Serbia’s Interior Ministry has launched a disciplinary procedure after policemen in the town of Priboj were filmed celebrating to a song that glorifies the Srebrenica genocide and other wartime crimes.
Serbian police emblem. Photo: Instagram/@mupsrbije.
Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Wednesday that a disciplinary procedure has been launched after several policemen were filmed at a private party in Priboj in south-west Serbia celebrating to a song that glorifies the Srebrenica genocide and war crimes committed in Croatia.
“The Interior Ministry strongly condemns such behaviour, regardless of the fact that it was done while not on duty, and not in uniform – that does not change anything for us,” Vulin told Pink TV.
The video, shot at the celebration of the birth of the son of a Priboj policeman, was first published on Facebook and then reported by local media outlet Sandzakpress on January 2. Sandzakpress identified seven of around 20 people who were present as police officers in Priboj.
The song that was being played on the party video suggests that Novi Pazar, a mainly Bosniak-populated city in the Sandzak region of southern Serbia, should become a “new Vukovar” – a reference to the Croatian town that was besieged and devastated by Serbian-led troops in 1991.
The song then suggests that the mainly Bosniak-populated town of Sjenica should become a “new Srebrenica” – a reference to mass killings of Bosniaks by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995. It also makes reference to the sexual humiliation of a Bosniak woman by Serb nationalist Chetnik fighters.
Policeman Dragan Zekovic, who organised the party, has issued an apology.
“Dear fellow citizens, as someone who grew up and lives in a multi-ethnic environment, and who has a lot of Bosniak friends, I want to apologise to everyone who was hurt by the song that was heard that evening which sent a very bad message,” Zekovic wrote on Facebook.
In response to the incident, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that “it is my job to tell Bosniaks in Serbia that this is their country, just as it is mine, and that they will be equally safe and protected”.
However, Vucic then appeared to make a counter-accusation by saying that when he wanted to go to eat in certain restaurants in Novi Pazar and Sjenica, his security officers warned him that people there sang songs celebrating Bosniak wartime commander Naser Oric, who Serbia continues to accuse of war crimes against Serbs even though he was acquitted.
The video of the policemen sparked condemnation from Bosniaks and human rights groups in Serbia.
“The nationalist tensions that are heating up in Belgrade, and in Sandzak, produce a feeling of fear, insecurity and anxiety, and the video in which the police sing a song calling for genocide opens up old and new wounds and traumas,” said the Belgrade-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO.
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