WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright showed the U.N. Security Council photographs Thursday that she said depicted mass graves in Bosnia-Herzegovina that hold the bodies of as many as 2,700 civilians murdered by Bosnian Serb forces after two U.N.-protected "safe areas" were overrun last month.
She said the photos, combined with witness accounts, provide a "compelling case that there were wide-scale atrocities committed . . . against defenseless civilians."
A senior U.S. official said later that 2,000 to 2,700 Bosnians, mostly Muslim men and boys, were machine-gunned by nationalist Serb troops after the insurgents overran the Muslim enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa.
"There were high-level Bosnian Serb military people present," Albright said after the closed-door Security Council meeting in New York. "This is clearly a case that needs to be investigated further by the war crimes tribunal."
The council is collecting evidence of atrocities in the bitter ethnic war in the Balkans. It is debating a draft resolution warning that "those who commit violations of international humanitarian law will be held individually responsible." It also demands that Bosnian Serbs give international human rights organizations immediate access to refugees from Srebrenica and Zepa.
Another pending draft resolution directs U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to report by Sept. 1 information about "violations of international law" during the Serb capture of Srebrenica and Zepa.
Later Thursday, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Croatia to abide by international law in its treatment of Serb refugees from the Krajina region of Croatia, which Croatian troops recaptured this week.
The resolution demanded that Croatian government forces stop their offensive immediately and respect the right of local Serbs to remain, leave or return to their homes safely. The council also condemned the shelling of civilian targets and deplored attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.
Albright's presentation to the council was based on photos that U.S. officials in Washington said were taken by spy aircraft after the rebel Serbs' capture of Srebrenica.
One photograph showed a tree-lined area where large patches of earth had been disturbed. Tracks from heavy vehicles led to the patches. Other photos showed areas where freshly turned earth indicated the presence of graves.
Albright also reported that a witness, identified only as a 63-year-old Bosnian, told U.S. investigators that refugees were lined up in groups of 20 to 25 and gunned down. The witness survived by hiding among the dead.
Bosnian Serb troops separated men and boys from lines of refugees leaving Srebrenica and Zepa, detaining many of them in the Srebrenica soccer stadium. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 6,000 of them are still missing.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said in Washington that Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, the government's top human rights expert, gathered evidence of nationalist Serb atrocities during a fact-finding visit to Bosnia last week.
In London, Amnesty International also reported that its investigators had found that Bosnian Serb forces had engaged in disturbing human rights abuses against Muslims trying to escape Srebrenica.