By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe Desk
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic stated during his trial today that the Serb cause in the Bosnian war was “just and holy.” The statement was made as Karadzic began his defense today at his genocide trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He said:
“I will defend that nation of ours and their cause is just and holy…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.”
Karadzic, age sixty-four, led the Bosnian Serbs during the war in the 1990’s. During his statement today he said that a core group of Muslims in Bosnia – then and now – wanted 100 percent power, at the expense of the Christian majority. He also said that the Serbs acted in self-defense after their peace plans were rejected. He accused former Croat leader Franjo Tudjman and former Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbecović of pursuing “ethnocentric” objectives, and stated that the two, respectively, desired to create Croatian and Muslim states.
He denied charges that the Serbs ran concentration camps where non-Serbs were tortured and killed, referring to them as “collection centers” for refugees. He said: “It was a transit point for persons who had nowhere to go because of the fighting going on around them.”
The former Bosnian Serb leader is accused of masterminding the worst act of genocide since World War II. In 1995 at Srebrenica, a Muslim enclave and U.N. safe zone, roughly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred during the course of a week. Karadzic is also accused of leading the bloody forty-four month siege of Sarajevo.
Prosecutors have charged Karadzic with orchestrating the campaign in order to destroy the Muslim and Croat communities in eastern Bosnia in order to create an ethnically pure Serb state. Karadzic insists that that he is innocent of all eleven charges he faces, which include charges of genocide and war crimes. However, he has failed to enter a formal ‘not-guilty’ plea with the court.
For more information, please see:
Balkan Insight – Karadzic: Defence in the Name of the Serbian Nation – 1 March 2010
BBC – Karadzic calls Serb cause ‘holy’ – 1 March 2010
Eurasia Review – Bosnians React to Karadzic Opening Statements – 1 March 2010
The Guardian – Karadzic defends ‘just and holy Bosnian war – 1 March 2010