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Identification of Bodies Slowed by Bureaucracy, Investigator Says

May 6, 1996

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Government red tape is delaying efforts to identify human remains that have lain on the ground since last year near the overrun town of Srebrenica, a U.N. investigator says.

Elisabeth Rehn, U.N. human rights investigator, said Sunday that she was ready to start identifying 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 while trying to flee.

Mrs. Rehn, a former Finnish defense minister, did not detail the problems caused by either government, but said ``a lot of bureaucracy″ was holding up the project and keeping out many essential experts, such as dentists and pathologists.

``The government in Sarajevo has made some difficulties now, even though it should be in their interest to have the bodies identified,″ she told reporters after meeting with Tuzla Mayor Selim Beslagic.

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 in eastern Bosnia and 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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