It seems that Serbia has never truly faced up to its own war past despite dozens of international and national trials for war crimes. This was confirmed over the New Year when Serbian notorious war criminal Slobodan Medic died in a car crash while on special leave from prison. The accident also claimed the lives of his wife and 17-year-old son.
What shook many in the Serbian and Balkan public was not the tragedy that wiped out the whole family, but the fact that Medic, who should have been in the jail at the time, was enjoying the New Year's" free-weekend" as a special "prisoner privilege " Under Serbia's rules governing prisoner release he was not entitled to a leave pass from prison. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for killing of six non-combatant Muslim men in Bosnia in July 1995. Prisoners convicted of manslaughter must have served at least half their sentence before applying for special privileges.
How then did he get it?
It was simple. The prison director in Sremska Mitrovica, where Medic had been serving his sentence, used his powers given to him as prison chief to reward the war criminal for his good behavior. He had been doing so since June 2013 when Medic started to use "holiday weekends". Neighbors recall that his parents held a party when their son came home then for the first time since he was sentenced . In an official statement to local media the representative of Serbian Directorate for Penal Sanctions said:
"Medic has earned the right to go on the weekend during holidays, after eight years in prison, including time spent in custody. At that time he had no disciplinary offense [recorded]."
It's no wonder a man with Medic's record earned a New Year holiday. The Serbian government is made up of politicians, former nationalists and ultra-wing radicals who openly supported Slobodan Milosevic's doctrine of ethnic cleansing in the 1990s. Medic was commended for doing "a great job" for "Greater Serbia" as commander of the Scorpions, a paramilitary unit formed by then Serbian Ministry of Interior in 1992.
Today's Serbian ruling clique that has been widely accepted by the EU and USA shed its political skin like a snake, dressing in pro-European clothes. But they have never truly accepted their moral responsibility for Balkan bloodshed.
They had been a Medic's employers and he served them loyally at that time. They could not avoid his arrest and trial on evidence that included a video of the execution. However, they certainly found the way to make him prisoner days easier. They pushed under the carpet the fact that he was an exceptionally cruel man.
Medic has never showed show any repentance for the crimes he committed. Moreover, during the trial, he openly threatened the man who had videoed his crime: "If I had known him, he would not have eaten bread anymore; I would have killed him like a rabbit."
The video was crucial evidence against the Medic and his paramilitary group. It shows him and his compatriots harassing six young Muslims men they had detained. One of the Scorpions is seen kicking a prisoner's head and shouting, "Why are you shaking, you motherfucker?"
The video then shows the Scorpions killing four of the men. The remaining two are killed after they carried the bodies of their slain companions to a grave.
One Scorpion member acquitted of killing the Muslims, Aleksandar Medic, is seen in the video asking one of them, "Have you ever had sex before? You didn't ? You won't ever." The young man was executed soon after.
During the trial Medic told the court: "I love three things in life: pussy, rifle and state."
Unlike him, another Scorpion member on trial admitted the blood on his hands and repented. Pero Petrasevic told the mothers of the victims, who were sitting in the court:
"I killed six Muslims, I am guilty in eyes of the God. I was just following orders. Mothers, I am saying this historical sentence: it would be better if I had stayed lying on the soil with them. We killed them only because they were Muslims. "
Before the Bosnian war, the "Scorpions" were engaged in Croatia, guarding the oil fields at Đeletovci and exploiting it for their own needs. In cooperation with another notorious war criminal, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan and his paramilitary "Tigers", the oil was sent to Serbia.
After the Bosnian horror the Scorpions continued their bloody business in Kosovo where, in March 1999, they killed 14 Muslim women and children at Podujevo. Two days before they arrived in Podujeve the Scorpions were incorporated in the then Serbian police as part of an anti-terrorist unit named SAJ. The unit is still active today.
Medic did not experience the full intensity of the sentence he deserved for crimes as vicious as those perpetrated by the Nazis in World War II. However, older Serbian people believe he could not avoid God's judgment and has now paid the price of his bloody work.
The death of his 17-year-old son in the New Year car crash also carries mystical symbolism for some. The boy was conceived only months after his father killed an innocent 17-year-old Muslim in the Bosnian village of Trnovci.
The citizens of Serbia still face a very unsettling question, however. How many war criminals are enjoying various prisoner privileges and freely walking the streets? They reasonably ask: Will the truth be told before they go to God?