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[Originally published here as part of WITNESS’s collaboration with Global Voices Online – this post was written by Gavin Simpson]

It fell to the controversial figure of Carla del Ponte, prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague, to lament the slow progress of justice in the Former Yugoslavia in a lecture she delivered last week. del Ponte picked out Serbia as a country “removed from the European values”, arguing that truth and justice remain “relative concepts, rather than absolute values”.

In the wake of these comments, the time seems ripe to consider how video fits in to the quest for post-conflict justice. How does the use of video relate to such concepts as truth, reconciliation and accountability? It’s an especially interesting question in a region like the Former Yugoslavia, where the population remains so starkly divided in its interpretations of the recent past.

As the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) noted, video of historical atrocities is being used as part of the continuing propaganda war in the Former Yugoslavia, and few debates around video footage in 2006 have been as highly-charged as the one that accompanied this video clip, first broadcast by Serbia’s B92 television station in August 2006.

Warning: the following video contains graphic imagery of human rights abuse

The video depicts events that took place during so-called “Operation Storm” in August 1995. It came to light almost exactly eleven years later – the most recent example of video footage apparently released to coincide with the anniversaries of major atrocities committed by different sides in the Balkan wars.

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[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

The latest twist in the long-running saga of anti-gay violence and state oppression took place yesterday in Moscow, as an appeals court upheld the earlier lower court ruling to ban Moscow’s Gay Pride March in May 2006. The gay rights activists who brought the case will now attempt to challenge the rulling in the European Court of Human Rights, and they say they expect to win.

As GVO’s Eastern and Central Europe Editor Veronica Khokhlova reported in May 2006, Moscow’s Mayor, Yuri Luzhov, banned the Moscow Gay Pride march from taking place. The religious leaders of Moscow met – on the one issue they could agree – to back his decision and called for violence against anyone who tried to marcha call that was unfortunately heeded. The video below – apparently uploaded to YouTube from a Russian anarchist site – doesn’t directly show the violence that took place, but does give a very immediate sense of the atmosphere in Moscow that day, and of who was involved:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXHzoONni-k]

Just as sites like YouTube can be used as a dissemination tool for less savoury content, they can also be used as a tool for solidarity and support, and potentially as evidence. In the case of anti-gay violence, users have tried to upload their own footage (as with the videos in this post), and, where first-hand footage is not available, they have uploaded clips from their local TV news (here’s a clip from Serbian TV’s coverage of the 2001 Gay Pride in Belgrade).

And that solidarity and support may well be needed. Human Rights First, a US-based organisation, released a report earlier this year citing an increase both in rhetoric and in hate-crimes of a homophobic or racist nature in Russia (PDF) over the past year. But it’s not just Russia where this is a trend. Since the accession of 8 Eastern European countries to the EU in May 2004, the spotlight has come to rest increasingly on the rise in official, or state, homophobia across Eastern Europe.

The most high-profile manifestation of this is how governments handle Gay Pride marches – which are now held all over the world – in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT organisations march to commemorate LGBT rights, and to celebrate LGBT pride.

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