Karadzic opens defence in Hague war crimes trial
Radovan Karadzic opens his defence before the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes court on Tuesday. The Bosnian Serb wartime leader, arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008, will be hoping to convince judges of his innocence in a conflict that claimed 100,000 lives.
Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic opens his defence before the Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague on Tuesday, hoping to convince judges of his innocence of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and other charges.
Now 67, Karadzic denies the 10 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against him, committed by Bosnian Serb troops and officials during the Balkan nation's bloody 1992-95 war in which 100,000 people died.
"He will expose his personal views on the crimes listed in the indictment," his legal advisor Peter Robinson told AFP. Karadzic is representing himself before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Karadzic and his notorious military alter ego Ratko Mladic, also on trial in The Hague, both face a genocide charge for the massacre committed by Bosnian Serb troops in the eastern Bosnian hilltown of Srebrenica in mid-July 1995.
There, almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically murdered and dumped into mass graves over a period of a few days after Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic overran the enclave under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers.
The crime was the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.
But Robinson said Karadzic will tell judges that although he did not deny people were killed in Srebrenica, "what he challenges is the scale of the massacre."
"He (Karadzic) does not know how many people were killed, but according to him it's certainly not 7,000," Robinson said, adding, "no policy was implemented (at Srebrenica), he did not know prisoners would be executed."
Karadzic is also being prosecuted by the UN court for his role in the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo between May 1992 and November 1995 in which 10,000 people died under terrifying sniper and artillery fire.
Like Mladic, he faces charges for his role in taking hostage UN observers and peacekeepers to use them as human shields during a NATO bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb targets in May and June 1995.
Following 13 years on the run after being indicted by the ICTY in 1995, Karadzic, a trained pyschiatrist, was finally arrested in disguise in 2008 on a bus in Belgrade, where he practised as a doctor of alternative medicine.
"The reality is that Karadzic and Mladic 15 years ago played a very important role and nobody wanted to arrest them," the ICTY's chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told AFP, adding that today "many people in Serbia still consider them heroes and not war criminals."
Karadzic's trial kicked off in October 2009 and prosecutors built their case against him between April 2010 and May this year.
Judges dropped one genocide count against him in June, saying there was not enough evidence to substantiate its definition relating to killings in Bosnian towns by Bosnian Serb forces between March to December 1992.
Genocide is the gravest crime in international humanitarian law -- and the hardest to prove.
Tuesday's hearing will start with a four-hour opening statement by Karadzic, who is given to ideological grandstanding when testifying in court, followed by the testimony of Russian colonel Andrei Demurenko, who was the UN's chief-of-staff from January to December 1995 in Sarajevo.
Karadzic said he planned to call 300 witnesses to testify in the 300 hours allotted to him by the ICTY.
Greece's President Carolos Papoulias, who was his country's foreign minister during the Bosnian war, is one of them.
Karadzic has said Papoulias' testimony could prove his innocence for the infamous shelling of Sarajevo's Markale market on February 5, 1994 in which 67 people died.
His defence opens on the same day as the start of the trial of Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic, the ICTY's last suspect.