Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

On July 11th the ICTY Appeals Chamber reversed Radovan Karadzic’s acquittal on genocide charges related to seven municipalities in Bosnia where the original Trial Chamber had ruled that there was no evidence of genocidal intent.

The Appeals Chamber acknowledged that “that Article 4(2) of the Statute defines genocide to encompass any of certain acts ‘committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such’ and lists a number of prohibited acts, including ‘killing members of the group’. Thus, for the crime of genocide, one or more of the prohibited acts enumerated in Article 4(2) of the Statute must be established … in addition, it must be established that the prohibited act was committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such, which is often referred to as either genocidal intent, dolus specialis, or specific intent. The requirement of an underlying, prohibited act, or actus reus, of genocide is thus analytically distinct from the requirement of genocidal intent.”[1]

The Appeals Chamber also noted “that the Trial Chamber explicitly recognized that ‘the determination of whether there is evidence capable of supporting a conviction for genocide does not involve a numerical assessment of the number of people killed and does not have a numeric threshold.’” [2]

In other words, the number of people who die doesn’t matter. There may be genocide when there is only a small number of victims, or there may be not genocide even when there are large-scale mass killings with scores of victims. According to the Tribunal, what matters in determining whether genocide has been committed is the reason the people were killed, not the number that were killed.   

The Appeals Chamber explains that genocide must be “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”.[3]

According to the Appeals Chamber Karadzic was wrongfully acquitted because “the Trial Chamber failed to consider the genocidal intent of Karadzic and the other alleged JCE (Joint Criminal Enterprise) members.”[4]

In its findings, The Appeals Chamber cited several pieces of evidence that it says show that Karadzic and other members of the alleged Joint Criminal Enterprise possessed genocidal intent. However, if one goes through each piece of evidence cited by the Appeals Chamber in its ruling, one finds that none of the evidence they cite demonstrates an “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”. The evidence is simply not what they represent it to be.

All one has to do is follow the citations in the appellate judgment back to the original evidence to see the intellectual dishonesty of their findings. They can dress in fancy red judicial robes and stand in front of the UN flag, but none of that makes their findings credible. One only has to scratch the surface to discover that their findings cannot withstand the slightest scrutiny.

Radovan Karadzic’s Genocidal Intent

According to the judgment, “the Trial Chamber received evidence that in meetings with Karadzic ‘it had been decided that one third of Muslims would be killed, one third would be converted to the Orthodox religion and a third will leave on their own’ and thus all Muslims would disappear from Bosnia.”[5]

The Appeals Chamber cites the source of this information as Prosecution Exhibit 3405, which is the amalgamated witness statement of a Bosnian Muslim from Rogatica who was held prisoner at the Veljko Vlahovic School. The witness testified for the prosecution under the pseudonym “KDZ-051”.

The witness statement was written and compiled by the prosecutor as an amalgamation of the witness’s previous testimony before the Tribunal. The amalgamated statement does indeed say, “I had spoken to Sveto Veselinovic, president of the Municipal SDS. He criticized me for being a Muslim. I managed to work up the courage to ask him what was going to happen to us. He told me that all the Muslims were going to disappear from the territory. He said that he had meetings with Radovan Karadzic in Pale. It had been decided that one third of Muslims would be killed, one third would be converted to the Orthodox religion and a third will leave on their own.”

The source cited by the amalgamated statement is the witness’s previous testimony on page 11278 of the Krajisnik trial transcript where they testified under the pseudonym of “Witness 382”.

If one follows that citation back to the original transcript, one finds that the witness said: “I learned from two soldiers that I was supposed to go and have a talk or questioning, as they called it, to one of the leaders of the SDS from Rogatica and they took me to Sveto Veselinovic. The conversation didn't last long and Sveto Veselinovic I knew, actually -- well, I didn't know him personally much, but he had his back turned towards me and was looking out of the window and he told me -- he didn't mention any names, but all he said was, in a very strict tone of voice, he said, ‘All the Muslims will disappear,’ in this sharp tone of voice as if he was sort of scolding me. I kept quiet. I wasn't ready to answer, to respond. I was shocked as well by the statement and I was afraid of what was going to happen next.

“Then he continued the conversation or he continued to speak and he said, ‘Well, look, it's a nice day, it's sunny. We'll have good plums this year and good plum brandy.’ I didn't really know what he was on about. Then he returned to the topic of the Muslims and the people in the camp, and he said that, ‘It's going to be the way –‘ he -- he told me at that time, he said, ‘Everything's going to be the way it should be: A third of the Muslims will be killed, a third become Orthodox, and a third will escape.’ A third will be converted to Orthodoxism and a third will escape.

