Australian archeologist Richard Wright testifies at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. Wright took part in the Tribunal’s investigation in Srebrenica, heading the team which located and exhumed mass graves

Richard Wright, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialRichard Wright, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

The prosecution continued its case on Radovan Karadzic’s role in the genocide in Srebrenica with the evidence of Australian archeologist Richard Wright. He took part in the OTP investigation in Srebrenica and was in charge of locating and exhuming mass graves dug in the summer and fall of 1995. Wright’s expert reports on the exhumations in eastern Bosnia in 1998 and Kozluk in 1999 and the transcript of Wright’s testimony at the trial of Radislav Krstic were admitted into evidence. Krstic was sentenced to 35 years for aiding and abetting the genocide in Srebrenica.

In 1998, Wright was in charge of the exhumation of eight mass graves at Crvena brana, Liplje, Zeleni jadar and Cancarska cesta. Wright concluded that the Crvena brana site was a primary grave from which most of the bodies were moved to other locations. Parts belonging to 46 bodies were recovered in the Crvena brana mass grave. The seven remaining sites were found by Wright to be secondary graves to which the bodies previously buried at other sites were moved. Wright investigated 21 other sites that year; in his estimate, 2,571 bodies were buried in those mass graves.

In 1999, Wright’s team exhumed a mass grave in Kozluk where 280 bodies were found. When the bodies were examined, it was determined that 42 percent of the victims had their hands tied behind their back and 16 percent of the victims had been blindfolded. All the bodies there, as well as all the other remains exhumed in 1998 and 1999, were in civilian clothes.

In the examination-in chief, Wright’s report on the exhumation of a primary mass grave in Glogova in 2000 was admitted into evidence. The witness used this mass grave to explain how he was able to conclude based on satellite photos that this grave and other graves in Srebrenica were dug in July 1995 and that the bodies were removed from it in October 1995. Parts of doors and walls were recovered in the Glogova grave, and were later established to have come from the warehouse in Kravica. The prosecutor also showed a 10-minute video recording of the exhumation of the Cancari 12 secondary grave. According to the witness, the bodies of the people killed at the Branjevo farm were buried there.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic wanted to know how the witness was able to establish the time of death: in other words, who had died before and who after the Serb forces overran Srebrenica in July 1995. The witness repeated that satellite photos were the best indicators of when the graves were made. Satellite photos show when the soil was ‘disturbed’. The witness added that the graves contained not only the human remains, but wrist watches, newspapers and other items which indicated the time of death. In his examination of the Dutch Battalion officers, Karadzic claimed that the prisoners threw away their personal documents because they didn’t want to be identified. Now Karadzic put it to Wright that it was in fact usual practice to remove money, watches and personal documents from prisoners. ‘The people in our parts, regardless of their religion, are reluctant to take from the dead, but everything is taken away from the living’, the accused explained. The witness replied he didn’t know anything about it because he had never been arrested.

Karadzic claimed that many fighters had died in combat and that the warring factions regularly buried their soldiers in individual graves, while they buried enemy fighters in mass graves. The witness said he was not in a position to say anything, reminding Karadzic that he could only testify about the mass graves that he had exhumed. The witness dismissed Karadzic’s suggestion that the bodies were those of soldiers because bullets were found in the pockets on some of the exhumed remains. As Wright said in response to the suggestion, bullets were found only on one exhumed person. A mere fact that somebody had bullets in his pocket didn’t imply that this person was a soldier, the witness explained.