The accused Radovan Karadzic and his defense witness, Portuguese diplomat Jose Cutileiro claim from their different points of view that the Lisbon Agreement could have saved the peace in BH. The prosecutor recalled that the Bosnian Serb leadership saw the document just as the ‘beginning of the end of BH’ and the basis for the capture of the territories they claimed as their own

Jose Cutileiro, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicJose Cutileiro, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

According to Portuguese diplomat Jose Cutileiro, it is a tragedy that the war in BH wasn’t prevented in March 1992 when the representatives of the three constituent peoples signed a ‘statement of principles’ under his auspices. The statement envisaged the division of the internationally recognized state into cantons and three entities. A month later, BH president Alija Izetbegovic withdrew his signature from the document. Radovan Karadzic, who was the Serb negotiator at the time, and is now in the dock, charged with genocide and other crimes against non-Serbs, wants to use that fact to corroborate his case that the war began because the Muslim side decided not to go along with the division of the state in line with Cutileiro’s Lisbon Agreement.

Karadzic read out in court the summary of the statement the witness gave to the defense. The statement contained Cutileiro’s words from a meeting in April 1992 when he said that Alija Izetbegovic was ‘cunning, duplicitous and a liar’ because he would say ‘one thing privately and another in public’ and couldn’t be trusted. In the statement, Cutileiro added that Izetbegovic’s insistence on a unified BH contributed to the war as much as ‘the dreams of a Greater Serbia and of Croatian hegemony’. The statement makes no mention of the crimes committed by the Serb side in BH. On the other hand, in the statement, Cutileiro says he heard from a Portuguese UN member that the shell that hit Vase Miskina Street on 27 May 1992 in Sarajevo had been fired from a BH Army position. The shell that hit the bread queue killed 26 civilians and wounded over 100.

At the defense’s request, Ambassador Cutileiro compared the map with his proposal for the cantonization in the plan he tabled in March 1992 and the map showing how BH was divided according to the Dayton peace agreement signed in November 1995. Cutileiro said that the result was the same: many lives could have been saved if the almost identical agreement had been accepted right at the start.

At the very beginning of the cross-examination, prosecutor Tieger wanted to clarify with the witness that his views of the termination of the negotiations could in no way be interpreted as ‘justifying and legitimizing crimes’. Cutileiro agreed to that without hesitation. As the cross-examination continued, the prosecutor showed evidence that in his view indicated that the war wouldn’t have been averted even if the Muslim side had agreed to the Lisbon proposals about the division of BH into cantons. This was because the Bosnian Serb leadership saw the plan merely as a beginning of the implementation of their strategic goals, which involved the capture of the territories they claimed as their own. The prosecutor first put it to Cutileiro that the Lisbon agreement was just a ‘basis for further negotiations’ and not a finalized peace agreement. The witness agreed. Second, the prosecutor noted, Karadzic and his leadership said one thing at the negotiations and then said something completely different at the Assembly sessions. The witness didn’t see that as proof of malicious intent.

Prosecutor Tieger showed a number of minutes of the Serb Assembly where Karadzic says that the Lisbon agreement on the tripartite division in fact marked the ‘end of BH’ and was therefore acceptable for the Serb side. Because of that,’ Karadzic said, ‘we were happy when they rejected the document’. Asked if the purpose of the agreement was to ‘destroy BH’, the witness replied that parts of someone’s speech shouldn’t be taken out of context and used as a basis for conclusions. The prosecutor then read out an address by Momcilo Krajisnik in the Assembly. Krajisnik says that the negotiations were only one option: the other option was to ‘do what we have been doing for centuries’, to ‘capture the territory by force and take our chance to become part of the Serb empire’. Cutileiro didn’t attach much importance to that quote either. In Cutileiro’s words, it was ‘just one of the silly things’ he had to deal with at that time.

Revisiting the witness’s claim that the ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Dayton’ maps were almost identical, the prosecutor showed two maps overlapping each other. The maps show that in the war, Bosnian Serbs seized and ethnically cleansed the territories around Prijedor and in Eastern Bosnia; these gains were then legalized in Dayton. Serbs used to be a minority there, but the Serb leadership saw these areas as strategically important. Cutileiro replied that at the beginning of the war Karadzic maintained that if a peace agreement were reached he would ‘return the territories’ and allow all the refugees to return. Although in his statement Cutileiro said that in Bosnia ‘everybody lied but Serbs did it with least sophistication’, his answers today indicated that he took Karadzic at his word. Cutileiro remained adamant although he was shown various war-time statements made by Karadzic in which the accused says that the international community would be forced to accept the ‘new reality’: the territories conquered in the war where Serbs were now in the majority.

At the end of Cutileiro’s evidence, Karadzic expressed his ‘admiration for your skill and determination to save the peace’. The defense case continued with the evidence of a new witness.