On Monday 29 September 2014 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague heard the Prosecution’s final arguments in the genocide and war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, charged with some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II, including the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. Initially indicted on 25 July 1995, Karadzic, 69, is facing 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Bosnian Croats between 1992 and 1995 during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 2.2 million people. Karadzic evaded arrest for many years to be finally found living in Serbia in July 2008, under an assumed name, reportedly practicing as a faith healer. He was arrested on a Belgrade bus and taken to The Hague; his ICTY war crimes trial commenced in October 2009.
Prosecutor says Karadzic along with late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic acted together to “cleanse” Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territories after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991.
“Under his command and oversight, Karadzic’s subordinates and those cooperating with them expelled, killed, tortured and otherwise mistreated hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats,” said the prosecutor’s final trial brief (PDF click here), released on Friday 26 September.
“The scale and scope of these criminal campaigns is vast,” the brief says.
Karadzic is notably accused of masterminding the July 1995 massacre in the small eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys and dumped their bodies into mass graves.
Apart from genocide, Karadzic is also facing charges over the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.
During the siege, “fear pervaded daily life — the most mundane acts such as crossing the street or fetching water carried the risk of death,” the prosecutor said.
In their final statements the prosecution stated on Monday that Karadzic was the driving force of genocide against Croats and Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina; that he was responsible, among other war crimes acts, for the killing of 7 to 8 000 men and boys in Srebrenica, and for the shelling of Sarajevo. The prosecution seeks lifelong prison sentence.
The ICTY prosecution has no doubts: Radovan Karadzic is a “Mafia-gangster” and a liar who implemented genocide and ethnic cleansing. After hundreds of witnesses, 8 000 pages of court transcript and 10000 items of evidence the prosecution minced no words, hid no emotion, at the Hague on Monday.
“Let me give you the sad picture”, said prosecutor Alan Tieger, “the population was systematically harassed, thousands were taken forcefully from their homes, mutilated and killed, the whole ethnic minorities tens of thousands of people were forcefully deported, hundreds of thousands suffered months long sieges in Bihac, Derventa, Gorazda and Sarajevo. Many ended up in camps in inhumane conditions where hundreds were killed…”
Tieger said Karadzic publicly “bragged at the time about the painstaking steps he was taking” to violently remove non-Serbs from parts of Bosnia to create an “ethnically pure” Serb state within Bosnia.
The court saw many examples of brutality, depravity and sheer criminal activity as evidence – evidence that showed prisoners in these camps were forced to eat parts of each other’s bodies, women were forced to clean up blood during the day and were raped at night, to thousands of boys and men murdered in Srebrenica. All that and more was done within the joint criminal enterprise that had as its goal a forceful creation of an ethnically clean Serbian state.
Karadzic is expected to close his own defence today (Wednesday) and Thursday of this week. According to legal advisor Peter Robinson, Deutsche Welle reports, “He will demonstrate that he played no part in genocide or the murder of Muslims,” Robinson told the British Broadcasting Corporation, calling the opportunity for Karadzic, who is defending himself, a “milestone.”
At his opening statement in March 2010, Karadzic told judges that the atrocities for which he was being held had been “staged” by his Muslim enemies – and that the Srebrenica massacre was a “myth.” Do not expect remorse or admission from a born and bred criminal.
The verdict is not expected before mid to late 2015. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)