“Later on, he went back to these thoughts of his about the weather and he called the soldiers back and they took me back to my room, to the school building.”[6]

You’ll notice that in the actual live testimony of this witness there’s no mention whatsoever about any meetings with Radovan Karadzic. In fact the witness explicitly said that Veselinovic “didn’t mention any names” when he said what would happen to the Muslims.

When the witness did speak about Karadzic it was only in very general terms. They said, “I'm bitter about Mr. Krajisnik, Mr. Karadzic, who played their own part in all of this. What it was exactly, I don't know” but “I saw some kind of responsibility on the part of Mr. Krajisnik and Mr. Karadzic as persons who could have stopped the slaughter in Rogatica.”[7] 

The Appeals Chamber’s assertion that “in meetings with Karadzic ‘it had been decided that one third of Muslims would be killed, one third would be converted to the Orthodox religion and a third will leave on their own’ and thus all Muslims would disappear from Bosnia” does not square with the testimony given by the witness who’s evidence they’re citing.

Although the Appeals Chamber may have been misled by the way the Prosecution wrote the amalgamated witness statement, you would think that when dealing with an issue as serious as the genocidal intent of the defendant that they would have at least checked to make sure that the underlying evidence was really what the Prosecution represented it to be.

However, the Appeals Chamber was not simply misled by the Prosecution, the Appeals Chamber itself was malicious in its own interpretation of the evidence.

The Appeals Chamber contends that “Karadzic is alleged to have said that his goal was ‘to get rid of the enemies in our house, the Croats and Muslims, and not to be in the same state with them anymore’.”[8]

That quote comes from a speech that Karadzic gave at the 42nd Session of the Republika Srpska Assembly, dated 18-19 July 1994. The Appeals Chamber knows full well what he said in the speech because the citation they give in the judgment was Prosecution Exhibit 1394, which is a transcript of the actual speech.

The Appeals Chamber selectively quoted one part of a single sentence from that speech and totally changed the meaning by doing so. There’s a term for what they did it’s called “quote mining”, and it’s a form of false attribution that politicians often use to smear their opponents.

Here is what Karadzic actually says in the speech, “According to the Owen-Stoltenberg plan, we had 53 municipal seats and three halves of towns, that is 56 out of 109 municipalities, we had 56 at the time and that was a map in the creation of which we and the Croats had the leading roles, so that if something were to be imposed on us, it should be like that. We know for sure that we have to give something up, that is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we wish to achieve our primary strategic aim, which is to get rid of the enemies in our house, the Croats and Muslims, and not to be in the same state with them anymore. Every divorce has a price, we have to give something up, but we are the winners, we have a majority of the territory now, not only under our control, but also in our ownership, and if the proportion is exactly 49%, then it is the winners who should choose which 49%, although we would find it hard to say, every mountain is dear to us, every mountain is our history and cemetery and church, and so on, but it would be much easier for us to keep what is important, our towns and our holy places, our traditional mountains, such as Kozara, Grmec, Ozren, etc.”

What Karadzic is saying is that the Serbs needed to give-up some of the territory that they were holding so that they wouldn’t have to share a state with the Muslims and the Croats. He’s not saying anything that could be construed as advocating the destruction of the Muslim or Croatian people. He uses the analogy of a divorce, just because somebody wants to divorce their spouse it doesn’t mean they want to murder them.

If he did possess genocidal intent to destroy the Muslim and Croatian people, then why was he talking about giving-up territory at all?  If the plan was to exterminate them and put an end to their existence, then who is it that he’s planning to give-up this territory to? Who commits genocide by giving away territory to the very people they’re trying to exterminate? Nobody in their right mind could have interpreted that speech in the way the ICTY Appeals Chamber did.

The final piece of evidence cited by the Appeals Chamber as evidence of Karadzic’s genocidal intent are intercepted telephone conversations where according to the Appeals Chamber Karadzic said “that if war started in Bosnia, Muslims would disappear and be annihilated.”[9]

Even taking the Appeals Chamber at its word it’s difficult to see how that demonstrates a genocidal intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslim ethnic group. Predicting that large numbers of people will die in a war is not the same thing as saying that you want to kill them all and exterminate their ethnic group. Just because people die in a war it doesn’t mean that they were killed with the intent to destroy their ethnic group, otherwise every war ever fought could be considered genocidal.

