BELGRADE (AP)--A Belgrade court said Friday that five Serbs who appear in a video showing the execution of six Srebrenica Muslims are to be charged with war crimes against civilians.
The Belgrade district court said the five imprisoned suspects, former members of the notorious Serb paramilitary unit known as the Scorpions, are expected to be formally charged by Serbia's special war crimes prosecutor, with a trial expected to start later this year.
The gruesome amateur footage, shot by the Serb troops and first shown in June at former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, showed six Bosnian Muslim prisoners in civilian clothing taken from a truck, hands tied and then lined up on a hillside.
Four are shot one by one in the back. Two others are ordered to carry the bodies into a nearby barn before they, too, are killed. Four of the victims were minors.
The six Muslims were captured by Serb troops who overran the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, killing nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys - the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.
The video footage sent shock waves through Serbia and forced politicians to acknowledge that Serb troops committed war crimes against civilians during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
After the video was broadcast by Serbian television channels, police here arrested the five former Scorpion members. One more was arrested in neighboring Croatia, while a seventh, also seen in the video, remains at large.
U.N. war crimes prosecutors consider the video footage key evidence that Milosevic has allowed Serb troops from Serbia to fight Bosnian Muslims and Croats in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. During his trial, Milosevic defended himself by saying no Serb troops under his command fought in the Bosnian war.
If tried and convicted for murder and war crimes, the five Serbs could face up to 40 years in prison each. Serbia's law doesn't allow the death penalty.
Such war crimes trials in Serbia became possible only after pro-democracy leaders toppled Milosevic in 2000 and sent him to The Hague a year later, where he is on trial for his role in the Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovo wars.