Hearing date: March 1, 2010


Written by Andy Wilcoxson

In the first day of his opening statement at The Hague Tribunal former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic set out to refute the Prosecution’s case against him. A complete transcript of the hearing is available at:


In reviewing his opening statement for this report, it became immediately clear that the media had lost all interest in what he was saying after about the first five minutes. The vast majority of quotes that I saw attributed to Karadzic in the press were from the first two transcript pages of an opening statement that consumed 185 transcript pages.


It is obvious that most of the reporters who were dispatched to The Hague to cover the trial treated the assignment as nothing more than an excuse to vacation in The Hague for a couple of days.


One major story from the opening statement that our news media didn’t see fit to mention was an apparent plot by the United States to murder Radovan Karadzic.


During his opening statement Karadzic played an audio tape of the Tribunal’s former chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte. In an effort to secure Karadzic’s surrender to the Tribunal she told one of Karadzic’s interlocutors: “I want to speak with you about Karadzic. SFOR, in particular the United States will try to locate Karadzic [and] if they locate him he will not be transferred to The Hague alive.  It will be an operation [to kill] Karadzic, they'd say, ‘Yes, he was armed, and [we were] reacting.’ I am investigating the agreement between Karadzic and Holbrooke.  I am getting some good evidence that it’s true.  But if it is true, as it seems in my investigation, it is more reason [to fear] that they will kill Karadzic. The substance is that surrender is better than murder.”


The “agreement between Karadzic and Holbrooke” that del Ponte was referring to is an agreement under which Richard Holbrooke promised Karadzic that he would be immune from prosecution at the Tribunal if he stepped down from politics. Although there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary, Holbrooke, who is presently Barack Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, denies the existence of the agreement.


In its coverage of Karadzic’s opening statement, our media sought to portray the defendant as delusional and mentally unstable. Ian Traynor of the London Guardian is representative of the kind of propaganda that passes for journalism in the West. In his reporting he described Karadzic as being “from another planet” and dismissed what Karadzic was saying as “a rerun of the paranoia and propaganda that was the nightly staple diet on Serbian state television.”


The prosecution’s entire case is based on the premise that Radovan Karadzic was the mastermind of a conspiracy to, as the indictment against him claims, “permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory” for the purpose of establishing a greater Serbia.


The Prosecution, our politicians, and our news media would have you believe that this alleged conspiracy, this so-called “joint criminal enterprise,” was the driving force behind the Bosnian war and all of the bloodshed it entailed.


In his opening statement Karadzic explained that the Bosnian-Serbs weren’t acting in the pursuit of a conspiracy, they were reacting to the events that were unfolding around them.


He said, “Republika Srpska was not the political objective of the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their objective was Yugoslavia. Republika Srpska was created out of necessity and as a very painful compromise of the Serbs in order to agree to leave Yugoslavia.”


For those who are unaware of this fact, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of Yugoslavia until it’s secession in 1992. The Serbs who lived in Bosnia wanted to keep living in Yugoslavia and the Muslims and Croats who lived in Bosnia wanted (for different reasons) to secede from Yugoslavia. That’s what this whole thing was about.


Karadzic quoted from a speech that he made in the Bosnian parliament on October 15, 1991 before the war broke-out where he said, “we could agree with you leaving Yugoslavia by means of a plebiscite, but we shall use the same mechanism to prevent you from taking us out of Yugoslavia.”


Karadzic challenged the premise of the whole trial by asking rhetorically, “Why would the Serbs need war in order to achieve something [they] already had and wished, and that was to live in Yugoslavia along with all the Muslims, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, et cetera?  Why did the Serbs need war?”


He said, “We had five conferences and five peace plans. I, as the accused, agreed to four of them.  So what kind of joint criminal enterprise would be possible had any of the other parties accepted just one of the four?”


He pointed out that the Muslims had been setting-up armed paramilitary units for years before the war started, whereas, “the Serbs refused to create their own armed formations until the order was given for the Army of Yugoslavia, the army of their homeland, to withdraw from Bosnia.”


He also pointed out that “the Serbs were the last to set up a political party on ethnic grounds in Bosnia-Herzegovina” whereas the Muslims and the Croats had established their nationalist ethnic parties long beforehand.


All of this goes to refute the idea that the Bosnian war was driven by the existence of a Serbian conspiracy to persecute Muslims and Croats. Karadzic told the judges “In every particular case, the Serbs, the Serb Democratic Party and this accused person proposed solutions that are directly contrary to what they are being charged for.”


Karadzic’s case is that “Serbs were not engaged in action. They were engaged in reaction.” He told the court, “Their (Muslim and Croat) conduct gave rise to our (Serbian) conduct” and that “the Serb people in Bosnia-Herzegovina did their utmost, everything that could have been done, in order to avoid a war.”


Karadzic said that the real problem was that the Bosnian-Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic “insisted on the secession of all Bosnia despite Bosnia's ethnically intermingled character.  This meant making Serbs a national minority in his Islamic republic and taking them out of [their] country (Yugoslavia).”


He said the war began because Izetbegovic’s Party of Democratic Action (SDA) sought the “illegal secession of Bosnia-Herzegovina for the establishment of an Islamist state”.


