Identification of Palic’s Remains Raises Questions

It took the International Commission for Missing Persons, ICMP, eight years to identify the remains of Avdo Palic, a Bosnian Army colonel from Zepa. Interviews which BIRN’s-Justice Report held with Palic’s wife Esma, ICMP and other officials, shed more light on the controversy.

Speaking to BIRN-Justice Report, Esma Palic said she was surprised that it had taken eight years to identify her husband’s remains.

“If they had the body back in 2001, why did they wait until now? They told me the technology that was used was less sophisticated,” Palic said.

Available data suggests that Palic’s remains were exhumed from the Vragolovi mass grave in Rogatica municipality in November 2001.

The body parts that were discovered at the time were “processed” in June 2002. However, the ICMP said that “those profiles did not contain a sufficient quantity of genetic data” to be matched with blood samples taken from family members who had reported their relatives missing.

Avdo Palic’s sister gave a blood sample in 2000 and his children did the same in 2002.

“It is our routine procedure to check the profiles for which we did not find matches among family members’ samples. In November 2008 we undertook a full technical review of all DNA samples. We rechecked everything, but we have now deployed a new, even better, extraction method for processing the Vragolovi 6 samples. By doing this we generated additional genetic data which enabled us to find the matches,” ICMP Deputy Director of Forensic Sciences Adnan Rizvic told BIRN-Justice Report.

The ICMP did not explain why they had failed to inform anyone about the discovery of the matching data since 2008.

Avdo Palic went missing in 1995. He was last seen at the UNPROFOR base in Zepa, where he attended negotiations with members of the Republika Srpska Army concerning the fate of citizens who remained in the eastern Bosnian town.

Esma Palic, who has been searching for her husband ever since, left Zepa on July 24, 1995. Four days later she heard news on the radio that her husband had been captured.

In 1996 the International Red Cross announced that Avdo Palic was missing.

During the course of her search Esma Palic discovered that her husband had been held at two locations in Rogatica for one month before being allegedly transferred to Bijeljina, where he was detained.

“To me this represents a beginning. I simply cannot understand people asking me if this is the end. It actually starts right now. The process of trying the criminal who killed him has been on hold simply because the body had not been found. They always told me ‘no body, no crime’. I consider that the process is more simple now, because the body has been found,” Palic said.

“In some way this is horribly hard for me,” she added. “On the other hand I must admit that I feel relieved for getting a chance, for my kids and me finding the truth and getting a chance to bury him in dignity and knowing where his grave is. This will mean the end of the agony.”

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