Serb execution video leads to arrests

A film of Serb paramilitary soldiers executing six young Bosnian Muslim captives in 1995 has opened another crack in the wall of Serbian war crimes denial and led to arrests on Friday, officials said.

    A video showing executions aired on Wednesday

    Ten years after a massacre in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica that was the worst carnage in Europe since World War II, footage of the July 1995 executions has shocked Serbians.

    The brief amateur video shocked evening television news audiences across Serbia and Montenegro on Wednesday.

    On a leafy mountain road speckled by sunshine and shadow, the young men, beaten and terrified, with hands tied behind their backs, are killed.

    After four were executed, two were kept alive to carry the bodies into a nearby building and were then executed. 

    The killing was casual, sneering. The soldiers who shot the Bosnian Muslims are filmed being blessed by a priest before setting off on their mission, the video shows.

    It's the first time ordinary Serbs are seeing such images of Srebrenica and could change the way the nation thinks of the slaughter in Srebrenica, where Serb troops overran the enclave and killed 8000 Muslim men and boys after separating them from the women.

    "Monstrous crime"

    Serbian President Boris Tadic told the nation the images were "proof of a monstrous crime committed against persons of a different religion. And the guilty had walked as free men until now, walked among us".

    The video was used as evidence during the war crimes trials at the The Hague.

    Serb viewers were shocked by
    the killings in Srebrenica

    "This video will mark a turning point in the minds of our public and make it easier for the government to fulfil its commitments towards the (Hague war crimes) tribunal," said Minister for Human and Minority Rights of Serbia and Montenegro Rasim Ljajic, a Muslim.

    Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have been on the run since they were indicted by the Hague war crimes tribunal in 1995 for genocide and other war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the 1995 slaughter of as many as 8000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

    "When normal people in Serbia see this video, I think their consciences will start to work and they will put an effort into bringing the criminals to justice," said Zumra Sahomerovic of a Sarajevo-based association of Srebrenica mothers.

    "People in Serbia will realise Srebrenica is the truth."

    Murdered son

    In Tuzla, central Bosnia, Nura Alispahic watched the video and recognised her son Azmir among the victims. His body was later found in a mass grave, the Dnevni Avaz daily said.

    "When normal people in Serbia see this video, I think their consciences will start to work and they will put an effort into bringing the criminals to justice"

    Zumra Sahomerovic,
    association of Srebrenica mothers

    The killers in the video made no effort at disguise. The day after it was broadcast, Belgrade announced seven arrests clearly made before it was shown, the Serbian daily Danas said.

    "This mise-en-scene points to the determination of the authorities ... to probe such crimes and guide the public to acknowledge them, instead of fanning illusions that Hague suspects are some kind of national heroes," it said.

    Chief prosecutor's visit

    The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla del Ponte, who is visiting Belgrade, thinks Mladic is sheltered by influential sympathisers in Serbia and could be taken by then, if Belgrade has the nerve and the backing of most Serbs.

    Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, once resistant to Hague demands, has sent a dozen suspects to the tribunal this year including several former Mladic aides. Nine remain at large.

    To meet a key demand for European Union membership, Serbia must arrest Mladic if he is in the country. His former political boss and fellow genocide suspect, Karadzic, is thought to be hiding in Bosnia or Montenegro.

    "The horrendous pictures ... remind us all that we cannot wait any longer," Del Ponte said in Sarajevo on Friday.


    "I need Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague before 11 July to be able to participate in the commemoration of Srebrenica," she said. That was "the only decent way to pay tribute" to those who lost fathers, sons and husbands in the massacre.

    Del Ponte (R) wants Karadzic and
    Mladic in The Hague by 11 July

    The 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre falls on 11 July.

    All six victims in the video were from Srebrenica, the Serbian war crimes court said. They were executed near the Jahorina ski resort, west of the fallen enclave.

    Four were under 18.

    "Before they were killed, they were tortured and abused," an official said.

    Film of a torture session exists but has not been shown to the public because it is sickening.

    Scorpion members arrested

    Serbian authorities arrested up to 11 members of the Skorpioni, or Scorpions, unit and described them as "monsters".

    They were detained as part of an investigation launched late on Wednesday, after the disturbing footage of the execution was aired.

    Aljazeera's correspondent in Sarajevo, Samir Hasan, said sources indicated that among the arrested was the commander of the Skorpioni special police unit who appeared in the videotape.

    Four remained in custody Friday and the rest were released, officials said. 

    A fifth suspect was in custody in Bosnia, officials there said. On Friday, prosecutors asked a Serbian war crimes court to begin an investigation.


    "Swift police response to the harrowing video was crucial for our country," said Serbia's conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who for years was silent about war crimes committed by Serbs.


    "It's difficult to say what is more defeating _ the horrific images of the killings or this country's 10-year refusal to face the bloody quagmire of past crimes," says Belgrade professor and women's rights activist Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic. 

    Aljazeera declined to air parts of the video that showed the executions.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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