This video resource builds on the shooting civilians lesson plan, which has been available online since March 2006.
It works perfectly well as a stand-alone resource. It also is an excellent follow-up to the lesson plan. However, once groups have used the video they will not be able to use the lesson plan as it is structured. Students will already know too much about Dražen Erdemovic. However, there is much useful material in the lesson plan which can be reworked.
Advice for teachers, therefore, is:
- If you have already used the shooting civilians lesson plan, go ahead with this video resource.
- If you do not plan ever to use the shooting civilians lesson plan, go ahead with this video resource.
- If you haven't used either yet, consider using the lesson plan first, and coming to the video resource later.
- If you have already used the video resource, take a look at the lesson plan and extract useful material for a further session.
Please note, this is potentially disturbing material. If you are concerned about individual students' reactions, particularly those with links to the region, talk to them first before delivering the lesson.
Using the resource
The video resource has been designed as a self-contained module lasting nearly six minutes. You can just play it in class, then discuss the issues it raises.
If you have time, read the notes below which provide detailed background on the case. Afterwards consider and adapt the areas for exploration suggested.
The lesson plan continues below and there is a transcript available. You can download this video by logging into your free Vimeo account.
Dražen Erdemovic was a soldier in the 10th Sabotage Detachment of the Bosnian Serb Army, operating in north-eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was born 25 November 1971 in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dražen Erdemovic participated, as part of a firing squad, in the shooting and killing of hundreds of unarmed Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica, a town located in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, about fifteen kilometres from the Serbian border, at the nearby Pilica collective farm, on or about 16 July 1995.
He personally killed about 70 people.
According to the tribunal records, several buses carrying Bosnian Muslim civilian men from Srebrenica, between the ages of around 17 and 60 years, were driven to a collective farm near Pilica. On arrival at the farm, the Bosnian Muslim men were taken in groups of about 10 and escorted to a field adjacent to the farm buildings, where they were summarily executed.
As a soldier in the 10th Sabotage Detachment, Dražen Erdemovic was charged with participating with other soldiers in the shooting and killing of hundreds of unarmed Bosnian Muslim men.
At his initial appearance at the tribunal, Dražen Erdemovic pleaded guilty to murder as a crime against humanity. As the plea agreement was reached before the beginning of trial, no trial was necessary.
The video shows the statement Dražen Erdemovic made at his hearing.
On 29 November 1996, Dražen Erdemovic was convicted to 10 years imprisonment.
The following month he appealed against the sentence, on the grounds that he committed the offence "under duress".
The appeals chamber rejected the appeal, but allowed him to change his plea from murder as a crime against humanity to the lesser charge of murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war.
This he did, and a new sentence was eventually imposed of five years.
On 26 August 1998, Dražen Erdemovic was transferred to Norway to serve his sentence. Credit was given for time served since 28 March 1996. On 13 August 1999, he was granted early release.
The above account is a summary of the case information sheet published by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Areas of exploration
Various discussion and writing exercises are suggested in the shooting civilians lesson plan. These can be borrowed and adapted for use following this video resource, in addition to the ideas listed below.
- Dražen Erdemovic found on appeal that acting "under duress" is not a complete defence to a charge of crime against humanity or a war crime involving the killing of innocent human beings. Discuss why. Soldiers act under orders. But they are not required to obey orders which break the law – and can be punished if they do. Discuss the principles of justice and of taking responsibility for actions.
- Listen again to the section of Dražen Erdemovic's statement, or show students the transcript, where he says: "I have lost many very good friends of all nationalities only because of that war, and I am convinced that all of them, all of my friends, were not in favour of a war. I am convinced of that. But simply they had no other choice. This war came and there was no way out. The same happened to me." What do students think they would do in these circumstances? What are the options available during times of conflict to people who want no part of war?
- Dražen Erdemovic was first arrested on 2 March 1996 and transferred later that month to the international tribunal in The Hague. On 13 August 1999 he was granted early release. Invite students' views on that prison sentence. How appropriate was it to the crimes he committed? How much might it have been affected by his admission of guilt, his expression of remorse, and his cooperation with the tribunal? Discuss how it might be viewed by the families of those killed. Broaden the discussion to look at the problems of achieving justice and fairness during and after armed conflict.
This resource was written by PJ White and produced in September 2009.