[Text by Jasmina Tesanovic.]
On April 14, at 2.50 a.m, in the center of Belgrade,
two grenades exploded. They were planted in the
bedroom window of prominent Serbian journalist Dejan
The first bomb burst early. The blast
catapulted the second grenade into the street, into
some parked cars and away from the sleeping bodies of
Dejan, his wife and his fifteen-year-old daughter.
This likely saved their lives.
Dejan, who writes for TIME magazine, was among
the witnesses at the Hague International War Crime
Tribunal against Slobodan Milosevic. As a journalist,
his main line of inquiry was the connection between
war crimes committed by Serbian military and police
all over former Yugoslavia in the nineties. A painful
issue. Recently the International War Crime Tribunal
in Hague held that the regime of Slobodan Milosevic
cannot be directly linked to the mass graves in
Kosovo and the genocide in Srebrenica. Therefore the
Serbian state is not formally guilty of genocide —
although genocide took place.
Therefore genocide was committed, not by the
state, but by non-state actors. Secret armed militias
in disintegrating states were novelties in the 1990s.
They're not any more.
Nobody tries Al Qaeda for genocide, for they don't
even pretend to be a state and even America abandons
law and order to chain them in Guantanamo.
On April 10th, a verdict was issued at the
special court for war crimes in Belgrade. This
verdict involved the death squad called Scorpions, who
were involved in the genocide in Srebrenica. In the
spirit of the sentence of the Hague tribunal, the
local tribunal also found the state of Serbia not
guilty of genocide. Neither are the Scorpions
The Scorpion militia took the trouble to film one
of their own misdeeds, so that the court witnessed the
Scorpion defendants kicking bound teenage captives,
jabbing them with gun barrels, denying them water,
insulting them and then shooting them. Nevertheless,
this does not constitute a proof of the grand-scale
state-crime of genocide.
The bodies of the dead are there on film, the
genocidal intent is obvious, but there is no clear
legal chain of orders between any formal state
apparatus and this covert squad of armed marauders.
Who ordered what, when, why…? A whirlwind in the
storms of a disintegrating state, says the verdict.
The whole world saw that film, that was the
cause of the tribunal, so everyone knows at least that
those five indicted Scorpions, in one way or other,
did commit the murder of six innocent civilians
merely guilty of being Moslems. The president of
Serbia, Boris Tadic, declared after the sentence that
such crimes deserved capital punishment.
But who in Serbia will give the order to
legally kill the state's legally unsanctioned killers?
The Scorpion death squad was tripped up by their
urge to brag on video, but the same people who ruled
Serbia during the nineties are still in power today.
Milosevic is dead, Mladic is hidden, but most of
their colleagues and collaborators, open and covert,
walk the streets of Belgrade, blustering and
threatening about Kosovo and their political
The chief prosecutor of the Scorpions is not
satisfied with the sentence. The lawyers of the
victims are angry. The defense lawyers of the
Scorpions are triumphant. In prison or out of it, the
Scorpions consider themselves moral victors; with the
evidence so crushingly against them, that strategy
was the best they could hope for.
They do have one other strategy: the strategy of
covertly killing people. A death-squad is still a
death squad, and a gangland atmosphere of lethal
intimidation works as well on Serbs as on the alien
Other. The death squads lash out against journalists
who report them, as Dejan Anastasijevic, who knows the
situation well and publicly commented on the verdict.
Did the death-squad who planted grenades in his
bedroom window take the trouble to film it?
As as a few aging Scorpions shuffle off to
prison for their crimes of many years ago, Serbian
civil society remains imprisoned by its worst
elements. Journalist Slavko Curuvija was
assassinated by Milosevic secret police hit-men, back
in 1999. Our late premiere Zoran Djindjic was shot by
state mafia in 2003. That doesn't even count the
havoc wreaked by state-mafia complex on its own
death-squad soldiers, from Chief Tiger Arkan, shot
in 2000, through hundreds of underworld less known
bombed in cars, shot in cafes…
Dejan has many friends in the world and at home,
but he and his family are profoundly unsafe, just like
everyone else in a hollow state that secretly
cherishes death squads while failing to keep public
order. As long as Dejan writes the facts, as long as
Serbia lives in organized denial, as long as the
tribunals minimize the criminal issues in the name of
reconciliation or realpolitik, the truth will act as a
bomb in terrorist hands.
Ever since Milosevic reduced Yugoslavia to his
private casino, the much battered entity called Serbia
has never been a lawful state. State failure may
soon become a luxury that the Balkans can no longer
afford. Although I never make decisions out of fear,
I confess, I am afraid.
– – – – –
Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:
– Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
– Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
– Carnival of Ruritania
– "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
– Faking Bombings
– Dispatch from Amsterdam
– Where are your Americans now?
– Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
– Slaughter in the Monastery
– Mermaid's Trail
– A Burial in Srebenica
– Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
– To Hague, to Hague
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