Srebrenica genocide survivor Ramiz Nukic has made himself a promise – he will search for the remains of victims of the mass killing 25 years ago until the last of them is found.
Walking through the woods above his home in the hamlet of Kamenice near Kravice village, Nukic has found remains and personal belongings that have helped identify about 300 out of 1,000 men killed by Bosnian Serb troops there in July 1995.
“It has become my quest,” said the 59-year-old father of five, explaining that he begun the search 15 years ago hoping to find the remains of his father, uncle and two brothers who went missing after the slaughter.
“When I find a bone, it’s for me as if I found the whole body, I know some mother will get peace,” Nukic told Reuters, showing a human skull and a bone he found in the forest a couple of weeks ago.
He passes his findings on to investigators of the Institute for Missing Persons, who then match the human remains with DNA samples donated by the relatives of the missing in order to identify them.
The massacre took place 25 years ago this month during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic attacked the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, where about 40,000 Bosnian Muslims had found shelter under United Nations protection.
After Srebrenica fell into Serb hands on July 11, 1995, the women and children were separated from men and bussed to territory controlled by the Bosnian army. The men and boys were killed, while others who tried to escape through the woods were captured, detained and executed.
The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had established the killings of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys constituted genocide, and convicted Mladic and his political mentor Radovan Karadzic of genocide in Srebrenica.
After the Serbs attacked Srebrenica, Nukic sent his family to the U.N.-protected camp in nearby Potocari while he joined 15,000 men on an escape march through the woods.
He survived and was the only one who returned in 2002 to his village. He found the first skeleton while cleaning his ruined house.
“About 130 men who were killed here are still unaccounted for,” he told Reuters at the site of the killings. “I will not give up searching until the last one of them is found.”