British Advocacy Journalist Testifies for Prosecution in Karadzic Trial - June 26, 2010


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Hearing Date: May 19, 2010


Trial Schedule


The hearing on Wednesday, May 19th began with Radovan Karadzic asking the Trial Chamber to reduce the hearing schedule to two days per week so that he has time to prepare his cross-examination materials. He told the judges, “The rhythm [of the proceedings] is deadly, as far as we are concerned.  Resources, time, human capabilities, as it were, all of that is threatening these proceedings.” He said, “You have noticed that the OTP have new Prosecutors for each and every witness, and we are who we are.  It's the five of us, and no one else, so there is no way we can speak of an equality of arms.  Their human and financial resources cannot be compared to ours.”


Judge Kwon replied to Karadzic’s submissions saying, "Mr. Karadzic, you'll be surprised to hear that the Chamber is minded to sit five days a week from after the recess. In any event, the Chamber will consider the matter; will give a ruling on that matter."


The Trial Chamber (on May 27th) rejected Karadzic’s submissions, and on June 10th Karadzic appealed their ruling. The status of the appeal is still pending.


Van Lynden Testifies for the Prosecution


After the discussion of the trial schedule, Aernout van Lynden took the stand for the Prosecution. Van Lynden is British television reporter who covered the Bosnian war for Sky News.


Van Lynden’s testimony dealt mainly with the conditions in Sarajevo during the war. Mr. Van Lynden observed the conditions that the population lived under, including severe difficulties caused by lack of necessary resources, food, water, utilities, as well as the impact of sniping and shelling on the population of Sarajevo.


Van Lynden told prosecutors, “[the people of Sarajevo] felt they were under threat of gun-fire, people ran across the streets. Sniping incidents became so common that individual incidents were not newsworthy.” He said, “You saw practically no vehicle on the road.  If you did, they were driving at extremely high speed.  It was sometimes on the roads as if it was a ghost town.”


He described the shelling of Sarajevo saying, “The whole city was basically being targeted.  It wasn’t one specific target that was being hit or one particular district of the city being hit.  This was fire that was coming down all across the city.” He said, “It was our impression that this was done to simply terrorize those still living in the city.”


While Mr. van Lynden was in Sarajevo, he stayed mainly at the former JNA military hospital. The hospital was 12 or 13 stories high and at a fairly central location in the city, near Marin Dvor Square and the Parliament.  The front-lines of Grbavica were nearby, and thus Mr. van Lynden and his crew had a good vantage point to film the fighting.


According to van Lynden, the hospital had been targeted before his arrival and was fired upon during his stay there as well.  While he stayed there, Mr. Van Lynden said he did not see evidence of snipers operating from the hospital.


During his time in Bosnia, van Lynden interviewed Radovan Karadzic and General Mladic.


According to van Lynden, Karadzic told him “that the enclaves were unacceptable, that they had to become part of Serb territory.”


Van Lynden testified that “Taking Sarajevo was an obsession for Mr. Karadzic … one of the solutions that he offered was that a wall should be built between the Serb parts and those of the other communities living in Sarajevo.  I found that a fairly outrageous comment, because this was made less than three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was a symbol of the divisions of Europe, which had finally ended.  And to make a suggestion to build a wall in a city to divide people in this manner in Europe at the end of the 20th century, I found totally unacceptable, to be frank.”


Neither van Lynden nor the Prosecution produced any videotapes of his interviews with Karadzic to corroborate his testimony. It seems odd that a TV reporter wouldn’t have the camera rolling while he’s interviewing the president of one of the warring factions, but that’s the way it was.


The prosecution did exhibit the videotape (exhibit P933) of van Lynden’s so-called “interview” with General Mladic. I checked the transcript of the “interview” and General Mladic only got to say 5 sentences in his defense. The other 77% of the so-called “interview” consists of van Lynden running his mouth and giving his opinions about General Mladic. He calls Mladic “the scourge of Sarajevo” and expresses his view that Mladic is arrogant. He says, “Mladic is quite unrepentant.  He is a man who has no doubts, only a total assurance that he’s right, the world wrong.”


An Advocacy Journalist


Van Lynden is an advocacy journalist. He is keenly aware of the power of the media. During his testimony he said, “The media can have great influence on public opinion and then on government, it’s also the case that sometimes this doesn’t happen, whatever the media may do.  And even if public opinion is moved, government doesn’t always also move as well.”


Although van Lynden says, “I do not believe I was biased in my reporting.” The reports he filed from Bosnia clearly show that his goal was to draw Western governments into the Bosnian war on the side of the Bosnian-Muslims.


In one of the reports he filed from Sarajevo (exhibit P936) he said, “Those who can escape.  Those who can’t face almost certain death. … [the] escalation of shelling here in the center of Sarajevo again underlining the importance of international efforts in Bosnia.  Cease-fires and political talks have lead nowhere and won’t until the Western world proves it has a true commitment in ending this war.”


