Former Republika Srpska president admits he was an ‘important person’ holding ‘some functions’ but denied any responsibility for the war and the crimes perpetrated in it. Karadzic, charged with genocide and other crimes in BH, blamed them on ‘the conspirators’ core’ of the Muslim SDA headed by Izetbegovic

Radovan Karadzic at the beginning of his opening statementRadovan Karadzic at the beginning of his opening statement

At the beginning of his opening statement, Radovan Karadzic said that he would not deny he was an ‘important person’ holding ‘a function’; he would not ‘shift the blame’ for crimes he is charged with on somebody else. As he went on to say, ‘I will not defend my humble self, but the greatness of my small nation in Bosnia, that has been suffering hardship for 500 years’. Karadzic didn’t specify the suffering of his nation: he must have felt it was evident that the suffering was inflicted by the ‘Turks’.

In his four-hour statement today, Karadzic referred to himself in the third person, speaking as a defense lawyer about ‘this accused’. Karadzic indicated that he intended to ‘put things in their right place’ at the trial, and to show that all the judgments the Tribunal has delivered so far to Bosnian Serb political and military leaders have been unfair.

Karadzic blamed Slovenian and Croatian separatists for the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war in BH; another culprit was the ‘core of conspirators’ in the SDA, headed by Alija Izetbegovic, a member of the Young Muslims and author of the Islamic Declaration. Karadzic quoted copiously from the Islamic Declaration and the Sarajevo District Court’s judgment against its author in 1983. According to Karadzic, the ‘conspirators’ core’ in the SDA ‘wanted 100 percent power over 100 percent of Bosnia’ and their actions caused the Bosnian Serb reaction.

Karadzic then moved on to deal with the external enemies that contributed to the breakup of Yugoslavia, primarily Germany and Turkey. Karadzic accused them of plotting to restore the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires in the Balkans.

As the external and internal enemies worked against Yugoslavia, Serbs and Karadzic himself did everything to avoid the war, putting forth various proposals: Yugoslavia should be set up on the Scandinavian model and Bosnia should be divided into Swiss-type cantons. When the war broke out, they accepted all peace plans except one – the Vance-Owen plan.

As Karadzic put it, Serbs were victims of ‘war propaganda’ and ‘ruses of war’ employed by the enemy. Karadzic contends that the OTP and some of the Tribunal’s trial chambers fell for it. Karadzic claims that the famous footage a British TV network took in Trnopolje showing people, some looking like living skeletons, behind barbed wire, was an example of propaganda at work. He explained that the reporters and the camera were in fact behind the barbed wire while ‘the people who had taken shelter there from the fighting stood in the open space’. This theory was at one point mooted by British journal Living Marxism, but the paper subsequently lost the legal suit filed by the journalists and had to pay a huge fine.

Karadzic says he will prove that Serbs were not responsible for any of the incidents in Sarajevo that resulted in multiple casualties, such as the shelling of the people queuing for bread and water or the Markale market. These are examples of ‘ruses of war’ used by the Muslim side, Karadzic said, finding their justification in the Islamic Declaration. Karadzic focused today in particular on the first Markale market massacre in February 1994, showing a report by the Pale TV where claims were made the whole incident had been staged and that bodies of dead BH Army soldiers had been brought to the town market.

Karadzic will complete his opening statement tomorrow. The parties will then discuss the role of standby counsel Richard Harvey, who should take over Karadzic’s defense if the Trial Chamber decides that the accused is again disrupting ‘the proper and expeditious course of the trial’.