The first time she watched the videotape of six Muslim males aged from 16 to 36 being loaded into a truck and transported to woodlands to be shot dead, one by one, Natasa Kandic made two observations. First, she noted the resignation on the faces of the victims, three of whom were minors, as they walked to their deaths. Then she noted the faces of the uniformed killers. "I was shocked. I saw they thought they were doing important state duty. They were proud," says the lawyer who finally brought them to justice.
The video is running on the computer in her office. The men and boys lie huddled face down on a country road, their hands bound. A voice shouts and the English translation appears on the screen: "Why are you shaking, motherf***ers?" The men with the guns order them to stand. They walk in orderly fashion through the woods. When they stop, the first bullet explodes. They fall soundlessly, one after the other. Though the killers, members of the red-bereted Scorpions paramilitary unit, are in jail serving a total of 58 years for the massacre, Kandic regards it as shameful justice. Last September, the Supreme Court upheld the sentences of 20 years each for two of the killers, 13 for another and five for a fourth man. A fifth accused walked free.
"I was shocked by the Supreme Court's judgment," says the director of the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade. "I convinced the witnesses (including children of the murdered men) that I would fight for justice. In the end, I couldn't say we managed to get justice. The explanation given by one of the three judges was there was no evidence the victims were from Srebrenica. She wanted to support the official position of denial on Srebrenica."
One of the most popular books in Serbia today peddles a robust denial of the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered. The fiction thrives in a hothouse of nationalistic rhetoric, despite the reality demonstrated by Kandic's video, which she handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in The Hague for Milosevic's trial. To such nationalists, Kandic, a grave, petite blonde, is a traitor.
She acquired the video after representing relatives of Albanian women and children massacred by Scorpions in a garden in Kosovo in March 1999. Following the trial, another Scorpion disclosed to her that he had participated in the Srebrenica executions in July 1995. Because his life was endangered by turning state's witness, he stayed in Kandic's apartment the night before the trial commenced. It was there that he told her about the video. She finally located a copy in the western Scorpion stronghold of Sid where it was available for rent from a local video store.
Kandic's Humanitarian Law Centre has an office in Pristina, Kosovo's capital. One of its biggest projects is the compilation of a book chronicling the lives of 14,000 people who died or disappeared there during the war. The project was inspired by Lost Lives, a book commemorating victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles.