Karadzic Challenges Donia’s Expertise
www.slobodan-milosevic.org - August 10, 2010
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson
Hearing date: June 2, 2010
The prosecution’s expert historian, American professor Robert Donia, continued his testimony in the Radovan Karadzic trial on June 2, 2010.
Yugoslavia’s Formation & Donia’s Competence as an Expert
While testifying for the Prosecution, Donia claimed to have specialized knowledge of “political and social history, principally of the 19th and 20th centuries, and principally in the area of south-eastern Europe, in particular Bosnia-Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia.”
However, when Karadzic asked him questions about the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs that existed in 1918, prior to the formation of the first Yugoslavia, the supposed expert confessed “I have no idea what it is.”
Karadzic demonstrated the importance of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs by exhibiting the treaty (exhibit D244) signed between that state and the Kingdom of Serbia in 1918.
The treaty said: “The National Council of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs declares the unification of the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, created on the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, with the Kingdom of Serbia.
“The Serb, Croat, and Slovene peoples of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy have of their own free will determined to unite with Serbia in a permanent union for the purpose of forming a single sovereign independent state under the title of Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.”
When confronted with the historical document Donia admitted that that the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs did exist. He said, “Yes. It, I guess, lasted seven days.”
Karadzic noted that, “The main point of the matter is that it was a state. It doesn’t matter how long it lasted. It was able to conclude international agreements, and it became united into a new state, but it is a state, and the Serbs there were a constituent people.”
After seeing the historical documents Donia admitted that the State of Slovenes Croats and Serbs was one of the parties that founded Yugoslavia. He said, “The Kingdom of Serbia, through it’s proclamation of 1 December 1918, in fact, declared the creation of a new polity known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and the representatives that we have been seeing here formed first as the Yugoslav committee and then for this very fleeting period of about seven days having declared themselves a state were parties to that agreement.”
The State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was one of the entities that founded Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was formed by a merger of the Kingdom of Serbia with the State of Slovenes Croats and Serbs on December 1, 1918.
Donia didn’t know, until Karadzic told him about it the day before, that the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs had ever existed. Therefore Donia couldn’t have known how Yugoslavia, the country that he claims to be a historical expert on, was founded.
The founding of a country is the among the most basic historical information that one can know about any country, and this “expert historian” had no idea how Yugoslavia was founded because he didn’t know who the entities that founded it were nor that one of them had ever existed.
This is a tremendous embarrassment for the Prosecution. Donia has testified as an expert historian in fifteen different trials. For him not to know such basic information about the country he claims to be an expert on raises serious questions about his competence.
The Dissolution of the SFRY
Although he successfully undermined Donia’s competence as an expert historian, Karadzic continued to cross-examine him. He asked, “Do you agree, Mr. Donia, that [Socialist] Yugoslavia was not created by the association of republics, them polling together?”
Donia answered, “Well, in most of the polities that became part of Yugoslavia were not republics, so I would agree that they were not created by an association of republics, no.”
Karadzic followed-up by asking, “And do you agree that by the same token it couldn’t have become dissolved with the dissociation of the republics?”
Donia couldn’t answer the question. He said, “I think you’re asking a point of constitutional interpretation that I’m really not qualified to answer and would note that it was heavily contested at the time as well. So I’m really not in a position to give you an answer to that question.”
Karadzic showed Donia Article 5 of the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution which said: “The territory of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a single unified whole and consists of the territories of the Socialist Republics. The territory of a Republic may not be altered without the consent of that Republic, nor the territory of an Autonomous Province without the consent of that Autonomous Province. The territory of the Socialist Federal Republic may not be altered without the consent of all Socialist Republics and Autonomous Provinces. Boundaries between the Republics may only be altered on the basis of mutual agreement; and, if the boundary of an Autonomous Province is involved, on the basis of the latter’s agreement.”
After reading text from the Constitution, Karadzic asked the witness, “Now, is it common sense that there can be no secession until everybody agrees about secession?”
Donia’s response was, “This is not a common-sense question. It is one assertion of this principle that, in fact, had other formulations that were in at least some potential conflict with it. So I can’t make the judgment based on the question that you just asked me.”
Karadzic asked, “Do you consider that the secession of those republics, the ones which did secede, did you consider that to be legal, lawful?”
