In the cross-examination of Richard Butler, the accused Radovan Karadzic claimed that the key sentence from Directive 4 – that the enemy should be ‘forced to leave the area of Birac, Zepa and Gorazde together with Muslim population’ had been mistranslated. Karadzic contends that the sentence should be interpreted in the ‘spirit of the Serbian language’. According to Karadzic, the verb ‘to force’ refers only to the enemy army, whereas the population wanted to leave the territory anyway

Richard Butler, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialRichard Butler, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

In the cross-examination of Richard Butler, the prosecution military expert, Radovan Karadzic tried to contest the witness’s claim that the strategic goal of the Bosnian Serbs was to force the Muslim population in Eastern Bosnia to leave the area. In the examination-in chief, Butler said that the goal was defined as early as in November 1992 in Directive 4, which states that the enemy should be ‘forced to leave the area of Birac, Zepa and Gorazde together with the Muslim population’.

Karadzic claimed the sentence had not been translated properly into English; the words should be considered in the ‘spirit of the Serbian language’, he said. As he explained, the word ‘to force’ referred only to the Muslim army, not civilians. Butler refused to engage in a linguistic debate with Karadzic, merely noting that to him, as a military analyst, the actions of the Serb army in Eastern Bosnia in late 1992 and early 1993 indicated that the civilian population in that area was at least in part targeted by the attacks.

Karadzic described Butler’s position as ‘small alterations with great consequences’. Karadzic argued that Directive 4 did not say that there would be attacks on civilians. The goal was not to ‘expel the civilian population’, Karadzic contended. Karadzic put it to Butler that in his analysis he failed to take into consideration some key documents. According to one such document, the All People’s Defense and Social Self-Protection Act, the army was obliged to evacuate civilians from combat zones, even if the civilians were unwilling to leave. In Karadzic’s view, Butler also failed to take into account Karadzic’s documents in which he purportedly guaranteed the right of the evacuated people to return once it was possible for them to do so.

When Karadzic put it to Butler that ‘you cannot characterize the movements of the population in Eastern Bosnia because you don’t know why such movements happened’, Butler replied that he based his claims on the directives. The witness also recalled that Directive 7 from March 1995, signed by Karadzic, ordered the Serb forces to use daily planned activities to create ‘conditions of an unbearable insecurity and lack of perspective for the population to remain in Srebrenica and Zepa’. ‘I don’t see that the army failed to obey this order’, Butler said.

Karadzic will continue cross-examining Richard Butler tomorrow.