaks. The takeover was followed by a widespread campaign of destruction, murder and terror against non-Serbs.
The Bosnian Serbs established the Crisis Committee, which set up a network of detention centres, where non-Serb civilians were detained, tortured, raped and were either expelled, killed or went missing. The businesses and properties of non-Serbs were expropriated or destroyed.
Bosniaks and other non-Serb men were unlawfully detained from April 1992 at the KP Dom detention facility where they were tortured, beaten and otherwise mistreated. One man who was detained at KP Dom for more than six months told campaign group Human Rights Watch: “During April and May , they brought around 600 men to KP Dom. Around 400 of them were taken away and ‘disappeared’.” Men were also taken away at night and tortured by the guards and military police, he added.
Milorad Krnojelac, who was the commander of KP Dom, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for torture, murder, persecution and cruel treatment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He was granted early release in 2009.
Three former interrogators and police guards identified by witnesses, Miodrag Koprivica, Miro Burilo and Slavko Koroman, were never indicted and continued to work as police officers in Foca.