Evidence, and the need for more evidence

It seems that there is still a good deal of discussion over the videotape “Treskavica July 1995” that surfaced earlier this month showing one instance in which members of a paramilitary formation murdered civilian prisoners. Claims about the influence of the tape go all around, from people saying that it has transformed Serbian public opinion to those claiming (as in today’s Monitor) that some huge number of people believe the footage to be fake. It is probably indicative that many members of the Serbian parliament felt moved to push for a resolution condemning war crimes, but that the initiative now seems to have failed because the parliamentary parties could not reach agreement on the question of whether it is worse to murder people of one nationality than another. So much for consciousness.

For those who have not seen the film or who have only seen the varying bits of it that are shown on television, here is a brief synopsis:

Scene 1: The members of the Scorpions are blessed by a priest who chants to them an invocation including references to the need to defeat “the enemy people” (not the enemy armed forces).

Scene 2: The Scorpions have a little party and enjoy a few drinks.

Scene 3: The Scorpions take their six bound prisoners, teenage boys who appear to have been beaten, in a truck to a rural roadside where they are lain in a row on the ground.

Scene 4: The boys are taken away from the roadside into a wood where the Scorpions kill four of them with guns at close range.

Scene 5: The remaining two boys are instructed to carry away the bodies of the four who have just been murdered.

Scene 6: The other two boys are murdered as well.

Scene 7: The Scorpions enjoy a little barbecued lamb.

There is no doubt that the footage makes some horrifying viewing indeed. At the same time, more needs to be known about the time, place and conditions of filming to be sure about just what the film is evidence of. As it stands, the film could offer a convenient way for people who supported the Milosevic regime and its clients in Bosnia and Croatia to claim that large scale organized murders of civilians were not the result of policy, but simply the work of some armed criminals (Scorpions? White Eagles? Tigers?) going about under the name of one more animal.


Anonymous said...

Animals, yes. In more than one sense. And heraldic animals, such as eagles afflicted by birth defects (albinism, bicephaly), are at least traditional and make some sense as a choice of totemic beast for these bloody "heroes of the nation."

But what explains these native sons' penchant for naming their killer gangs after exotic tropical creatures foreign to the Balkans: Scorpions, Tigers, Cobras ?


R Byrne said...

I was at Carla del Ponte's presentation at the US Institute of Peace yesterday, and she was quizzed about the authenticity, provenance and conflict between videodate stamps on the Skorpioni video. She says that they have submitted written material to the court that explains the latter conflict in particular. She seemed quite assured that any confusion would be cleared up.

Yakima_Gulag said...

Actually scorpions are present in the Balkans, at least in Dalmacija! I was on vacation there, in a small village not far from Dubrovnik four years ago and there was a Durango class scorpion in the bedroom! As well one hid behind the washing machine, one does NOT go about barefoot there. I understand that these unpleasant creatures live as well in Hercegovina.

Eric Gordy said...

I can confirm that there are scorpions on the primorje!

This definition is from today's Danas, by their aphorist Filip Mladenovic:

White eagles, wolves, tigers, scorpions -- housepets of the larger beasts from Dedinje