Donia replied, “I don’t make judgments like that.” So Karadzic asked rhetorically, “If you are unable to say, then how can you assess the conduct and steps taken by the Serb side engulfed by this mass of unlawful conduct and moves on the other side, because you’ve been evaluating all our steps and movements, the municipal boundaries, resistance to the secession of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and so on and so forth, and we say that it was all a result of the unlawful action of the Bosnian Croatian coalition in the Assembly.”
Karadzic also read out the text of the 42nd Amendment of the 1974 Bosnian Constitution which read: “The borders of the republic may only be changed by a decision of the Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina provided that the will of all the citizens of the republic is expressed by way of a referendum and at least two-thirds of the total number of voters vote in favor of that.”
He then asked, “Do you agree on the whole that in any country a simple majority would not be sufficient for carrying out constitutional changes, but more than that would be required?”
And Donia replied, “I would say in most countries that would be the case.”
Of course the Bosnian referendum on independence only garnered 64.31% of the vote – short of the 2/3rds majority required by the Constitution.
Karadzic put it to the witness that “The constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina did not provide for the independence and existence of Bosnia outside Yugoslavia at all. Do you agree? Is there any provision of the constitution saying that Bosnia can secede?”
Donia’s answer: “I don’t know.”
Donia Sees “Serb Propaganda” from the Mouths of Western Officials
Karadzic played several video clips from the documentary film “Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War”. The parts of the video that Karadzic played were statements from Western officials about the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
The first clip he played (exhibit D251) was a statement by former NATO Secretary-General Lord Peter Carrington who said, “This was a war that European leaders believe could have been avoided. The Bosnian Serbs until comparatively recently have been in the majority in Bosnia, and then the Muslims who had had a very much higher birth rate than the Serbs became the majority population, and this of course was something very hard for the Serbs to swallow, and they made it abundantly plain very early on that they were not prepared to accept the situation in which there was an independent Bosnia under the constitution which then prevailed. And indeed under the constitution which then prevailed, it was illegal for Izetbegovic to declare independence because any constitutional change of that magnitude had to be agreed by all three parties.”
The second clip (exhibit 252) was a statement by former US Secretary of State, and White House Chief of Staff, James Baker saying, “We said if Yugoslavia does not break up peacefully there’s going to be one hell of a civil war. It nevertheless broke up non-peacefully. It broke up through the unilateral declaration of independence by Slovenia and Croatia and the seizing by these two countries, republics, of their border posts, which was an act of force and which was an act that was in violation of the Helsinki principles. But the European powers and the United States ultimately recognized Slovenia and then Croatia and then Bosnia as independent countries and admitted them to the United Nations. The real problem was that there was a unilateral declaration of independence and a use of force to gain that independence rather than a peaceful negotiation of independence, which is the way it should have happened.”
The third clip from the film (exhibit 253) was a statement by another former US Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, saying “When we finally went ahead and recognized [the secessionist Yugoslav republics], one of the reasons we did so was because it had become a major domestic political issue for us here. We have particularly a large Croatian American community, and Mr. Bush lost most of them in the election that he lost because they were unhappy with our having delayed as long as we did in recognizing Croatia.”
After seeing the clips from the video Donia said, “These are very carefully selected excerpts from statements by many different public figures in the crisis which are deliberately selected, apparently, in this video to make a particular point, and that means it’s really, I think, a Serb propaganda film.”
Ironically, one could make exactly the same point about the report that accompanies Donia’s testimony. His report is entitled, “Thematic Excerpts from the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, 1991 to 1996”.
During his testimony for the Prosecution, Donia described his role as an expert historian saying, “I prepare narratives, to elucidate a sequence of events, the causes of those events, and the linkages between them to produce a coherent story.” He said that his report was written “with the intent of creating exactly that kind of a narrative.” And that his report contained “what I judge to be the most revealing and helpful excerpts from the Assembly minutes”.
In Donia’s expert report he “carefully selected excerpts from statements by many different public figures in the crisis” in order “to make a particular point”. If we apply the same criteria that he used to evaluate the work of the people who made that film, we can conclude that his so-called “expert report” is actually propaganda – which makes him a propagandist.
Who Wanted War?
Karadzic showed Donia a 2009 interview with Franjo Tudjman’s internal affairs minister Josip Boljkovac, in which Boljikovac said, “Tudjman wanted the war at any cost following the concept according to which Serbs must disappear from Croatia.”
