Accepted Paper:

Technolegal realities in the wake of the Srebrenica genocide  


Victor Toom (Health Council of the Netherlands)

Paper short abstract:

While practices of listing, forensics, and identification established how many people were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, they also produced very different outcomes. By articulating, juxtaposing and contrasting these practices, the paper analyzes technolegal realities after Srebrenica.

Paper long abstract:

In 1995, many Bosniaks were massacred after the 'safe haven' of Srebrenica was overrun by the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). After they killed and buried approximately 8,000 men, the VRS unearthed victims' bodies and relocated those bodies in secondary mass-graves rendering victims' bodies into an "absent presence" (M'charek et al 2014). Proof of the biggest post-WWII genocide in Europe was initially lacking which created room for denying the atrocities. In the years after the genocide, various mechanisms to generate insight into the numbers of victims and evidence of the massacre were and have been used. These mechanisms include practices of locating mass graves and recovery of bodies therein, counting bodies and body parts, compiling and comparing missing persons lists, use of statistical models to estimate the amount of missing persons, forensic genetics to individualize remains and to identify them, and testimonies of survivors and other witnesses.

The paper addresses three such mechanisms: missing persons lists, forensic anthropology to determine the minimum number of individuals represented by human remains, and identification. Since such numbers are not only technoscientific articulations, but also materialize as legal evidence at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the considered mechanisms and their outcomes should be considered "technolegal" practices and objects (Toom 2015). Through describing, juxtaposing and contrasting the three technolegal practices of listing, forensics, and genetic identification, I aim to articulate the various post-Srebrenica genocide realities and their politics, including those of genocide deniers.

Panel T045
New Collective Practices of Measurement, Monitoring and Evidence