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Investigator: Both Muslims and Serbs Block Her ID of Victims

May 5, 1996

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Some remains of people killed trying to flee Srebrenica last year still lie on the ground where they were slain, in part because Serbs and Muslims are frustrating efforts to identify the bodies, a U.N. investigator said Sunday.

``I’m very pessimistic just now how we can proceed with this,″ Elisabeth Rehn, U.N. human rights investigator for former Yugoslavia, told reporters after meeting with Tuzla Mayor Selim Beslagic.

``The government in Sarajevo has made some difficulties now, even though it should be in their interest to have the bodies identified,″ she added.

Mrs. Rehn said she was ready to start almost immediately, with a project to identify some of the people slain when Bosnian Serbs captured the former Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in July.

She said the project needed the cooperation of both the Bosnian Serb government, which controls the area around Srebrenica, and the Bosnian government in Sarajevo, whose citizens were killed.

She did not detail the problems caused by either government, but said ``a lot of bureaucracy″ was holding up the identifications and was keeping out many essential experts, such as dentists and pathologists.

Later Sunday, she met with women who escaped from Srebrenica and said they were very disappointed by the slow progress. The women are key to the investigation because they know who is missing and can provide information to make it possible to identify the bodies.

Mrs. Rehn, a former Finnish defense minister, later was to visit Finnish members of the international force at a base in Doboj, west of Tuzla.

Thousands of people are missing from Srebrenica. Bosnian Serbs are thought to have slaughtered 7,000 men when they took over the isolated eastern enclave, which Muslims had held onto for three years. Officials now are beginning to investigate suspected mass grave sites, not only in eastern Bosnia, but throughout the country.

Mrs. Rehn says the NATO-led peace implementation force would provide security while forensic specialists recover the bodies, but said NATO is demanding that the Bosnian factions first clear their land mines from the area.

Mrs. Rehn’s project is identifying only unburied bodies. It is the responsibility of the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague and the U.N. investigator for people missing in former Yugoslavia to exhume and identify bodies in mass graves.

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