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Alifakovac Cemetery
Alifakovac Cemetery in Sarajevo. Photo: Alan Grant

"Truth and knowledge are crucial prerequisites for reconciliation. The long-term consequences of not facing the past on a basis of established truth are alarming."

Jan Braathu, Norwegian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2007

One of the biggest questions since the war has been how many people lost their lives. Twelve years of intensive research by the Research and Documentation Centre (RDC) has now brought greater clarity to the question. According to the RDC’s new analysis, 97,207 people were killed during the Bosnian war. This total is half the widely quoted figure of 200,000, which comes from a 1994 UN report. "This study was done to change the perception of the past,” says RDC’s director, Mirsad Tokaca, “and to allow us to overcome the hotheads and switch to calm dialogue."

Mirsad Tokaca launching the research results DVD in his hand

According to the new research, about 60% of those killed were soldiers; 40% were civilians.

Fallen comrade and Croatian cemetery. Photo: James Mason (1993)

Of the soldiers killed, 54% were Bosniaks, 36% were Serbs, and 10% were Croats. Of the civilians killed, 83% were Bosniaks, 10% were Serbs, and 5% were Croats. A number of Jews and Roma also perished.

To arrive at such precise figures, the RDC used thousands of sources, compiling 21 different sets of data about each victim. Researchers visited graveyards, analysed army records and conducted thousands of interviews, trying to tap into every source available. Their research data was re-evaluated by an international team of experts.

Investigating a mass grave

Mirsad Tokaca says:

"Over past twelve years, we have gathered millions of pages of various documents, predominantly statements from surviving victims and eyewitnesses. We have registered more than 350,000 war victims. In addition, we have over 50,000 photo negatives and over 3,500 hours of video recordings. We have registered the location of over 440 prisons and concentration camps, 320 mass graves, and 900 mass killing sites where civilians were the predominant victims."

Sevarlje graveyard

June 2008

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