Hearing date: March 2, 2010


Written by Andy Wilcoxson

On March 2nd former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic continued his opening statement before the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The transcript is available at:


The thrust of his case is that the Bosnian war was the result of illegal conduct and armed aggression by the Bosnian-Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) against Yugoslavia and the Bosnian-Serbs.


Karadzic told the court how, before the war even began, he sought reach a negotiated agreement with moderate Bosnian-Muslim political forces, such as the Muslim-Bosniak Organization (MBO) founded by Adil Zulfikarpasic and Muhamed Filipovic. He said that the SDA rejected these negotiations and that it proclaimed Zulfikarpasic and Filipovic traitors against their own nation for even attempting to negotiate an agreement with the Serbs.


Karadzic also told the court how the Bosnian-Serbs, the Bosnian-Croats, and the Bosnian-Muslims had all agreed to the Cutileiro Peace Plan (named Jose Cutileiro the European Community ambassador in charge of the negotiations) before the war ever started, but how the Muslims reneged on the agreement.


As a demonstration of the duplicity of the Bosnian-Muslims, Karadzic quoted SDA spokesman Irfan Ajanovic, who at a press conference on March 18, 1992 said of the Cutileiro Plan: “If the Serbian Assembly rejects the Cutileiro Plan, it will become evident who is against peace in Bosnia, and it will become evident who wants to trick the European Community and the chairman of the conference.”


Karadzic explained the significance of that quote to the court saying, “Excellencies, this is an admission:  Who does that [rejects the rejects the Cutileiro Plan] will be guilty.  And this is exactly what he did a week later.”


As an illustration of his point Karadzic read a second quote from Ajanovic where, on March 25, 1992, after the SDA rejected the Cutileiro plan Ajanovic told a press conference: “The SDA originally accepted the Cutileiro Agreement because it was a political game to secure the international recognition of a sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, and because it would be responsible for the failure of the negotiations.  The SDS, HDZ, and the European Community were in favor of Bosnia and Herzegovina remaining in its present borders but for its territories to be transformed.”


Given that the Muslims were acting in bad faith, Karadzic rhetorically asked the court, “And this is the moment when we can also ask ourselves what could Karadzic or the SDS (Serbian Democratic Party) do, or all a million and a half Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina?  They accepted everything and still they didn’t have a chance of preserving peace.”


The fact that the Bosnian-Serbs accepted the Cutileiro Plan, and the Muslims rejected it (after they pretended to accept it) obliterates the foundation upon which the allegations against Karadzic are based, namely that the Bosnian war was the result of a conspiracy by Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic to carve a greater-Serbia out of Bosnia. Ajanovic himself admitted that the Cutileiro Plan “put an end to the aspirations of the Serbian Democratic Party to see Bosnia-Herzegovina become part of greater Serbia.”


One could argue right here that Radovan Karadzic does not deserve to be prosecuted for anything, because all of the harm that befell the Bosnian-Muslims happened as the result of a war that that they themselves were responsible for. Why should Radovan Karadzic or any Serb be held responsible for what happened to the Muslims in a war that the Muslims started? If anybody deserves to be held responsible for what happened it should be the leaders of the Muslims, not the leaders of the Serbs.


Karadzic argued that if anyone, besides the Muslims, deserves to be blamed for what happened in Bosnia that it was the international community and to that end he quoted Ambassador Cutileiro who said: “After several rounds of talks our ‘principles for future constitutional arrangements for Bosnia and Herzegovina’ were agreed by all three parties (Muslim, Serb and Croat) in Sarajevo on March 18th 1992 as the basis for future negotiations. These continued maps and all until the summer, when the Muslims reneged on the agreement. Had they not done so, the Bosnian question might have been settled earlier, with less loss of (mainly Muslim) life and land. To be fair, President Izetbegovic and his aides were encouraged to scupper that deal and to fight for a unitary Bosnian state by well-meaning outsiders who thought they knew better.”


Karadzic sought to demonstrate that he was always against war by playing excerpts from his tapped telephone conversations, which he obtained from the Prosecution. They had been recorded by foreign intelligence organizations without his knowledge or consent.


After he got done playing tapes from his own conversations he observed that “I recently asked to be provided with intercepts of conversations between Izetbegovic, (Ejup) Ganic, and others.  I naively suppose that if they listened in to everybody’s conversation I could have them, but it turns out the only ones whose telephones were tapped were the Serbs.”


