Serbs Are Stunned by Video of Srebrenica

By Beti Bilandzic
Friday, June 3, 2005

BELGRADE, June 2 -- A video that prosecutors said shows Serb paramilitary troops murdering six Bosnian Muslim prisoners near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995 stunned Serbia on Thursday and led to the immediate arrest of eight suspects.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said the video, which came to light at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague and was aired on Serbian television Thursday, showed "brutal, callous and disgraceful crime against civilians."

President Boris Tadic told Serbs in a television statement that the images were proof of the "monstrous" crimes committed in Serbia's name during the Balkan wars of the early and mid-1990s. "Those seen in these pictures committing murder were free men until yesterday. They were walking our streets," a visibly shaken Tadic said on state television. They must face justice, he added.

Tadic said he was ready to go to Srebrenica in July on the 10th anniversary of the massacre.

The video was shot near the scene of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II, U.N. prosecutors said. About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the area and their bodies bulldozed into mass graves over several days.

The images were shown by the prosecution during the war crimes trial of the former Serbian and Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, on Wednesday.

It was the first such graphic material from the massacre in Srebrenica to be seen in Serbia, where an opinion poll last month showed that over half of those surveyed did not believe the massacre took place.

The video begins with a Serb Orthodox priest blessing the camouflaged paramilitary troops in a boot camp in Bosnia. Later, it shows members of a paramilitary group called the Scorpions taking six emaciated young men out of a truck with their hands tied behind their backs. They are led to a clearing where at least three are shown being shot at close range.

The faces of the perpetrators can be seen and their insults to the scared young Muslims can be clearly heard. The video was shot by a member of the Scorpions.

Many senior Serbs have been convicted by the U.N. tribunal or are on trial. But the prime suspects in the Srebrenica massacre, the Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic and the Bosnian leader, Radovan Karadzic, remain at large 10 years after the war's end.

Their handover to the U.N. tribunal is the main condition for Serbia and Bosnia to be allowed to have closer ties with the European Union and NATO.

Kostunica announced Thursday's arrests at a joint news conference with the visiting U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte. "It is important for our public that we reacted immediately," he said. Serbia has often been criticized abroad for doing nothing to curb hero-worship of indicted war crimes suspects.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company