Volume 48, Issue 4 (July 2003)
Lessons from Srebrenica: The Contributions and Limitations of Physical Anthropology in Identifying Victims of War Crimes
In July 1995, the town of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian-Serb forces, leaving more than 7000 Muslim men missing and presumed dead. Anthropologists participating in the identification process were faced with a unique problem: the victims appeared identical. All were adult males of a single ethnic group. Decomposition as well as the absence of antemortem (AM) medical and dental records confounded identification. As of December 1999, only 63 men had been positively identified using DNA, personal effects, and identification papers. Are current anthropological methods of sex, age, and stature estimation and AM trauma assessment sufficiently accurate to differentiate the remaining victims and aid in their identification? Comparisons of relative-reported AM information and postmortem examination records for 59 of the 63 identified individuals indicated that while all individuals were sexed correctly, only 42.4% were accurately aged and 29.4% had a stature estimate that included their reported height.