Reading the Bible will help stop war crimes, says Serbian officer

Colonel Sasha Milutinovic says that reading the New Testament will help educate troops in moral standards.Bible Society/Clare Kendall

More than 4,000 New Testaments are being given to the Serbian army, according to a senior military figure.

The New Testaments will be handed out to soldiers over the coming months.

Colonel Sasha Milutinovic, the Serbian army's Chief of Religion Section, said that reading them would "improve respect for the enemy".

"I hope as a result of this we will never see a war crime in the Serbian Army again," he said.

"In the past we made some mistakes. But now we not only want to improve our morals but to come back to faith in eternal life and to eternal values."

The New Testaments have been produced by Bible Society and will be distributed free later this year. It is hoped that, in time, all 33,000 members of the Serbian Armed Forces will receive a copy.

The General Secretary of the Bible Society of Serbia, Vera Mitic, welcomed the move.

"Soldiers can learn a lot about military service from the Bible," she said. "I strongly believe that the Bible should be a spiritual and moral guide for our soldiers."

She added that she hoped the scheme would inspire other Bible Societies in the Balkans to provide Bibles to their armies.

Serbian forces were responsible for atrocities during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, among them the massacre at Srebrenica.

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims died in the three-day massacre, the worst in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

The former head of the Serbian Army, Ratko Mladic, is currently on trial at the Hague for war crimes.

Earlier this year a judge at the Hague upheld charges against five former Serbian Army officers for their role in the killings.