The Appeals chamber cites three telephone conversations. Prosecution exhibits 3200 and 5846, and Defense Exhibit 279 as evidence of Karadzic’s supposed genocidal intent.

Exhibit P3200 is a transcript of a telephone conversation dated 4 September 1991, and Karadzic and Krajisnik are discussing what Karadzic should say when he speaks to the Bosnian Assembly.

KRAJISNIK: We must make sure we put our point across today!

KARADZIC: We’ll make our point, you see, that’s where it leads, where your [Izetbegovic’s] policies lead!


KARADZIC: “Can you see where this leads?” and “Do you realize that you will disappear in all this?!”


KARADZIC: “Man, you will disappear. Many of us will also disappear, but you will be annihilated!”

KRAJISNIK: No, we should say that we will all disappear, both sides, you know.


KRAJISNIK: We should deliberately say this.

KARADZIC: Exactly.

KRAJISNIK: That’s what should be done.


This is two politicians discussing what ought to be said in a speech. They’re trying to warn the other side about the humanitarian catastrophe that would result from starting a war in Bosnia. Neither one of them is saying that they want to go out and kill all the Muslims.

War is a deadly and terrible business where people die. It’s common knowledge that people die in wars. The fact that Karadzic was predicting the obvious isn’t evidence of genocidal intent. The whole point of any war is to impose your will on your opponent through the use of lethal force. It’s barbaric, but at the end of the day that’s what all wars are about. The goal is to impose so much death and destruction on your opponent that they capitulate.

In exhibit P5846 Karadzic is having a conversation with an unknown man on October 12, 1991 and he says, “We will see tomorrow if they are ready for, for reasonable deals which will guarantee both them and us that there will be no war” but “we have to count on the fact that they want to engage in combat. They have some weapons and they have been preparing and following the moves of the army. With MUP assistance, they are even trying to get anti-tank, actually armor piercing weapons.”

Karadzic said, “These Muslims want to have a war” and “attacks are being planned, blockades of barracks are being planned and all that is being planned for next week.”

The part that the appeals chamber zeroes in on is the part where he says, “I think that not even Alija [Izetbegovic] holds all the strings” because “a number of sensible Muslims [are] turning away [from Izetbegovic]. Last night after my speech in the Assembly they called the Muslims here and congratulated them. Nobody called to provoke them, they called the Muslims and congratulated. Therefore, the Muslims know what it is, it is hell in which five-six hundreds of thousands of them will disappear.”

Karadzic is expressing hope that the Muslims would turn away from Izetbegovic and thereby avoid the easily predictable horrors of war. Again, he’s not saying that his goal is to exterminate the Bosnian Muslims and wipe-out their ethnic group.

In exhibit D279 Karadzic is having a conversation with Gojko Djogo, on the same day as the previous conversation -- the 12th of October 1991. In this conversation Karadzic is talking about the intentions of the Bosnian-Muslim leadership. He says, “They are preparing for war ... they will try to wage war here [in Sarajevo] ... they're totally crazy.”

The parts that the Appeals chamber focuses its attention on are the parts where he says, “they will disappear, that people will disappear from the face of the earth if they start [a war] now” and “they have to know that there are 20,000 armed Serbs around Sarajevo, that's insane, they will disappear, Sarajevo will be a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die, they're not right in the head.”

The appeals chamber ignores other parts of the same conversation where Karadzic expresses sympathy for the Muslim people. He says, “They don't understand that they'd be up to their necks in blood and that the Muslim people would disappear, the poor Muslims would disappear who don't know where he [Alija Izetbegovic] is taking them, where he is taking the Muslims.”

He also makes it plain that his grievance is not with the Bosnian-Muslim ethnic group itself. He says: “There are ordinary [Muslim] people out there, and I think they should be welcomed with open arms. But the leadership, there will be no hesitation, they must know that, that if they want to secede [from Yugoslavia] they will have to start a war against us and to hit us, to fight us, and then they will get our response.”

The fact that Karadzic says that ordinary Muslims “should be welcomed with open arms” is a clear indication that he didn’t have genocidal intent otherwise he would want to target Muslims simply because they were Muslims, regardless of whether they were “ordinary people” or not.

It is also important to keep in mind that Karadzic’s predictions about hundreds of thousands of people dying in the war never came true. The death toll for the whole war was 97,207 people comprised of 64,036 Muslims, 24,905 Serbs, 7,788 Croats, and 478 others.[10]

None of the evidence cited in the Appeals judgment even begins to show that Karadzic possessed genocidal intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslim or Croatian ethnic group(s) as such.

