Stage 5 - Arrested and Interrogated

October 29 - November, 1995

david and faye tell their story

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Since the Aug. 10 release of the classified spy-satellite photos of Nova Kasaba graves, UN officials had pressed the US to turn over all other evidence of mass graves to the UN War Crimes Tribunal. For political reasons, the US had refused. The Boston Globe had reported that there were additional graves and other sources had suspected it, but no one had yet confirmed their existence. But that was not Rohde's mission at that point.

Having verified Milosovic was complicit in the mass executions at Nova Kasaba, Rohde went back to his intelligence source to follow up on the peacekeeper story. He had no plans to go back behind the enemy lines to track down additional graves. During the interview about peacekeepers, however, Rohde's intelligence source leaked the exact locations of four more graves and gave him a map. Rohde felt his stomach knot up, but he knew he had to go find the graves.

It was an exceedingly dangerous mission. Since no car with local plates -- Muslim or Serbian -- was safe, Rohde rented a car in Austria. To do get through the numerous checkpoints, he had to change the dates on his press accreditation. A scrupulously professional journalist, Rohde decided that the story justified a foray into a gray area of journalistic ethics.

Rohde did not ask his editors for permission to go back into the area, because he assumed it might be denied. Instead, he sent an e-mail to Faye Bowers and Foreign Editor Clay Jones on Oct. 28 indicating that he was headed back behind enemy lines, sending it so that she would receive it after it was too late to stop him. Balancing risk with pragmatism, Rohde had the foresight to include the make and license number of his car, the telephone number of Kit Roane, his roommate in Sarajevo, and other details that would help to locate him if he did not return to Sarajevo on schedule.

On Oct. 29, Rohde re-entered Bosnian Serb territory. Unwilling to draw others into the danger that attended such an investigation, Rohde made the mistake of travelling alone. The New York Times and The Washington Post were hot on the trail of the story as well, and he did not want to provide the opportunity for a larger paper to break it.

At Sahinici, Rohde found evidence to corroborate the accounts of five Muslim execution survivors. Three walking canes and a stack of civilian clothes were just one hundred yards from two freshly dug mass graves. Rohde photographed human bones near an earthen dam. Seconds from escaping triumphantly over the Drina River with uncontrovertible proof of killings, Rohde was spotted by a plain clothes Serb watchman with a guard dog who arrested him and took him to the local jail.



When no one heard from Rohde, they knew he was in trouble - perhaps in great trouble.

Serb authorities convicted Rohde of unauthorized entry to a restricted area. They accused him of being a "NATO spy." The penalty for espionage ranged from a sentence of 10 years to death.

Rohde was jailed for 10 days, forced to stand in the middle of a room for long periods, deprived of sleep, and interrogated relentlessly.

Eventually, Bosnian Serb leader Slobodan Milosovic decided to use the news of Rohde's capture as a bargaining chip in negotiations with US authorities at the Dayton peace talks. That is when the machinery of US support kicked into overdrive.

Rohde's editors from the Monitor and 11 members of his family flew to Dayton to press the Clinton Administration. Kati Marton of the Committee to Protect Journalists was instrumental in securing Rohde's release. US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (her husband) was an essential part of the effort.