DEFENDANT IN SHOOTING OF SREBRENICA BOSNIAKS ACKNOWLEDGES VIDEO
BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro-A defendant in the trial of five Serb militiamen charged with the 1995 videotaped execution of six Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims] acknowledged Tuesday that he taken part in the shooting, but said he was following orders.
Defendant Pero Petrasevic told the judges: “In front of God, I’m certainly guilty.”
“You will now have to determine if I am guilty for following the orders,” Petrasevic, 36, told a three-judge panel presiding over the landmark case.
He was the first of the five former members of the dreaded Serb “Scorpions” paramilitary unit to acknowledge shooting the Bosnian men. The rest said they did not fire their machine guns although they were either present or knew about the execution.
The suspects at the trial, which opened in December, were charged with murder and war crimes after the broadcast last summer of the gruesome video showing six Bosnian Muslim civilians being taken from a truck, their hands tied, lined up on a hillside near the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica and sprayed with machine gun fire.
The five defendants face up to 40 years in jail if convicted. Serbia has abolished the death penalty.
Petrasevic, who initially used silence as his defense, said Tuesday that he only followed orders issued by his superior Slobodan Medic, the prime defendant in the case.
Instead of entering his plea, the judges had in December read his pretrial testimony which detailed his part in the execution.
“I was the first to fire the shots into the back of one of the prisoners,” Petrasevic’s testimony said. “After that, I don’t remember anything else because I was in shock.”
The trials in Serbia of those responsible for war crimes have become possible since the ouster of autocratic former President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Milosevic himself is being tried by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.
The trial in Belgrade was seen as a key test of the ability of Serbia’s judiciary to deal with cases of war crimes committed by Serbs during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
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