Belgrade, June 19, 2006: The War Sports
I always knew my Mom didn't like the way I dressed,
and the Special Court for War Crimes in Belgrade has
my late Mom's taste in clothing. For all these months,
the policeman at the door has taken charge of our
manners, us, the special small crowd of women
related to criminals and victims. He scolds us for
chewing gum, sniffling aloud in grief, whatever…
Now he stops me: my summer T-shirt is indecent. The
is too large and it hangs loose. Sandals are certainly
not allowed in court, but he tolerates my shoes. The
T-shirt's sleeves are a proper length, but… I am
trying to convince him that I won't suddenly expose my
shoulder in the midst of the trial proceedings, but he
doesn't trust my assurances.
At that point, the wife of a Scorpion volunteers to
help me. Her skirt is shorter than mine, but she
produces a handy pin and and fastens the neck of my
shirt. The Scorpion wife and the guard exchange
triumphant smiles. I say: next time I will bring a
burka … Rules are rules, he does not understand my
remark… I have no innate problem with obeying rules,
but who is making them, and why?
photo by Goranka Matic.
In this June Session, minor Scorpions are testifying,
with a lot of venom and self possession. This one
today seems to have known for years that his group
committed executions; he even told that years ago to
Natasa Kandic, the representative of the six murdered
Muslim civilians. He might have spoken much earlier,
but he has two children, so…
Today he doesn't speak of murders, movies or his
but gives a passionate speech on how the press has
abused the reputations of the patriotic Scorpions, who
carried out gallant war
enterprises for a state which no longer exists.
was no difference between paramilitary and military
groups, he claims. We were all honorable citizens
fighting for Serbia. During the break, he gets
congratulations from his pals and his lawyers for his
hard position of utter denial.
This latest witness in particular was a Serb from
Croatia, who after
a year of battling the Croatian regular army, had to
He joined the Scorpions as soon as he heard
their intention to re-invade and fight the Others.
Our witness was twenty at the time. He was a trained
sportsman, and he ended up training the paramilitary
troops. He has the elegant body of an athlete, and
as he utters his denials, nervous tics break out all
over him: his nose tickles, his arms
itches, he scratches himself and twitches as if
bitten by swarms of mosquitos. During other less
stressful moments, he is extremely calm and to the
His position is that he knew nothing of bad things,
only of glorious
efforts. His personal ethic was not to die for a
state, but to try hard to save the lives of others.
That's his interpretation of the Geneva convention.
When asked how much money he needs for his travel
testify in court, he declares, rather like John F.
Kennedy: We give to the country, we don't ask from the
country. He tells the court to give his expense
money to an orphanage.
Another witness, the Bad Guy Who Became Good by
that he executed underage war prisoners, has, he says,
developed health problems after so much testimony. He
laments at great length about toothaches after
brushing his teeth, with many details, asking for
possible cures and the help of specific dentists… I
look at the audience, full of toothless people, war
survivors who cannot afford dentists at all… I also
think of those breathless victims, boys who cannot
even afford a grave…and I wonder, who gave these
guys such lines? Was it their rich lawyers? Their
demanding wives? Was it sympathy for the devil?
The wife of the Bad Guy Who Became Good was the
helped me with the pin and my indecency. She behaves
a hostess in this courtroom. She moves around, she
talks with the guards, she tells us the timetable and
rules during the sessions. How did she learn all
these rules and roles?
Our tooth-aching witness is proud of his
whose brave commander who never said "Attack" but only
"Follow me". He has few names to offer, though he
still knows the faces of his comrades. He is even
better are remembering the relationships that united
them: the men were in-laws… Their women
put them together, so I guess that' s why their women
behave as the
hostesses in this cavalcade of crime.
Petrol was a major source of income for the
Croatian-Serb mini-state that exists no more, so the
Scorpions protected oil fields. Just a few days ago, a
Croatian Serb "state" suddenly appeared on the
Internet as a purported government-in-exile. This
unrecognized virtual figment of a state is trying to
sell Internet gambling licenses to anyone who websurfs
by. I wonder if our witness is in on this new racket,
Even after the Scorpion militia split after the
war, the members never stopped congregating. By this
time, they were a Cosa-Nostra style clan, loyal to
their family, and when Kosovo happened in 1999, the
Scorpions swiftly reassembled. The sportsman
volunteered again to play his patriot-games. The
doings then will be the substance of the next trial
which will take place in this special court for war
crimes: a trial concerning the mass graves in Kosovo.
That's when we will see our witness again, wondering
what more he can bring to the table of denial.
I was never a narcissist, he declares to us. I
never went there to show off in front of a video
camera. I always took my place in the front-lines, I
was just a common soldier of the common wars… The
sportsman does not make me laugh, does not make me
cry, does not make me angry. He makes me at ease with
myself, just as he is at ease with himself, because
his normality is uncanny, just like mine. His
home-made militia uniform, my too-loose T-shirt, they
are both suspicious.
– – – – –
Previous essays by Jasmina Tesanovic on BoingBoing:
Scorpions Trial, April 13
– The Muslim Women
– Belgrade: New Normality
– Serbia: An Underworld Journey
– Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
– Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
– Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
– The Long Goodbye
– Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
– Slobodan Milosevic Died
– Milosevic Funeral
– Link to previous posts about Jasmina's work.