Karadzic also played clips from the Spegelj Film (exhibit 249), in which Boljkovac and Croatian Defense minister Martain Spegelj are seen planning the murder of Serbs and JNA soldiers in 1990 before the war started.
Spegelj is seen on the videotape telling Boljkovac how Yugoslav soldiers should be killed. Spegelj says they should be killed “on the spot, in the street, in the compound, in barracks, anywhere. Just pistol and into the stomach. There will be no mercy towards anyone, women or children. Into homes, family homes, quite simply grenades.” He said, “Serbs in Croatia will never be there again for as long as we are there. Their Knin will never be Knin again. We will slaughter them.”
Karadzic asked Donia, “Did you know that Izetbegovic and Tudjman acknowledged that they consciously opted for the war option?”
Donia replied, “I think you’ve established that Tudjman made such a statement. I need to see Izetbegovic’s statement to agree that he stated exactly as you put it here, which is to consciously opt for the war option.”
Karadzic showed Donia two statements that Izetbegovic made to that effect. One statement was Izetbegovic’s speech to the Bosnian parliament on February 27, 1991 (exhibit P969) in which he said, “However, these two things that I mentioned here, a sovereign and integral Bosnia-Herzegovina and a peaceful path to achieving it are for me not on the same scale in terms of value. For a sovereign Bosnia I would sacrifice peace. For peace in Bosnia I would not sacrifice a sovereign Bosnia. Likewise, on that scale of values, if I had to choose, for me Bosnia comes first and then Yugoslavia. That’s the way things are for me.”
The other statement was made by Izetbegovic on February 15, 1993 on Sarajevo Television. Izetbegovic said, “We made our choice, and we could have easily done it differently. The price we paid is high, but it had to be paid. If I am to be blamed for it, then Karadzic should not. We could have avoided this conflict had we remained united as Yugoslavia, but we wanted independence. Towards the end of 1991, we established a Patriotic League in order to prepare for war.”
Donia tried to say that these statements did not indicate that Izetbegovic opted for war. He said, “The quotation that you just read and contended was by Mr. Izetbegovic did not say what you said it did. That was that he consciously opted for the war option. He talked about preparation for war, not consciously opting for the war option. Now, that was a misrepresentation on your part of what that citation said.”
Obviously, Donia is a guy with an agenda. He described the Croatian mass-movement of the 1970s, which resulted in a number of terrorist attacks against Yugoslavia, the United States, and Western Europe as “a flowering of democratic sentiment and of national sentiment on behalf of Croatia.” That’s quite an extraordinary way of putting things. Planes were hijacked, people were assassinated, bombs were planted in public places and landmarks, and he calls it a “a flowering of democratic sentiment”.
The Founding of the SDA & Patriotic League
Donia did agree with Karadzic on several points. He said, “The Serbs in Croatia were frightened by the revival of World War II insignia and rhetoric emanating from not only the HDZ but other Croatian bodies.” He said, “As a general principle, I would agree that they had reason to be concerned.”
Donia agreed with Karadzic that “genocide was committed against the Serbs in the course of the Second World War” on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia (present day Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina).
Donia described the founders of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) saying, “there were a few people in this group [who founded the SDA], including [Alija] Izetbegovic, [Omar] Behmen, and I believe [Halid] Cengic, who were prosecuted in 1947 and Izetbegovic again was prosecuted by the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, convicted, and imprisoned in 1983.”
Karadzic exhibited a copy of Alija Izetbegovic’s 1947 prison record (exhibit D245), which stated that he had been convicted by a Yugoslav military court for “acts against the nation and the state” following the Second World War.
Karadzic asked, “Do you know that Mr. Izetbegovic was among the founders and top officials of the organization of the Young Muslims, starting from 1939.”
Donia confirmed saying, “Yes.”
Karadzic asked him, “Have you heard of the great Jerusalem mufti al-Husseini who is the uncle or some similar relative of Yasser Arafat’s?”
Donia replied, “Yes, I’ve written in my Sarajevo book, in fact, about the mufti of Jerusalem, his visit to Bosnia during the Second World War, and his relationship to the Ustasha regime. He had good relations with the Ustasha regime and certainly with the Berlin [Nazi] leadership.”
Karadzic asked, “Do you agree that the al-Husseini visits to Bosnia-Herzegovina resulted in the creation of one and then another SS division, the Handzar Division?”
