David Charter/The Australian/thanks to Gramfan
…and yet, he doesn’t even get the benefit of the doubt….
RADOVAN Karadzic showed yesterday that he will fight the charges of genocide he faces every step of the way, by insisting that the Bosnian Serbs fought a “just and holy” war to block the creation of an Islamic state.
In a belligerent opening statement, the former Bosnian Serb leader claimed that his forces had no choice but to fight the war of 1992-95 to “defend the greatness of a small nation” against a Muslim plot to revive the Ottoman Empire.
Dr Karadzic, 64, was frequently told to slow down so that interpreters could keep up with his four-hour, gabbled history of Bosnia and the conflict that claimed 100,000 lives. His trial, expected to run for three years, is the most important since that of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian President, which ended without a verdict when he died in 2006.
“I stand here before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am but to defend the greatness of a small nation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which for 500 years has had to suffer and has demonstrated a great deal of modesty and perseverence to survive in freedom,” Dr Karadzic said from the dock of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. “I will defend that nation of ours and their cause, which is just and holy, and in that way I will be able to defend myself too.”
He faces 11 war crimes charges, including two of genocide, for his alleged role as “supreme commander” overseeing the ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnian Muslims. The genocide charges relate to the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which 10,000 people died, among them 8,000 Muslim men and boys massacred by Bosnian Serb forces in the UN safe haven of Srebrenica in 1995.
Dressed in a blue suit and red tie, Dr Karadzic set out his counter-attack with a diatribe against alleged Muslim plotters. “There were fundamentalist goals to change the destiny and appearance of the whole region,” he said. “Their aim was 100 per cent power, as it was in the Ottoman Empire.”
He insisted that the plan for a Muslim state was supported by “various actors”, including the United States and Germany. He quoted George Kenney, a former Yugoslav desk officer for the US State Department, urging Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian President, to block negotiations and “hold out for a unitary Bosnian state”.
Dr Karadzic concluded: “This kind of American intervention guaranteed severe war in Bosnia and the deaths of thousands of people.”
In an attempted reversal of the charges against him for leading the ethnic cleansing, he insisted that only the Serbs truly wanted a multi-ethnic nation. “The Serbs were claiming their own territories and that is not a crime,” he said. “It was never an intention, never any idea let alone a plan, to expel Muslims and Croats.”