Friday, June 03, 2005

Video of Serbs in Srebrenica Massacre Leads to Arrests - The New York Times

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia, June 2 - Almost 10 years after the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys by Serbian security forces in Srebrenica, a video has surfaced that presents graphic details of their fate. Several people in the video were arrested as a result, the Serbian prime minister said Thursday.

Serbian television ran video on Thursday of killings by a Serbian security force in 1995. The video showed men taken from Srebrenica to Treskavica, in Serbian-held territory, where six were shot, their hands tied.
Enlarge This Image

Handout via Reuters

The graphic film was shot near the town whose name now recalls the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two, in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed over several days and their bodies bulldozed into mass graves.

The tape - shown at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on Wednesday and rebroadcast on Serbian television on Thursday - shows the killing of six Muslim men by members of a Serbian paramilitary police unit.

While the number of those killed represents a tiny proportion of those who died in July 1995, the video is being seen as irrefutable evidence that Serbia's police forces, and not just Bosnian Serb forces, took part in the massacre, evidence that challenges the commonly held view among Serbs that the atrocity never took place.

The killings, which began July 11, 1995, in a designated United Nations safe haven overrun by Serbs, are widely acknowledged to be the worst atrocities committed in Europe since World War II.

The massacre represented the final push by Bosnian Serb forces to forge an "ethnically pure" state within Bosnia and end the war on their own terms. The atrocities ultimately prompted Western military intervention to end the conflict.

A decade later many Serbs say they are either unaware of war crimes or refuse to accept that their police or security forces could have committed them.

Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, announced the arrest of several of those caught on the video at a joint news conference on Thursday with the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, in Belgrade.

"I think it is important for our public that we reacted immediately and that based on this shocking and horrible footage several of those who are involved in this crime are arrested and will answer to justice," he said.

The video shows a group of paramilitary police, called the Scorpions, being blessed by a Serbian Orthodox priest before they start their mission. The video, shot by a member of the group, shows six emaciated men being removed from a canvas covered military truck driven from Srebrenica to Treskavica, a mountain in Serbian-held territory south of Sarajevo.

Two are taken away and tortured in a house. Eventually all six are lined up with their hands tied behind their backs and shot with machine guns.

At one point the man behind the camera says his batteries are running out but tells the killers that he will keep recording for as long as he can.

The tape was shown on Radio Television Serbia, as well as B92, a privately run station. The torture scenes were not broadcast, but the killings were.

The majority of those killed in the massacre at Srebrenica are believed to have been murdered by the Bosnian Serb Army under the command of Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is still sought for trial by the court at The Hague. Human rights advocates say the tape shows police forces under Serbia's control also took part, something the Serbian government until now has denied.

Public perceptions of war crimes in Serbia are seen by diplomats as critical to the country's future, as cooperation with the tribunal is the main criterion for closer ties with the European Union. Serbian politicians frequently cite public opinion as their main reason for failing to arrest war crimes suspects.

After refusing to cooperate with the tribunal for over a year, the Serbian government has given in to international pressure and has transferred 16 war crimes suspects since January. It has, however, presented them as voluntary surrenders. This is the first time that Mr. Kostunica, himself a moderate nationalist, has publicly announced the arrest of war crimes suspects.

The tape was initially given to the Serbian government on May 23 by a Belgrade rights activist, Natasha Kandic. The government made its first public statement about the tape after it was shown at the trial of the former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Serbia's justice minister said the suspects' trial in Serbia would help confront people with what happened during the war.

"We have done everything to enable trials before local courts so that people are faced with what happened," said Zoran Stojkovic, the justice minister. "If you face the facts directly there is no space for manipulations."

Ms. Kandic, director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, a rights advocacy group, said, "Until now the prime minister and others were afraid to touch the issue of war crimes.

"The tape has changed the strategy of the state," she said in a telephone interview. "For the first time politicians were forced publicly to react." Public opinion remains strongly nationalist in Serbia a decade after the end of the war in Bosnia. An opinion poll published by the Belgrade-based Strategic Marketing Research in April showed that more than 50 percent of respondents either did not know about war crimes in Bosnia, or did not believe they had taken place. The poll was conducted by phone and surveyed 1,200 people.

In Belgrade, many passers-by appeared skeptical about the possible impact of the tape on public opinion.

"What was shown on that tape was just a tiny bit of the crimes committed throughout the war," said Neohjsa Mrdjenovic, a 29-year-old musician. "The footage will not change anything because people knew what had been happening. Everyone knew about the siege of Sarajevo all along. Unfortunately people don't care about it. They only care how to feed their family."

Rodoljub Cosic, 25, said: "The footage might change some people's opinion about Srebrenica, but the majority knew what had happened there. People knew what had happened in Srebrenica more than any other place as it has been often raised in public."

Despite those views, Ms. Kandic said she believed the tape would make it harder for revisionists to play down the massacre. "Nobody can continue to deny that Srebrenica took place now," she said.

Ivana Sekularac contributed reporting fromBelgrade, Serbia, for this article.


arianit said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Ms. Kandic,

You deserve all the honors that Balkans has to offer. I'm sure they will come, no matter how late.

Thank You!