A shocking video clip brings the war in Bosnia home to Serbs
BY ANDREW PURVIS
The video clip from the Bosnian war is profoundly shocking: a Serb Orthodox priest can be seen blessing Serb troops from a unit known as the Scorpions as they head out on their mission in 1995. The same men are then shown forcing six emaciated Bosnian Muslims from the back of a canvas-covered truck. They bind the prisoners' hands, march them into a clearing and machine-gun them, one by one, while the others watch.
The clip, filmed by the unit and obtained by a Serb human-rights investigator, aired last week in the Hague at the trial for war crimes of former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. It was also broadcast around Europe. But it was in Serbia itself that the footage caused the greatest tremor. "Serbia is deeply shocked," Boris Tadic, the reform-minded Serb President, said in a televised address. The images, he said, are "proof of a monstrous crime committed against persons of a different religion ... in the name of our nation."
Serb officials had previously denied that their troops were involved in the Bosnian war. The tape is the first to show that Serb troops — not just Bosnian Serb militia — killed prisoners at Srebenica, Bosnia, where some 8,000 Muslims were murdered. After the tape was shown, 10 Scorpions, including some of the men seen in the clip, were arrested in Serbia on war-crimes charges, in what U.N. war-crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte called a "brilliant operation." Until confronted with this evidence, most Serbs viewed their troops as war heroes and not as criminals. In a recent poll in Serbia, half of the respondents did not know or did not believe that any war crimes had taken place in Bosnia.
Natasa Kandic, the investigator who delivered the tape to the Hague, told Time that it "was not only an important piece of evidence against Milosevic in his trial for genocide, but also a heavy blow to all those who were trying to cover up the role of Serbia in the Srebenica massacre." The 10th anniversary of that massacre is next month, but its history is still being written.