October 7, 2005

Serbia charges five for Srebrenica killing

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia charged five members of a
paramilitary group on Friday with the murder of six Bosnian
Muslims from Srebrenica, the first time Serbs have faced war
crimes charges at home for the 1995 massacre in Bosnia.

The five were arrested immediately after an amateur video
of the executions was broadcast on Serbian television, shocking
many in a nation who refuse to believe their kin committed
atrocities during the 1990s Balkan wars.

The slaughter of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serb
forces in July 1995 was Europe's worst war crime since World
War Two. A Bosnian government panel this week said 19,000 took
part in the organized killing over several days, 17,000 of whom
had been identified by name.

Serbia's special war crimes court was set up two years ago
to show Serbs were ready to face up to the crimes committed in
their name.

The indictment against the five, former members of a
paramilitary unit called the "Scorpions" says the murders took
place on July 17, 1995 near Trnovo in Bosnia. Three of the
victims have been identified so far. Two were 17 years old.

"Four were shot in the back first and the two remaining men
were forced to move the bodies to a house and killed there,"
the indictment said.

Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic is charged
with genocide for Srebrenica along with wartime political
leader Radovan Karadzic.

Both are still at large and are believed to be hiding in
Serbia or Bosnia or Montenegro. Their arrest and extradition to
The Hague is a major condition for Serbia and Bosnia forging
formal ties with the European Union they want to join.

The video showed conclusively that the Scorpions, whose
base was in northern Serbia, played an organized part in the
massacre, and that it was not exclusively the work of their
ethnic cousins the Bosnian Serbs.

The Serb prosecutor's spokesman said that between 200 and
400 men had passed through the Scorpions paramilitary formation
and the court was trying to identify them, which was hard
because most went under nicknames.

The five men charged were named as Slobodan Medic,
Aleksandar Medic, Branislav Medic, Pera Petrasevic and
Aleksandar Vukov.

A sixth identified man also linked to the crime was
arrested in neighboring Croatia and will be prosecuted there
while a seventh man is on the run.