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Massacare of Bosnian Muslims Captured on Videotape

June 3, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT


JONATHAN MILLER: Last night, the Bosnian war exploded back into the living room of Nura Alispahic. She watched Azmir, her teenage son, murdered in cold blood in color on Bosnian TV.

NURA ALISPAHIC (Translated): After two minutes, I recognized my son. I saw him. He turns his head to the left, like he is looking for help. After that, he turns back. Someone is shooting him and he is going down. Oh, my son, my son, my son. I knew he was dead, but this is terrible to see it happen.

JONATHAN MILLER: Nura recalled the last time she’d seen him in Srebrenica in 1995. Azmir had popped in to say hello. “He kissed me,” she said. Azmir was one of six young Bosnian Muslim captives shown in the video; their tormentors, members of the Serb Scorpions militia sneering, taunting. During the execution scene — all of which was broadcast in graphic detail in Serbia and Bosnia last night — the cameraman complains the battery on his handy cam is dying, but encourages the others to get on with it.

Why on earth did they film it? “They’re just sadistic morons,” one Bosnian commentator told me, a picture postcard from the front line of ethnic cleansing. Film of a torture session wasn’t shown; it was deemed too sickening. The video’s existence had long been rumored, but it was a Belgrade human rights activist who finally got it.

NATASA KANDIC: One member of a Scorpion unit decided to tell the truth and he came to me asking for advice. He wants to say the truth but he’s afraid what will happen after that. I said in public because I wanted to be sure that police will react, really.

JONATHAN MILLER: The police did indeed react. Ten suspects have now been arrested in Belgrade. The cameraman himself is thought to be on the run A roundup choreographed for the arrival of U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, in Belgrade, the Serbian prime minister saying how important it was that those involved face justice.

CARLA DEL PONTE: It is a brilliant operation because in a few hours they were able to identify the perpetrators and, of course, I have seen the video and there is no doubt on perpetration of crimes.

JONATHAN MILLER: Boris Tadic, the president of Serbia, went on TV to say that Serbia is deeply shocked — “evidence, proof,” he said, “of monstrous crimes committed in our name.” The name on del Ponte’s mind is Gen. Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, still at large.

Here he is in July 1995, entering Srebrenica, a supposed U.N. safe haven. Within the week, his men had murdered 8,500 Muslim boys and men. Also charged with genocide, Mladic’s ex-boss, Radovan Karadzic; the goal of their policy of ethnic cleansing:

The annihilation of whole communities in territory coveted by Serbs. Militias like the Scorpions did the dirty work, but their chain of command supposedly went straight to Belgrade, and that could tie former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to war crimes committed in Bosnia, which is why the Srebrenica video is so crucial.