Karadzic’s close friend and associate Miroslav Toholj contends that during his visit to the Vatican in July 1995, ‘before the end of the Srebrenica operation’ he heard stories about Serbs’ mass crimes there. He contends that this is proof of an orchestrated propaganda campaign

Miroslav Toholj, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialMiroslav Toholj, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Bosnian Serb war-time information minister Miroslav Toholj claimed that there were no large-scale crimes in Srebrenica in July 1995. According to Toholj, it was nothing but a propaganda campaign orchestrated by the Western media. In the cross-examination, prosecutor Pack put it to Toholj that he had in fact spread the propaganda lies about the crimes in Srebrenica and elsewhere in BH, and continued to do so today.

The prosecutor produced one of Toholj’s post-war interviews in which he openly mocked the victims. In the interview, Toholj says that 3,000 dead Srebrenica inhabitants ‘rose up from their graves to vote’ in the elections in Tuzla. In July 1995, 1,200 Muslims fled to Serbia and then to ‘third countries’ but were still listed among the Srebrenica victims, Toholj claimed. According to Toholj, the fact that the victims wore civilian clothes did not prove that they weren’t combatants, because he had received reports that the Muslim units fought in sports clothes they got from Indonesia. Toholj based his allegations on a book by Diana Johnston, published by Toholj’s publishing company.

Asked if he still held the same views today, Toholj replied that those were the ‘facts I stand by’. Toholj explained that he didn’t deny the crimes: what he wanted was for each and every Srebrenica victims to be recorded, with a full name. Although most of the credit for the effort to identify the Srebrenica events and establish the course of events after the fall of the enclave goes to the Tribunal and the OTP, as the facts were presented at several trials in The Hague, the witness said in the quoted interview that ‘The Hague avoids discussing the issue’.

In his statement to the defense, Toholj said that during his visit to the Vatican in July 1995, when the Srebrenica operation was still in full swing, he heard from the cardinals that a serious crime had been committed there. In Toholj’s opinion, this proves that it was a ‘campaign planned in advance’ to blame the Serbs. Today Toholj admitted that he actually heard such allegations on 13 and 14 July 1995, as the mass executions were already underway. In his statement, Toholj also said that the Corriere della Serra had already published an article on the Srebrenica crimes at that time. Today Toholj clarified that he didn’t read the article: he was able to make out the word ‘genocide’ in the headline, as his knowledge of Italian was ‘very poor, based on my knowledge of Latin’.

As the prosecutor said, the witness attended a ‘scientific symposium’ on Vojislav Seselj’s defense case, and publicly stated an ‘incredible falsehood’: that the Vatican monsignors ‘knew in advance’ about the Srebrenica crimes. Now Toholj admitted that they didn’t know about the crimes ‘beforehand, but at the same time as the events unfolded’. Toholj explained that the speech at the ‘scientific symposium’ was tailored to be ‘acceptable to the 5,000-strong audience’.

In the re-examination, the witness said that he was ‘close’ with the accused and that he respected Karadzic as a ‘poet and a medical doctor’. The prosecutor had put it to him that their close ties made it possible for Toholj to destroy the evidence that could incriminate Karadzic, while Karadzic was in hiding. Toholj was involved in deleting the incriminating public appearances of the accused from the files of the Serbian Radio Television. Toholj, who was the director of the Serbian Radio Television after the war, posted Karadzic’s ‘revised’ statements and speeches on the Internet. The prosecutor showed a letter the fugitive Karadzic sent to Toholj in 2001, asking Toholj to send him the floppy disks with the documents ‘from which you have deleted all those things that shouldn’t be there’, the ‘worst embarrassments’, leaving only those things that went in Karadzic’s favor and ‘those things that embarrass us to an acceptable extent’. The witness repeated that he didn’t delete the evidence: what he did was delete the documents where Karadzic’s ‘repeats himself’, in order not to overload the website with ‘duplication’.

Toholj thus completed his evidence. Karadzic’s next witness is the former Drina Corps security chief Vujadin Popovic. He was sentenced by the Tribunal to life for his part in the Srebrenica genocide.