Van Lynden’s advocacy of Western military intervention was a recurring theme in his reporting. On December 23, 1994 he was a guest on CBS This Morning where he presumed to speak on behalf of the “people of Bosnia” (which apparently excludes Serbs). He said, “Of course they want the war to end, but they don’t believe their own leaders, at least as far as the Bosnian government, is responsible for this war. And they believe that the outside community could have come in, intervened militarily and forced the Serbs to really negotiate and end the war. And if they are angry with anyone, the people of Bosnia are angry with the governments of Britain and France above all for not intervening in Bosnia, for not ending the war.”


Van Lynden’s advocacy for Western military intervention was evident since the beginning of the Bosnian war. On June 10, 1992 he was a guest on ABC’s Nightline and he told Ted Koppel, “The government in Sarajevo [and] many of the people of Sarajevo believe that the West must intervene militarily, because all negotiations throughout the last few months gave completely failed. We’ve seen this, really, since the beginning of the conflict in Yugoslavia a year ago. First you had the European Community come in, then Cyrus Vance for the United Nations, as a mediator. They have tried talks, they have tried conferences. None of it has really worked, and the belief amongst a lot of people, I think now also, slowly, in western Europe, is that maybe a short, sharp military shot might finally force everyone to realize that negotiations are the only way.”


Van Lynden was a man with an agenda and he used his position as a war correspondent to advance that agenda. In a report that he filed from Gorazde for the CBS Evening News on March 7, 1993 he said, “Wood is the only basic necessity not in short supply in [Gorazde], where for 10 months there’s been no running water, no electricity, just the war and suffering. For the town’s children, that’s now reality. And that’s the game they play, with that rare sense of realism that comes from living through a siege no one here believes can end without direct American involvement.”


In one of his reports, exhibited by the prosecution (exhibit P292), van Lynden describes Sarajevo as “the scene of wholesale devastation, of a city being obliterated while the world watches, but does nothing.”




Van Lynden’s reportage from Sarajevo was sensationalistic to say the least. His reports would lead a normal person to believe that Sarajevo was under a siege like Leningrad during the Second World War, or that it was at least getting pounded into oblivion like London during the Blitz.


The prosecution played several videotapes of his reports in court; the following excerpts are all direct quotes from van Lynden’s reports from Sarajevo. The most sensationalistic parts are underlined.


- “Every night in Sarajevo, you think it can’t get worse, but it does.”


- “Through the dark, the rockets streak down, for a moment illuminating Sarajevo’s ancient centre, before reducing it to further rubble.  They come in ones, in twos, in threes, and it sounds as if the city is crying.”

- “This is a scene of utter mayhem.  No minute passes without a new van or ambulance coming in bearing more wounded.  The battle of Sarajevo has reached a peak.  Countless young men on stretchers raging against the dying of the light, and so many who’ve lost that struggle that they lie outside a morgue already over-full.”

- “We find the intensive care wards of the city’s central hospital packed, with amputees in pain.  Some will live, but the doctors are resigned to this girl’s death.  Not far from where she lies, do others that have gone before.  A place of haphazard death, some covered, some not, where maggots crawl the floors.  A little house of Bosnian horror.


Reality Check


Sarajevo wasn’t London during the blitz. It wasn’t a city under siege like Leningrad during the Second World War, but that was definitely the picture van Lynden was trying to paint for his viewers. The average daily civilian death toll in Sarajevo during the so-called “siege” was 4.2 civilians per day – and they weren’t all victims of Serbian artillery either.

Both the Tribunal and the Sarajevo-based Research and documentation center have compiled statistics on the civilian casualties in Sarajevo during the war (See here), and you can see how that compares to the hysterical rhetoric in van Lynden’s reports.




When Karadzic began his cross-examination van Lynden blamed the Serbs for the poor coverage they received in the Western media. He said, “I believe that the Serb cause, as you put it, was poorly represented in the Western media because the Serb cause was very poorly put to the Western media.  The reasons for that lie with the Serbs, not with the Western media.” He said, “If we are not shown and we are not told, how are we meant to know?”


Van Lynden is a guy who didn’t always know what was going on around him. He said, “I could not speak to everyone, as I did not speak Serbo-Croat.”


When asked how he knew who was doing the shooting he said, “of course I didn’t always know.  It was an impossibility to know, if you’re driving through a city, who’s shooting or where they’re shooting at, unless you’re being hit, or unless you’re filming it, in which you can see who is doing the shooting, where the shooting is emanating from.  But did I always know?  No, of course not.”


