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Video Alters Serbs' View of Bosnian War

A newly disclosed 1995 tape showing a Serbian unit executing Muslim prisoners has forced many to acknowledge atrocities for first time.

June 13, 2005|Alissa J. Rubin | Times Staff Writer

Kandic, recognizing that the testimony provided an opening to question other Scorpions not directly involved in atrocities, visited Sid. While there, she learned of the existence of the video.

She eventually obtained a remaining copy and made more duplicates, which she distributed to the Serbian state prosecutor for war crimes and to the Serbian police investigator for war crimes. She pressed them to make arrests. Meanwhile, investigators for the Hague tribunal also obtained a copy.

In Bosnia, where so many atrocities occurred, excerpts of the tape continue to be broadcast. The video has been greeted with a mixture of pain and relief by Bosnian Muslims, who see it as long-awaited proof of the atrocities.

But it remains unclear whether it will have a long-term effect. In a country where Serbs and Muslims used to live in the same village, intermarry and share holidays, they no longer appear to share any common ground.

"We were so close to our Serb neighbors that they knew how many spoons we had, we were so often in each other's houses," said Alispahic, the Muslim woman whose son was killed.

Now when she goes back to look at her old house in Srebrenica, she said, none of her former neighbors will even look her in the eye. Serb, Muslim and Croat children go to separate schools, where they learn separate histories.

"The footage will bring us two things: getting closer to the truth and to the responsibility of those who committed the crime," said Mirko Pejanovic, 58, a Serb who is a professor of political science at the University of Sarajevo in the Bosnian capital. "But in the beginning it will raise tensions because the feelings will be stirred up on both sides."

Srdjan Dizdarevic, a Muslim who is director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia, had a bleaker view. "Part of the healing is to face the past as it is; the truth must be established, and then there must be reconciliation," he said.

But will reconciliation take months or decades? Dizdarevic shook his head: "No one knows how long it will take."

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