Other People’s Genocidal Intent

The Appeals Chamber’s allegations of Serbian genocidal Intent go beyond Karadzic. According to the appellate judgment, “Other senior members of the Bosnian Serb leadership, alleged to have been members of the Joint Criminal Enterprise, possessed genocidal intent. For example, in discussing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, Ratko Mladic, the Commander of the Army of the Republika Srpska Main Staff, is alleged to have said that ‘[m]y concern is to have them vanish completely’.”[11]

Again, the Appeals Chamber is stooping to the loathsome practice of quote mining – again they’re taking part of a sentence out of context to change its meaning. In this case they’ve changing the object of the word “them” to imply civilians. When Gen. Mladic said, “My concern is to have them vanish completely” the “them” to which he was referring was the opposing military.

The Appeals Chamber cites Prosecution Exhibit 1385 as the source of the quote. This is a transcript of the 37th Session of the Republika Srpska Assembly dated 10 January 1994, and what Mladic actually says in that transcript is: “The enemy that we are facing is getting stronger every day and that fact that the enemy in Zepa, Mostar, Gorazde, Srebrenica, Orasje, Bihac, Kladusa, Tesanj, Zenica or Sarajevo does not even think of surrendering, means that they are determined to fight until the last one of us lives. They declared war on us. They made a common declaration and stated it in public. They started the war at first, they are heading this war, but that is not my concern. My concern is not that they will create the state. My concern is to have them vanish completely.”

Obviously “them” means “the enemy” who “declared war on us” and is “determined to fight.” Those aren’t civilians that he’s talking about. He’s talking about enemy fighters that he wants to eliminate, which is the goal of every military commander when he’s at war. Of course he wants to eliminate the enemy that’s his job. There’s nothing incriminating, let alone genocidal, about that.

The last argument offered by the Appeals Chamber that other Serbian leaders besides Karadzic had genocidal intent is their claim that “Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, stated that Momcilo Krajisnik, President of the Bosnian-Serb Assembly, wished to ‘kill off all the [Muslims and Croats]’.”[12]

The most obvious question is why should anyone putting Radovan Karadzic on trial care what President of the Assembly thinks? Sure, the President of the Assembly is an important person in the government, but he doesn’t command the troops. Even if he wanted to kill all of the Croats and Muslims, he wasn’t in a position to do it because he had nothing to do with the military chain of command or the police.

Secondly, the source that the Appeals Chamber relied for that quote was Prosecution Exhibit 1487, which is Gen. Mladic’s notebook, and in that notebook, among other things, he wrote notes of what people said to him in various meetings. Mladic wasn’t a stenographer, and these aren’t verbatim transcripts of what was said, they’re bullet points that Mladic jotted down during meetings.

On 20 September 1994, Gen. Mladic met with Milosevic in Karadjordjevo in northern Serbia. Milosevic was trying to make an end-run around the Bosnian-Serb political leadership in Pale to convince Gen. Mladic to go along with the Contact Group Plan to put an end the Bosnian war regardless of what the political leadership in Pale wanted.

One of the bullet points that Mladic attributes to Milosevic in his notes was “I don't accept the view of M Krajisnik to kill off all the M and H (Muslims and Croats)” and that’s what the Appeals Chamber glommed onto. They didn’t look at anything else that was said in that meeting.

Because these are just bullet points jotted down in a notebook we don’t know exactly what Milosevic said, but if he did say something like that he said it to attack Krajisnik and to discredit him in front of Mladic. It’s also possible that Milosevic was exaggerating because it appears from Mladic’s notes that he was quite angry with the Bosnian-Serb leadership.

According to Mladic’s notes from that meeting, Milosevic was totally disgusted with the Bosnian-Serbs’ political leaders in Pale. According to Mladic’s notes, Milosevic said, “The military logic is clear, the war must end, the biggest threat to the people is from the foolhardy leadership in Pale.” He also said, “I don't want to talk to them, I don't want to talk to those monsters and liars” and “we don't want to assist the ruin of our people and 100% foolhardy politics.” Speaking about Karadzic he said, “The crazy doctor may think that Serbia must toady up to him - it's not going to happen.”

Far from expressing any type of genocidal intent, Mladic’s notes record that Milosevic said, “There are 3 peoples living in the territory of BH and nothing can be achieved unless all three peoples reach an agreement.” He told Mladic that “Your biggest mistake is that you are making a mistake in the big picture because you see the solution in a complete defeat of the M (Muslims). That's not good because they will be our neighbors and we must have good relations with our neighbors.”

