MAY 6, 1996


Penny Marshall of Independent Television News reports on war crimes in Bosnia and other places in the former Yugoslavia. The first trial before the International Tribunal starts tomorrow in the Hague, Netherlands.

PENNY MARSHALL, ITN: Dusan Tadic's last moments of freedom were captured by a hidden camera. Tracked down in Germany by his own alleged victims, he spent the last two years in jail. Now, the world is preparing to judge him, and this is the woman who'll deliver the verdict, Gabrielle McDonald, a former U.S. federal judge from Texas.

GABRIELLE McDONALD: This is where the prosecutors sit. The defense is over there.

MS. MARSHALL: Making last minute checks to her courtroom, she will preside over Europe's first war crimes tribunal since Nuremberg.

JUDGE GABRIELLE McDONALD, War Crimes, Tribunal: It's about time that the world community say, no, this is wrong. We said so 50 years ago. We're going to in a sense put our money where our mouth is and do something about it.

JUDGE GABRIELLE McDONALD: Are you ready to enter a plea to the indictment.

MS. MARSHALL: Tadic has already pleaded "not guilty" in the Hague. But the moral certainties of the UN courtroom are far removed from Northwest Bosnia in 1992 when Tadic is alleged to have committed his crimes. It was this single image filmed by ITN then which captured the horror of Bosnia's prison camps. In this now notorious one in Mostar hundreds of Muslims were tortured and killed. Twenty-one Bosnian Serbs are wanted by the Hague for rape and murder. All save Tadic are at liberty. Omarska has long since closed. Only Serbs remain in the nearby villages, amongst them Tadic's brother Lubo. He says that his brother is innocent and that others still at large are guilty. "He was never in the Omarska camp," he said, "or in any other camp. People are wrong. They may have seen others, others in uniform, who looked like him." Among the other guards in uniform, men like Drazhenko Predojevic filmed on duty at Omarska by ITV and Vladin Radic. They're wanted by the Hague, as is Omarska's commander Zelko Miekjic. They all remain out of reach, living in Serb-controlled Bosnia, along with their political masters. Their fate will be determined by Serbia, itself. Here in Belgrade, the War Crimes Tribunal is viewed with mistrust. It's even detested, and the government here offers some protection to Bosnian Serb suspects, making even talk about arresting them somehow laughable. Until such time as Belgrade chooses to recognize the Hague or until it's forced to, Mr. Tadic may well remain a very lonely example of its authority. But Judge McDonald remains undaunted. It only takes one example to make a point, she says, one precedent to establish law.

JUDGE GABRIELLE McDONALD: I believe in the rule of law. I want to see justice work. This is, to me, an opportunity to see justice in, in operation, so to speak, and yes, it's one case, but it's a beginning. You have to start, you have to start somewhere, and we cannot possibly try thousands of people at once.

MS. MARSHALL: From the safety of a flat in Bavaria, a witness in a murder trial prepares his testimony. This man is a key prosecution witness. The survivor of a Bosnian Serb-run detention camp, this faded newspaper cutting featuring him is certainly proof of his past suffering. But now, Hasa Isic has only memories to offer the court to prove who was responsible and recalling them publicly could well be dangerous for him and for his family. Yvonne Turlingen works at the Hague Tribunal, her job, to provide support and 24-hour protection in safe houses for all the witnesses who come. She doesn't underestimate her task.

YVONNE TURLINGEN, War Crimes Tribunal: In the case of seven witnesses, special protective measures should be taken, and we do not exclude the possibility of anybody wishing to take revenge for the witness coming out and telling the truth.

MS. MARSHALL: Accompanying alleged rape victims who travel to the Hague and supporting them throughout the trauma of giving evidence presents a particular problem: Women like these, friends and camp survivors, now refugees in Germany. Tasmin Elezovic is just back from Bosnia where she tried unsuccessfully to return home. Serb neighbors turned her away. She is a witness in the Tadic trial, and that won't make going home in the future any easier.

TASMIN ELEZOVIC, Witness: (speaking through interpreter) I personally don't think it's enough as a protection but I want to go to the Hague because I lost my brother, my father, and my son, who was 22 years old, and he burned alive in a house, and I have to talk about that.

SPOKESPERSON: The Tribunal, all rise.

MS. MARSHALL: But fear of giving evidence at the Hague cuts both ways. The defense team too has problems. They say their witnesses won't come because they mistrust the UN and view it as anti-Serb. They fear they'll end up here underneath the courtroom in the holding cells as suspects. It was all much easier 50 years ago at Nuremberg. Then the conflict was over, the suspects were in custody, and it was the victors who tried the losers in a military court. Today there's only one defendant, Dusan Tadic, and the conflict is far from convincingly over. There's also virtually no evidence save bitter conflicting accounts on which to judge him. As a prosecution witness, Hasa Isic will leave his work in Germany and travel to the Hague. "I just want the world to know what happened in Bosnia," he says. He believes the Hague is not about vengeance but historical record. He claims Tadic beat him and left him to die. Tadic says he did not. A judge must now decide for the historical record and for justice who is telling the truth.