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Video Of Alleged War Killings Shakes Serbia

by Vesna Peric Zimonjic

New Reports of Atrocities by and Against Serbs (1999)

(IPS) BELGRADE -- Serbia has been rocked by a video clip purportedly showing the execution of six Muslim boys and men by Serb paramilitaries near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica ten years ago.

The video clip was presented last week at the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague in the Netherlands. It was aired later by Serbian and Bosnian television.

"The Srebrenica massacre and the Serb denial of a hand in it had meant a ticket out of the civilized world," professor in international law and human rights activist Vojin Dimitrijevic told IPS. "Now the time has come to face the crimes, admit them and try to start the process of reconciliation."

The short clip shows six skinny young Bosnians, hands tied behind their backs, taken off a truck and shot one by one. The faces, uniforms and insignia of the executors are clearly seen.

They were members of the special Serbian police unit called Scorpions, accused of war crimes against civilians in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. The video tape, originally two hours, was taken by one of the members of the unit.

More than 250,000 people, mostly non-Serbs, died in the wars that tore former Yugoslavia apart.

One of the worst atrocities was the alleged execution of about 8,000 Muslim boys and men by Bosnian Serbs and police units apparently from Serbia proper after they overran the small town of Srebrenica in July 1995. Serbia says the men were killed in combat.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica described the video as "horrifying," and announced that "a number of Scorpions had been arrested." The unit was disbanded in 1995. Many of its 130 members continued to live freely in Sid, some 120 km west of Belgrade.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said he would attend a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the massacre in July "and pay respects to the innocent victims of a monstrous crime against people of another religion."

Some Serbian paramilitary and wartime leaders have been arrested since 1995, and a few tried and convicted. But the video caused an uproar.

"I was disgusted, numb and angry when I saw what they did to those poor men," said Belgrade housewife Mira Janjic, 44. "I was not certain what happened there in Srebrenica in 1995, but I am so ashamed now."

Little was done in Serbia to suppress the nationalist cult of Serb fighters. Former leaders of Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic wanted for war crimes by ICTY are still at large. Serb nationalists see them as heroes.

Making the video clip public was "shocking but necessary," human rights activist Natasa Kandic who had handed the tapes to the tribunal told IPS. "This nation has lived in denial, and the time has come to face the truth. That is the only way to reach reconciliation."

Kandic received the tapes from a former Scorpion, studied them for six months and then handed them over to the ICTY. He is now under the ICTY protection. He feared for his life in Sid for years because it was common knowledge that a tape on Srebrenica existed in the town.

Before broadcast of the footage, opinion polls had indicated that more than 50 percent of Serbs believed the Srebrenica massacre never happened, and attributed it to the "conspiracy of the West" or to "enemies of Serbs."

Under Milosevic, Serbia argued that it was fighting to keep Yugoslavia together. But the footage of the Scorpions, a unit from Serbia proper, may have consequences for Milosevic's trial.

Confirmation of Serbia's involvement could lead to a demand for war reparations by Bosnia and Croatia before the International Court of Justice.

"It is hard to start the process of admitting the war crimes against non-Serbs, but this has to start from the elite - both political and intellectual," Dimitrijevic said.

Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic said the arrested Scorpions should be tried in Serbia in order to change the attitude of the nation. "When you face the facts, the truth can no longer be manipulated." But he declined to say why the authorities had not acted earlier.

Two of the men shown being shot were recognized by their families because the video was shown on Bosnian TV as well.

Sabra Kolenovic, a survivor of the massacre, told Bosnian TV that it was "horrible that it takes a video recording for them to recognize that genocide has been committed in Srebrenica."

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Albion Monitor June 10, 2005 (

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