Karadzic explained that “They could not attain independence without Serb approval. They needed a two-thirds majority.  There was no two-thirds majority at the referendum, nor was there a two-thirds majority in parliament.”


He explained how the Muslims and Croats illegally convened the Bosnian assembly in the dead of night, without the parliament speaker and without the Serbian MP’s in order to pass the memorandum on Bosnia’s secession from Yugoslavia. He explained how this flagrant disregard for the law and the constitution by the Muslims and Croats gave rise to the necessity to create the Bosnian-Serb Republic.


Karadzic told the court, “Republika Srpska was a response to unlawful behavior, to violations of our rights, to breaches of the constitution.  If that was not the case, then this indictment is impossible, and it should have been rejected straight away. We did not consider Bosnia or Republika Srpska to be our home.  We thought that Yugoslavia was our home.”


Karadzic quoted numerous foreign officials in his opening statement including former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who said in an interview with the New Yorker magazine that “The Serbs had very good reason to be worried about being in a Muslim-dominated country.  It wasn't just paranoia.”


In order to demonstrate that Izetbegovic’s regime was motivated by Islamic fundamentalism, Karadzic quoted from Izetbegovic’s book The Islamic Declaration where Izetbegovic says, “the Islamic movement should and can, take over political power as soon as it is morally and numerically so strong that it can not only overturn the existing non-Islamic power, but also build up a new Islamic one.” And that “there can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions.”


He also read hostile statements that Izetbegovic and his close associate Hasan Chengic had made about Serbia and the Serbian people in the mid and early 1980s, long before he or Slobodan Milosevic were even on the political scene.


Karadzic explained the Muslim war aim saying, “The SDA didn’t need the Bosnian Serbs but they, needed their territories, which comprised two-thirds of Bosnia.”


The reason why Serbs comprised one-third of the population and lived on two-thirds of the territory was because they were primarily the farmers. The Serbian territories were vast and sparsely populated, whereas the Muslims and Croats tended to live in the more compact urban areas of Bosnia.


Karadzic told the court that Serbs would have comprised the majority of Bosnia’s population had it not been for the genocide they were subjected to by Nazi-allied Croatian Ustasha and Bosnian-Muslim S.S. units during the Second World War.


Karadzic explained that the genocide the Serbian people suffered during the Second World War was the main reason why Serbs who lived in Croatia and Bosnia (territories which comprised the Nazi-allied “Independent State of Croatia” during World War Two) so vehemently resisted the violent secession of those republics from Yugoslavia 45 years later.


In the early 1990s, anybody who was in their mid-40s was alive during the Second World War, and people in their early 50s were old enough to actually remember it. It was by no means ancient history when the Bosnian War started. It may be 65 years ago now, but it was less than 50 years ago then. It was within the living memory of a substantial number of people.


Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were subjected to systematic slaughter by Muslims and Croats during the Second World War. Karadzic read documents from the Wiesenthal Center which said that more than half a million Serbs had been butchered in the Jasenovac concentration camp alone. No rational person can expect that a mere 45 years later the Serbs would have forgotten about that.


What were the Serbs supposed to think when they saw the same people who allied themselves with the Nazis and committed genocide against them during the Second World War setting-up paramilitary units in order to forcibly dismember Yugoslavia forty-five years later? What were they supposed to think when they saw an Islamic fundamentalist like Izetbegovic leading the Muslims and a Holocaust-denying fascist like Franjo Tudjman leading the Croats? Izetbegovic and Tudjman were both convicted criminals – both had spent time in prison.


During his opening statement Karadzic rhetorically asked the court, “Should we have been in a deep state of anesthesia and waited to be butchered like the Serbs before us?”


Karadzic also touched on the subject of war propaganda. He played a video of the Trnopolje refugee camp. The video was filmed by a Yugoslav camera crew, and it was a video of a British camera crew from the ITN television network fabricating pictures of what they ultimately led the world to believe was a Nazi-style concentration camp.


From the video it was clear that the ITN crew had set itself up inside of a dilapidated barbed wire enclosure that surrounded a utility building next to the refugee camp in order to create the illusion that the refugees were being held prisoner behind the barbed wire. He said the journalists “were surrounded by barbed wire, but they were filming free people, and we suffered gravely on account of the fact that this image went all over the world.  We were harshly punished for that imagery.”


Karadzic told the court how the ITN journalists abused his hospitality. He said, “We brought them on our own plane after the London conference.  We brought them there, and we allowed them to go wherever they wanted to go.”


Speaking of the shelling of the Markale market in Sarajevo Karadzic said, “We are going to prove in this courtroom that Serbs never did this.” And as a sample of the evidence he intends to present he read a quote from former British Foreign Secretary David Owen which said, “The position from which this shell was launched is located one and a half kilometer deep into the Muslim-held territory, measured from the demarcation line which separates this territory from the Army of Republika Srpska.”


Karadzic intends to prove that the shell that hit the Markale Market in Sarajevo was fired by the Muslims against their own civilians. According to Karadzic, “Markale [was a call for] for foreign intervention” the goal was to bring NATO into the war against the Bosnian-Serbs.


If it was a ruse it worked. Two days after the attack on the Markale market NATO warplanes launched a massive saturation bombing campaign against the Bosnian-Serbs which, at the time, was the largest military campaign in NATO’s history.


Karadzic continued his opening statement on the 2nd of March.

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