The Serb cause in the Bosnia war was a “just and holy” war against the “Islamist goals” of Muslims, Radovan Karadzic has claimed during his trial against United Nations genocide charges.
Wearing a dark suit and tie, the wartime political leader of Bosnia’s Serbs today ended a previous boycott of his genocide and war crimes trial to open his own defence.
”I stand before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am but to defend the greatness of a small nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina which for 500 years has had to suffer and has demonstrated of modesty and perseverance to survive in freedom,” he told the court in his opening statement.
”I will defend that nation of ours and their cause that is just and holy. We have a good case. We have good evidence and proof.”
Karadzic is charged by UN prosecutors with being the “supreme commander” of an ethnic cleansing campaign of Muslims and Croats in the 1992-95 Bosnian war in which 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million displaced.
Often referring to himself in the third person as “Karadzic”, the defendant, who has put on weight over the last seven months in his “Hague Hilton” prison cell, insisted that he had no regrets.
”I don’t want to defend myself by saying that I wasn’t important or that I didn’t occupy an important post while I was serving my people, nor will I shift the blame to someone else,” he said.
Beginning his defence his against 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, he traced the origins of the conflict to the rejection by Bosnia’s Muslim leadership of power-sharing proposals.
”The Serbs were the party that made concessions for the sake of preserving peace and they were never in favour of a war solution,” he said.
The Bosnian conflict between Serbs, Croats and Muslims resulted from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia which was in turn caused by American and European recognition of breakaway states, said Karadzic.
Karadzic quoted George Kenney, a US State Department official, telling Alija Izetbegovic, a Bosnian Muslim leader to block negotiations and to “hold out for a unitary Bosnian state”.
He accused a “conspiracy core” of fundamentalists of having tried to create an Islamic state with Western support.
”They had an Islamist goal. They wanted 100 per cent power as it was in the days of the Ottoman Empire. There were fundamental goals changing the destiny of a whole region,” he said. “They want Islamic fundamentalism and wanted it from 1991 to 1995.”
By supporting Bosnian secession from Yugoslavia, Karadzic claimed, Western powers led by Germany, Serbia’s old World War Two enemy, triggered the civil war. “The German victory was complete when its former adversaries from World War Two were doing their work from them,” he said.
Karadzic also quoted Ruud Lubbers, the Dutch Prime Minister in 1991, warning that German pressure for unilateral independence of Croatia and Slovenia would lead to civil war.
”The German government was pressing for recognition against the resistance of other European countries. The result was a catastrophe,” Mr Lubbers said, according to Karadzic.
The defendant, 64, accused Bosnian Muslims of “war tricks” by bussing in corpses and artificial body parts to stage atrocities in Sarajevo during the 44 month siege of the city where 12,000 civilians were killed.
”What I’m going to present here is the marble truth,” he said. “Everything that Serbs did is being treated as a crime.”
Mr Karadzic, who is representing himself, with two legal advisers, has refused the help of a court appointed lawyer and has accused the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of denying him the time to mount a full defence.
After initially boycotting the opening of his trial last October, Karadzic has pleaded not guilty for charges carrying the penalty of life imprisonment.
He was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008, disguised as a bearded faith healer, after 13 years on the run.