Five Serbs have appeared in court in Belgrade in the first trial in Serbialinked to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war.The men were arrested after a video was released in June showing Bosnian Muslim men from the former UN-protected enclave being tortured and killed by Serb paramilitaries. It is estimated that 8,000 Muslim men and boys died in the Srebrenica massacre, which has been described as Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two. Outside the courthouse, families of the victims mixed with young Serbs with crew-cuts and tattoos who had come to support the accused. The men belonged to a force known as the “Scorpions” and are said to have filmed the killing themselves. The video was shown at the international tribunal in The Hague in June this year.
The men in camouflage uniforms are members of the Serbian paramilitary group the Scorpions, an anti-terrorist unit belonging to the Ministry of the Interior. Ten of the men have now been identified.
In the video, they are seen taking part in the cold-blooded killing of six Bosnian Muslim civilians – four of them under the age of 18. Thirteen-year-old Azmir was among them. His mother hopes justice will be done.She will not be in Belgrade for the trial, but will watch it on television at home. She said: “I want to look into their eyes and tell them: ‘Shame on you. How would you feel if your children were tortured like that and you watched it?’ That’s what I’d like to do. Look in their eyes. I wish I could do that, and after they can kill me as well. They killed everyone I had, so they can kill me as well.” In the summer of 1995, Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic was determined to win the war. Today he is accused of orchestrating the massacre in Srebrenica, including the killing of the six men and boys seen in the video. The Scorpions had been active in Croatia and Bosnia from the early 1990s but little was known about them until recently. In 1999 at Podujevo in Kosovo, a mass grave was found with the bodies of 19 villagers including several children. That crime was pinned on Sasa Cvjetan who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2004. As a member of the Scorpions, Cvjetan’s case helped shed light on the secret unit. Slobodan Medic, a Scorpion commander, testified at Cvjetan’s trial. He is now in the dock accused of shooting the six men and boys. For many, today’s trial marks a turning point in Serbia – a challenge to those who continue to doubt the Srebrenica massacre ever took place. It may also help prepare the ground for the capture of Ratko Mladic, who remains at large.