Van Lynden made several assertions during the cross-examination. He told Karadzic, “By besieging the city, your government effectively stopped the people of Sarajevo from having access to the normal food and water supplies.” He said, “I know for a fact that the UN food supply to Sarajevo was repeatedly stopped, for instance, the supplies that came by air because the plane was shot at.  On various of these occasions, we were informed by the UN that that shooting had emanated from Serb lines and that they had then brought the air transport of food to Sarajevo to a halt.  I would call that a clear case of your government and your forces stopping food coming to the besieged city.”


Van Lynden assured the court, “I’ve been told never to make assumptions in journalism.” It’s a pity he didn’t heed that advice, because the previous witness, David Harland, who actually worked for the UN, testified that the Croats were the only ones who ever shot down any of the UN relief fights coming into Sarajevo. (page 2176 of the transcript for those who want to check). Eventually, Karadzic got van Lynden to breakdown and confess that, “Did I have conclusive personal evidence that this [water and electricity] was cut by your government or by someone else?  No, I don’t.”


Up Against the Wall


Karadzic asked van Lynden why he had never said anything about the “Berlin Wall” he allegedly wanted to build in Sarajevo in any of his reporting. He said, “Why didn’t you publish that, because it’s rather drastic and picturesque.  If Karadzic was in favor of a wall in Sarajevo that should surely have been publicized in all the media; right?”


Van Lynden clumsily explained, “These conversations were off-the-record conversations, as I -- this was not something -- or I didn’t have my cameraman there, these were not proper interviews, and I did not use, in my reports, things that you said during those conversations.” He said, “I was asked to tell the truth about conversations for a court of law.  I consider that to be different than when you’re reporting for a television station.”


When Karadzic suggested that maybe van Lynden could find some reference to these conversations in his notes van Lynden said, “I don’t know if it’s in my notes, and do not have memoirs.” He explained, “This Tribunal has never asked for my notes before.  I’m not -- I have kept many of my note-books.  They are currently not in my direct possession, because our possessions are locked up before -- given our move from Holland to Italy, and therefore I would not have instant access to them, nor do I know for certain that I have all my note-books from the periods relative to this case.”


The ABiH: An Unarmed Army with Serbs in It


According to van Lynden, the ABiH was a multiethnic military. He said, “Throughout the war, wherever I was in Bosnia, I encountered Bosnian Serbs in the Bosnian Army.” But, “I never encountered one Muslim with any Serb unit.”


Karadzic asked the witness, “Do you know that that Serbs accounted for less than 3 per cent of that army” The witness replied, “I was never given percentages as to the religious background of the force, nor did I ask for them.”


According to statistics compiled by the Tribunal’s demographic unit, in the territories that presently comprise the BH Federation the share of Serbs fell from 31.46% of the population in 1991 to 3.24% of the population in 1997 – a decrease of 89.70%. (See: Krajisnik trial exhibit P907, Expert report by Ewa Tabeau and Marcin Zoltkowski, Demographic Unit ICTY, July 28, 2002) There is also David Harland’s testimony where he could not identify a single village under the control of the ABiH that hadn’t been ethnically cleansed of its Serbian population (page 2117 of the transcript).


It seems highly unlikely that very many Serbs would willingly join an army that was ethnically cleansing their people. Van Lynden’s testimony about the frequent presence of Serbs in the ABiH is far-fetched to say the very least.


Although Van Lynden would have you believe that the ABiH was a multiethnic army brimming with Serbs, he denied that it had any weapons. When asked about the presence of ABiH artillery in Sarajevo he said “the question of artillery on the Bosnian side within Sarajevo.  I have never, during my entire time, seen what I call artillery.” He said, “I have never seen a tank inside the part of Sarajevo controlled by the Bosnian forces, no.”

When asked about military targets in Sarajevo he said, “How can I judge whether they were legitimate targets, Mr. Karadzic?  I did not see those tanks there, and therefore I cannot say whether they were or were not.”


Karadzic showed Van Lynden a report (Exhibit D192) submitted by Sefer Halilovic (the commander of the ABiH) to Alija Izetbegovic on June 17, 1992. The report boasts of the losses that the ABiH troops in Sarajevo are inflicting on the Serbs and it enumerates the quantities of weapons and artillery they had in their possession.

After seeing the document Van Lynden attempted to dismiss it saying, “Military commanders will say a lot of -- make a lot of statements to their political leaders.”


Karadzic asked him, “Is it possible that you didn’t see that vast armed force in Sarajevo, that it escaped you in some way, Mr. van Lynden?  Were you aware of this military presence in Sarajevo, as described here?”


Van Lynden replied, “No, I wasn’t.  I was aware of a large number of men armed with Kalashnikovs, as I’ve already testified.”


The summary of Karadzic’s cross-examination will continue in the summary of the May 20th hearing. A complete transcript of this hearing is available at:



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