In his cross-examination, US ambassador Herbert Okun told Radovan Karadzic that ‘there were no angels in BH’. ‘Everybody lied’ and behaved badly, but Serbs were at the top in terms of ‘the quantity of atrocities’. Karadzic tried to convince the witness and the judges that Republika Srpska was a ‘state with the rule of law and humanity’

Herbert Okun, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialHerbert Okun, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

‘There were no angels in BH’, Ambassador Herbert Okun said in his reply to Radovan Karadzic when the accused asked him if Alija Izetbegovic could be trusted, as some international mediators felt Izetbegovic lied at times. ‘Everybody lied…and the quality of behavior on all sides was the same; however, Serbs were at the top in terms of quantity. They had the most weapons and could do the most harm’, the witness said.

Karadzic also tried to show that until the second half of 1992, Serb refugees outnumbered the Muslim and Croat refugees. According to Karadzic, Muslims were actually expelling Serbs. Okun nevertheless repeated that Karadzic never even attempted to fend off the accusations of ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Okun reminded Karadzic that he had publicly ‘boasted’ that Zvornik became a Serb town during the war, while before the war it had a Muslim majority.

Okun then brought up Karadzic’s speech in the BH Assembly in October 1991, saying that the Bosnian Serb leader had in fact ‘kept his word’ that Muslims would go to hell if they voted for BH’s independence. Okun noted there were UNHCR reports from August 1992 speaking of thousands of Muslim detainees in prison camps in Trnopolje, Manjaca and Omarska.

Karadzic contends that Omarska and Keraterm were ‘investigative centers’ and not prison camps. According to the accused, Muslims ‘went in and out of Trnopolje as they wanted’. The accused then put it to Ambassador Okun that there was a ‘natural exodus’ of the population from the war-torn areas, adding that the Muslims left that territory ‘voluntarily’. When Okun commented that the ‘myth of Israel is based on the theory that half a million of Palestinians left Palestine voluntarily in 1948’ Karadzic changed his argument a bit, saying that he ‘didn’t mean to say that the Muslims left voluntarily but out of their own free will’.

When Karadzic said that the government in Sarajevo violated the UN arms embargo, Okun replied that it was ‘an open secret’, adding that many believed at the time that imposing an embargo on BH was ‘immoral act’ vis-à-vis the Bosnian Muslims who had no arms and faced well-armed Serb and Croat armies supported by Serbia and Croatia.

Karadzic then tried to show that ‘the Muslim authorities staged’ the incidents in the bread line and the Sarajevo Markale town market, shelling their own people from the rooftops to secure international intervention against the Serbs. Okun said he knew there were different opinions about those incidents, and was well aware that all three sides were guilty of acts of violence. ‘Those incidents are one of the reasons why we urged you to stop the shelling of Sarajevo that caused you so much damage’, the witness added.

As the cross-examination went on, Karadzic brought up his speeches at the Bosnian Serb Assembly sessions where he advocated ‘a political solution that would take into account the interests of all three ethnic communities’. Karadzic defined Republika Srpska as a ‘state with the rule of law and humanity’. The accused quoted his own words on the second anniversary of the SDS, with an appeal that members of other ethnicities should be treated in accordance with ‘the Geneva conventions and Orthodox mercy’. ‘This is touching, pity it was not implemented’, Okun commented.

Ambassador Okun’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.