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Serbia sentences its Scorpions

Members of Serbia's Scorpions paramilitary unit are sentenced by a Serbian court for crimes in Bosnia

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After a 15-month trial, the commander and three members of the Serbian paramilitary unit "Scorpions" were sentenced on 10 April by Serbia's war crimes court to a total of 58 years in jail for murdering six Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica in July 1995.

The conclusion of the trial, based on a videotape made by the attackers that caused outrage when it was broadcast in 2005, follows a February ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for the Srebrenica genocide.

With ICJ ruling in mind, the Serbian war crimes court in its verdict said the six murders represented an isolated incident, distancing it from the massacre of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica.

Two of the charged - Slobodan Medic, the former commander of the Scorpions unit, and Branislav Medic - were each sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murders.

Another Scorpions member, Pera Petrasevic, was sentenced to 13 years - a shorter sentence because of his confession, cooperation with prosecution and demonstration of remorse. The fourth defendant, Aleksandar Medic, was given five years, while the fifth, Aleksandar Vukov, the unit's deputy commander, was acquitted.

Judge Gordana Bozilovic-Petrovic said in the verdict that "Slobodan Medic ordered the three defendants and two others to execute the prisoners, take them away from the site and make it seem as if they had been killed in conflict."

"By committing such acts against defenseless civilians, by showing off their power and not showing remorse, the defendants did not give the court the choice to pass lower sentences," she said.

The six Bosnians - Safet Fejzic, Azmir Alispahic, Sidik Salkic, Smajil Ibrahimovic, Dino Salihovic and Juso Delic - all from Srebrenica, were captured by Bosnian Serb forces on hills surrounding the eastern town, and believed to have been executed between 16 and 17 July near the town of Trnovo, some 30 minutes drive from Sarajevo, where the Scorpions were based.

For the same crime, Serbian authorities are still searching for unit member Milorad Momic, while another member, Slobodan Davidovic, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Croatian court in 2005.

Damning video rentals

The video footage was first played at the UN's Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in June 2005 at the unfinished trial of late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

According to local media reports, Slobodan Medic ordered the some 20 existing copies of the tape, in the possession of Scorpions members, to be destroyed. All but one apparently were. However, a dissident member of the Scorpions, who left Bosnia the day before the executions, retrieved the lone tape from a video rental store in the town of Sid in northern Serbia, the Scorpions' home base and gave it to Natasa Kandic, the director of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre. The dissident then fled Serbia. One copy of the tape had also been placed in the Serbian police archive.

The videotape, recorded by the executioners themselves, shows a group of Bosnian men from Srebrenica being held by an armed unit, then driven by truck and marched to a site where they are summarily shot.

The executioners, wearing camouflage uniforms and berets bearing Serbian flags, are shown dragging the emaciated men, whose hands are tied behind their backs, from trucks before lining them up for execution. The victims appear to have been severely beaten.

The graphic footage showed the men from Srebrenica standing in a line, while Serbian soldiers made each one step forward and executed them one by one at point-blank range. There was no sign of resistance as the men silently accepted their fate, watching the man in front them be shot and his body pushed off to the side to make room for the next victim. Finally, the footage shows two of the victims being forced to ca



Anes Alic is a senior writer a
Filed under serbia, Europe
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