Video proves vital in convicting Serbians
By TIMES WIRES
Published April 11, 2007
BELGRADE, Serbia - Four members of a notorious Serb paramilitary unit who were videotaped gunning down Bosnians near Srebrenica were convicted of war crimes Tuesday, two years after the footage forced Serbia to admit its role in the 1995 slaughter of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
The ruling marked the first time anyone has been convicted in a Serbian court for crimes human rights groups linked to the killings in Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.
Trials of Serbs in Serbia have only become possible since the 2000 ouster of President Slobodan Milosevic, and the Srebrenica case has been a key test of the ability of Serbia's judiciary to deal with wartime atrocities.
The trial, which began in Belgrade 15 months ago, was prompted by a videotape that surfaced in June 2005 showing the Serb security men, part of a unit known as the Scorpions, taking six Muslim prisoners from a truck near the Bosnian village of Trnovo and executing them. The uniformed men can be seen smoking cigarettes and taunting the Bosnians, some bound and barefoot, as the fighters loaded them into a truck, then later lined them up in a ditch and shot them in the back.
The judge, Gordana Bozilovic-Petrovic, said the killers acted against defenseless civilians, "showing off their power and showing no remorse." Yet she also said no evidence tied the killings to the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, 90 miles away.
The judge imposed 20-year sentences on Slobodan Medic, the commander of the unit, and his assistant, Branislav Medic. The only defendant to plead guilty, Pera Petrasavic, was given a sentence of 13 years, and another, Aleksander Medic, received a five-year term. A fifth defendant, Aleksander Vukov, was acquitted.
But a leading Serbian human rights lawyer and relatives of the dead said they were disappointed by the sentences, saying they were not harsh enough, and accused the judge of trying to distance the killings in Trnovo from the Srebrenica massacre.
Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.
[Last modified April 11, 2007, 02:31:24]
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