Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic went face to face with the first witness in his genocide trial Tuesday, remaining combative as he heard testimony of Serb atrocities against Muslim civilians.
REUTERS - The first prosecution witness at the trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told a U.N. court on Tuesday he saw Bosnian Serb forces slit prisoners' throats after forcing them to dig their own graves.
Karadzic is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia on 11 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violating the laws and customs of war stemming from the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He denies them all.
When proceedings resumed after a six-week delay, prosecutors at the tribunal called their first witness, who testified about his detention at the Manjaca camp and killings in northwestern Bosnia around his town of Sanski Most.
Initially detained in June 1992 in a concrete garage with between 30 and 90 people, Ahmet Zulic said he was repeatedly beaten, suffering broken ribs and fractured vertebrae, before he was transported in "inhuman" conditions to the camp.
Zulic said detainees were transported in a covered truck in which the air was full of stifling exhaust fumes. He resorted to drinking his own urine because there was no water.
"I remember two brothers ... it took them 10 minutes to die, which seemed to be an eternity. Others died silently because they did not have enough air," he said.
Prosecutors say Karadzic led a genocidal campaign intended to make Bosnian Muslims "disappear from the face of the earth" and carve out a mono-ethnic state for Bosnian Serbs during a war that killed an estimated 100,000 people.
In his opening statement to the court on March 1, Karadzic denied involvement in the four-year siege of Sarajevo by Serb forces, where 10,000 died, and the killing of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.
Zulic confirmed a statement he made to the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he saw Bosnian Serb forces attack villages in northern Bosnia with shelling and set houses on fire. Prisoners were shot or forced to dig their own graves and had their throats cut.
"Mr Zulic's bed-ridden father-in-law was burned to death," prosecutor Ann Sutherland said, highlighting attacks on two other villages where 300 people were killed.
Zulic said he was eventually released from detention and taken from Bosnia to Croatia on buses organised by Serb authorities and the Red Cross.
Karadzic, given the chance to cross-examine Zulic, asked him a wide range of questions, such as whether there was organised resistance among Bosnian Muslims to Serbs, debating at length whether there had been elite Muslim-led troops in Zulic's town.
The former Yugoslavia was torn apart in the 1990s by war among Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Zulic admitted he had bought a gun, but denied any knowledge of elite troops in his town.
He added Muslims and Serbs initially decided to set up joint village watches before the Serbs decided against the initiative.
Karadzic was sharply criticised by Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon about the relevance of many questions, at one point being urged to "come to the point". The judge warned Karadzic the court could limit the length of witness cross-examination.
Kwon also ruled that British barrister Richard Harvey, who was appointed Karadzic's legal adviser last year after Karadzic boycotted the trial, would remain as stand-by counsel and would represent Karadzic if that became necessary.
The trial is being heard over three days of hearings each week.
Date created : 2010-04-13