Wednesday, July 18, 2012

25. Srebenica: Triumph of Evil (2001) *

The trial of Radislav Krstic

The phrase 'triumph of evil' comes from the opening speech by Prosecutor Mark Harmon in the trial of Radislav Krstic at the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  Krstic was charged with 8 counts by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).   One count of genocide, one count of complicity to commit genocide, one count of violations of the laws and customs of war and five of crimes against humanity.  All acts relate to the events during and after the fall of the UN area of Srebenica enclave.  Krstic was the first person to be found guilty of genocide by the Tribunal and sentenced to 46 years imprisonment.

The documentary is comprised of news footage taken by Serbian television crews and footage from ICTY TV featuring the testimony of witnesses and prosecution statements. Divided into five sections, the documentary takes us through the trial.  First, presenting the Prosecution arguments on the deportation and executions.  Secondly, guiding the viewers through the forensic evidence on mass graves and the secondary mass graves in Bosnia.  Thirdly, highlighting some of the defence arguments put forward by Krstic and his defence team and finally, a summary of the closing arguments.  

The documentary is interesting as it gives an in depth account of the trial and shows how the Prosecution presented its evidence.  The use of maps, video footage in which Mladic was both the 'lead actor and show host', and witness testimony are all an insight into how international trials work.

However, the film is very dry.  The voice over is monotone and the narrator speaks too fast.    This means that some of the important aspects of the evidence get lot.  Moreover, by focusing on technical aspects, the scale of atrocity fails to come across.  Another aspect of the trial is also absent from the documentary.  The Krstic case is concerned to be one of the six landmark cases on sexual violence decided by the Tribunal.  According to the website at

"Whereas the Kunarac et al. judgement clearly defined rape as a tool of war, the case of Radislav Krstić established a link between rape and ethnic cleansing, which, in the context of Srebrenica crimes in July 1995, was closely associated with genocide. 

Krstić was a General Major in the Bosnian Serb Army and commander of the Drina Corps during the operation which resulted in the execution of more than seven thousand Bosnian Muslim boys and men from Srebrenica in July 1995. 

As Srebrenica fell under Bosnian Serb army control, about 20-30,000 of its Muslim residents, mostly women, children and the elderly, fled to the nearby village of Potočari. Several thousand sought protection inside the UN military camp. Serb soldiers entered the compound, mingled in the crowd and threatened, beat and killed people. The soldiers also committed many acts of rape. 

The Trial Chamber found Krstić responsible for the crimes committed in Potočari, including the rapes, which were deemed as “natural and foreseeable consequences of the ethnic cleansing campaign”. The Judges noted that, although “ethnic cleansing” was not a legal term, it had been used in various legal analyses before. The Trial Chamber concluded that there were “obvious similarities between a genocidal policy and the policy commonly known as ''ethnic cleansing”., The rapes in Potočari did not form part of Krstić’s conviction for aiding and abetting genocide, as the events in Potočari were a prelude to the subsequent genocide. In 2004 the Appeals Chamber upheld the sexual violence convictions. Krstić was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment."

Its a pity that this aspect of the trial was not covered in the film.  

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