Again Donia confirmed the information saying, “It’s common knowledge, I would say, in the history of Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
Karadzic asked, “Do you know where al-Husseini stayed when he was in Sarajevo? If I tell you that he stayed with Omer Behmen and he socialized with Alija Izetbegovic, would you accept that?”
Donia’s initial answer was, “No.” And Karadzic had to press him to get the real answer.
Karadzic asked, “Are you denying it then?” and Donia replied in equivocal fashion saying, “I said I didn’t accept it.”
So Karadzic asked, “Because you don’t know whether that’s how it was, or because you know it wasn’t that way?”
Finally Donia admitted, “I don’t know -- I don’t know whether that was the case.”
Karadzic also exhibited an interview with Halid Cengic (D246), the father of former Bosnian Defense Minister Hasan Cengic.
In the interview Cengic says, “Hasan [Cengic] left prison on November 1987, Alija [Izetbegovic], a year later. The SDA was created on the 26th of May, 1990. Until Alija and Omer [Behmen] had left prison, there was no mention of the party. What was most important for us at that point was for people to get out of prison. When Alija was released, circles began to speak about a party in Sarajevo, but the matter was also discussed out of the country.
“Foca was the centre for arming. It was from there that several thousand barrels were distributed all over Bosnia-Herzegovina, from Ljubinje to Srebrenica. Even Naser Oric came to collect arms there.
“Already on the 1st of August, 1990, during the defense of Focatrans, we had a platoon armed with automatic weapons, machine-guns, and a mortar. All of them had camouflage uniforms, and they took the oath in the Ustikolina mosque by placing their hand on the Koran.”
Karadzic asked the witness, “Did you know that the SDA party, the idea about a
party, the nucleus of it, was within the circle of these prisoners doing
sentence in prison?”
Donia answered, “Well, I think the -- this -- this statement is correct that it wasn’t until Izetbegovic was released from prison that this gathering took place that you mentioned in -- in February, and indeed the -- Izetbegovic’s release was critical for the -- this nucleus of people to come together and make plans to form the Party of Democratic Action on the 26th of May.”
Karadzic also asked the witness, “Now, can we see from this that on the 1st of August, 1990, that is to say, before the elections while the communists were still in power, that in Foca the first unit of the Patriotic League was formed and it was armed with automatic weapons?”
Donia’s answer was, “No. The reference to the Patriotic League, I believe, is in the question, not in the statement by Mr. Cengic.”
Of course this interview with Halid Cengic is already on exhibit at the Tribunal as exhibit D18 in the Krnojelac trial, and from the text of the interview one can clearly see that Cengic is the one speaking, also the Ljiljan newspaper in which the interview was published is the official party newspaper of the SDA. The arming of the Patriotic League in Foca during the summer of 1990 is what the SDA published about its own activities in its own newspaper.
Fascism in Tudjman’s Croatia
Karadzic also showed the witness a video of Lord Carrington (exhibit D248) saying: “The Serbs in Croatia and, indeed, outside Croatia had a very vivid memory of what happened in 1941, ‘42, when Hitler declared Croatia as an independent puppet state, if you like, and the horrors that went on there and the murders of the Serbs were still very -- I mean, a very large number of Serbs were murdered at that time. I mean, hundreds of thousands. And I think it was very understandable that when Croatia declared its independence and promulgated a new constitution without any safeguard for the 600,000 Serbs who still lived in Croatia, that the Croatian Serbs were very perturbed about this.”
Karadzic asked the witness, “Now, the new authority [in Croatia in 1990], did it introduce new rhetoric or, rather, the old rhetoric of 1941? Did it re-introduce that rhetoric?”
Donia admitted, “There was some revival of those things, but I think that the official circles tried to avoid at least the most ostentatious of it, and I think it depended on who you’re speaking about and the degree to which those symbols and that rhetoric was re-introduced.”
Karadzic asked, “Do you know that President Tudjman said at an HDZ meeting that the Independent State of Croatia was not only a fascist creation but was also the realization of the legitimate aspirations of the Croatian people for their state, for a state of their own?”
Donia conceded the point saying, “I’m familiar that he said words to that effect, yes.”
Karadzic followed up asking, “And do you remember that he also said that he was happy that his wife was neither a Serb nor a Jew?” And Donia agreed saying “Yes.”
A complete transcript of this hearing is available at:
If you found this article useful please consider making a donation to the author by visiting the following URL: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=AYU7SP3575BSQ