Karadzic then turned his attention to the fighting in Sarajevo saying, “Sarajevo was a divided city like Beirut, with one section of the population living in one area and the other in the other.”


He said the Muslims in Sarajevo had “schools and nurseries that were transferred into military premises.” He vowed that during the trial he would expose what he called “the abuse of hospitals, schools, kindergartens turned into military facilities.” He said, “During the trial we are going to establish very precisely and tell you an absolute truth about where all these targets were located.”


He said that when the Serbs “returned fire, they (the Muslims) would portray this as nonselective shelling of the town by the Serb army … So that is the city that was helpless and innocent, and there were always three times more (Muslim) soldiers (in Sarjevo) than in the Serbian Romanija Corps (the alleged besiegers). They always had three times the manpower that we did.”


He said, “Everything that happened on Bosnia-Herzegovina that was done by the Muslim side was with the purpose of drawing in NATO and Western countries into war on their side.” And that to that end he said they deliberately attacked their own civilians and fired at Serbian positions from civilian areas.


Karadzic told the court, “It was I who proposed at the beginning of war for Sarajevo to become an open city and to be under the control of the UN.  Izetbegovic didn't need that.  He wanted to have influence on the international community with emotional demonstrations and thereby provoke (NATO) intervention … had our proposal been accepted, that it be declared an open city, there would have been no casualties.”


Press accounts from mid-May 1992 corroborate Karadzic’s claim that he wanted Sarajevo to be declared an open city. So yet again, we have an example of the Muslims suffering as a result of their own belligerence and the Prosecution, our government, and our media want us to blame Radovan Karadzic for that.


Speaking of Srebrenica Karadzic said, “Srebrenica and Zepa were not a safe haven, but they were, rather, military strongholds of armed (Muslim) troops.” This fact is not in dispute in the trial. In a status hearing held on February 15th Karadzic and the prosecution agreed on four key points with regard to Srebrenica: 1) The Srebrenica “safe area” was not demilitarized. 2) Muslim forces in the Srebrenica enclave launched attacks from inside the enclave. 3) arms were smuggled into the enclave. And 4) the Muslim forces in the Srebrenica enclave were legitimate military targets.


As to the question of war crimes in Srebrenica Karadzic told the court, “There have to be investigations for the sake of the future … it has to be established who got killed how and in which way and where.  But just to have trials off-the-cuff saying such and such a number of Serbs killed such and such a number of Muslims, I hope this Trial Chamber is not going to support that.”


This appears to be a reference to the Krstic trial where the Tribunal ruled, without any forensic evidence to corroborate such a finding, that Bosnian-Serb forces had executed 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian-Muslims in Srebrenica.


Karadzic didn’t have much to say about Srebrenica except, “I have no way of saying this happened or that happened because there was no proper investigation.” However, he vowed to conduct his own investigation during the trial in order to get to the bottom of things.


Karadzic unapologetically responded to the accusation that Bosnian-Serb forces took UN Personnel hostage during the war by saying, “They were involved in a war against us.  They called NATO aircraft to bomb us.  They helped them.  They selected targets for them.  They were their marksmen.  Well, people like that cannot be called hostages … the moment they started bombing us they became a warring party.”


He didn’t deny anything he said, “The Serbs kept these foreigners close to a bridge so that that bridge would not be hit (by NATO), because in a different situation (if the bridge were destroyed), the SDA army would have slaughtered them.” Adding, “UNPROFOR (the UN Protection Force) was the taxi of the Muslim army, they crossed our lines unannounced.  They smuggled ammunition, weapons, but nobody would have taken them as hostages because of that. They were taken as hostages when the (NATO) bombing started, not for the sake of close-air support but tactically, operatively and almost strategically for other reasons.”


At the conclusion of his opening statement, Karadzic asked the court to delay the start of the trial until mid-June so that he could have time to establish together with the Prosecution which facts everybody agreed on, so that the trial could be conducted in a more economical fashion without wasting time with testimony proving things that everybody agrees about. Karadzic reckoned that his trial could be wound-up in about a year and a half if he were given the extra time now. The judges adjourned the trial indefinitely pending a decision from the appeals chamber.

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