Obviously, Milosevic (alleged by the indictment to have been a part of the “Joint Criminal Enterprise”) is envisioning a world where the Muslims still exist and have good neighborly relations with Serbs after the war ends, and where they haven’t been exterminated in a genocidal campaign. Because he’s trying to influence Mladic he must think that Mladic feels the same way.

Clearly if there was a Joint Criminal Enterprise, then the alleged participants didn’t share a unanimity of opinion. Even if the President of the Assembly wanted to kill the Muslims and Croats -- and that’s a big “if,” it doesn’t mean that Karadzic, Mladic, and other people commanding the troops shared his opinion.


At the end of the day there are more Muslims in Bosnia today, and they make up a bigger share of the population today, than they did before the war. If Karadzic and Mladic had wanted to exterminate the Bosnian Muslims and destroy their ethnic group, then they sure didn’t do a very good job of it.

The ICTY Prosecutor’s Chief Demographer has published the numbers. Muslims comprised 42.65% of Bosnia’s population in 1991, and 45.47% of the population in 1997, and the overall number of Muslims in Bosnia increased by 6.60% between 1991 and 1997.[13]

Just looking at the numbers on their face, no rational person could conclude that between 1992 and 1995 the Bosnian Muslims were the victims of a genocide. If they were, then how come there are more Muslims after the so-called “genocide” than there was before it started? It is plain to see that there was no genocide.

I suppose that apologists for the ICTY could point to the Tribunal’s contention that genocide “does not have a numeric threshold” so that genocide is perpetrated if even one person is killed or subjected to inhumane treatment with the intent to destroy their ethnic group. But then you have to wonder why the Serbs are the only ones being accused of genocide? There are many instances where Serbs were killed and subjected to inhumane treatment by Muslim and Croatian forces because of their ethnic affiliation. So why haven’t any Muslim or Croatian leaders been charged with genocide against Serbs? Why isn’t the ICTY holding the Croats and Muslims to the same standards as the Serbs?

None of this is to say that there wasn’t ethnic cleansing. Scores of people were driven out of their homes on account of their ethnicity. The numbers show that 95.71% of the Muslims who, in 1991, lived on territory that is now Republika Srpska were not living there anymore by 1997, but ethnic cleansing was a two way street. The numbers also show that 89.54% of the Serbs who, in 1991, lived in what is now the BH Federation weren’t living there anymore in 1997 either.[14]

The Tribunal was obviously playing politics when it reinstated the genocide charges against Karadzic. There is no way that it’s a coincidence that the charges were reinstated on the 11th of July.  Marlise Simons of the New York Times noted that “The appeals ruling, read out at a public session of the court, appeared specifically timed to coincide with the day’s events in Bosnia. Tens of thousands gathered in Srebrenica on Thursday to commemorate the fall of the United Nations-protected enclave there on July 11, 1995.”[15]

The sad reality of the Bosnian war is that anyone who found themselves on territory that wasn’t controlled by their own ethnic faction was in grave danger of being killed, physically mistreated, or expelled from their home. It didn’t matter if you were a Serb, Croat, or Muslim. If your faction didn’t control the territory where you were living, then you were in trouble. Singling out one of the three factions and accusing them of genocide, without prosecuting the other two factions according to the same rules is completely unjust, but it’s exactly what the ICTY is doing.


[1] ICTY Appeals Chamber Judgment, Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic, 11 July 2013, Para 22

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., Para 83

[5] ICTY Appeals Chamber Judgment, Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic, 11 July 2013, para 97

[6] Krajisnik trial transcript, 1 April 2005, pg. 11278

[7] Ibid., pg. 11311, 11313

[8] ICTY Appeals Chamber Judgment, Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic, 11 July 2013, Para 98

[9] ICTY Appeals Chamber Judgment, Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic, 11 July 2013, para 98

[10] Tokaca, M., Human Losses in Bosnia and Herzegovina 91-95, Research & Documentation Center, Sarajevo, 2007

[11] ICTY Appeals Chamber Judgment, Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic, 11 July 2013, Para. 98

[12] Ibid.

[13] Krajisnik Exhibit P907, Expert report by Ewa Tabeau and Marcin Zoltkowski (Demographic Unit - LRT) entitled Ethnic Composition and Displaced Persons and Refugees in 37 Municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1991 and 1997. dated 28.07.02, Pg. 61

[14] Ibid.

[15] Marlise Simons, "Genocide Charge Reinstated Against Wartime Leader of the Bosnian Serbs," The New York Times, July 11, 2013