The mass grave is located in Vukovar’s New Cemetery in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar. It was exhumed in 1998 and the remains of 938 bodies were found, of which 859 have been identified. It is the biggest wartime mass grave in Croatia.
The bodies found in this mass grave are believed to be those of people killed during the three-month siege of Vukovar in 1991 by the Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbian paramilitaries and after the town fell, but also those of people who died of natural causes due to difficulties getting medical treatment when the town was under Serb control.
The place where the mass grave was found is now the Memorial Cemetery of the Victims of Homeland War. It consists of 938 white marble crosses, one in memory of each victim. In October 2000, a four-metre-high bronze monument was installed in the central part of the cemetery.
The mass grave was found in 1998 when Croatia regained control over its eastern territory from rebel Serbs. It was excavated from April to July 1998.
Of the 859 individuals whose remains have been identified, 644 are Croatians, and 358 of them have been classified as civilians. This is mainly a secondary mass grave, as the remains have mainly been moved from other mass graves, or even from regular cemeteries.
The Yugoslav People’s Army and paramilitary units entered Vukovar on November 18, 1991 after an 87-day siege that devastated the town. Over 200 prisoners were subsequently executed at the nearby Ovcara Farm. Most of them were buried in a mass grave at the farm, but 13 of the Ovcara victims were found in the New Cemetery mass grave.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia did not convict anyone of crimes committed during and after the siege of Vukovar, apart from the Ovcara killings. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian Serb wartime rebel leader Goran Hadzic were indicted for persecution, forcible expulsions, murders and destruction of property during and after the siege, among other alleged crimes, but both of them died before the end of their trials.
Croatian courts have convicted a total of 20 people of crimes related to Vukovar. They were sentenced to a total of 229-and-a-half years in prison. The Higher Court in Belgrade also convicted one person and sentenced him to nine years in prison.