The Prosecution Calls Its First Expert Witness - July 21, 2010

Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Hearing date:
May 31, 2010


British advocacy journalist Aernout van Lynden was recalled to the witness stand at the Radovan Karadzic trial on Monday, May 31, 2010 to complete his testimony.  Van Lynden was a war correspondent for Sky News who covered the Bosnian war and advocated Western military intervention against the Bosnian Serbs in his news reports.


No Notes or Raw Footage


Again, Van Lynden came to court unprepared. He refused to disclose his notebooks. He awkwardly explained to the court, “As I told the Court when I was last here, the diaries -- or my notebooks, rather, I don't have diaries, my notebooks are not in my possession.  All our property is currently held in storage, and I -- that's held in the Netherlands, and I have not been in the Netherlands, and, no, I have not been into the storage.”


Of course van Lynden was making excuses, and bad ones at that. “I haven’t been in the Netherlands” isn't a very good excuse when you’re sitting in a chair in the Netherlands, which is where The Hague is located.


All van Lynden had to offer were his 18-year-old recollections and the 2-minute news reports he edited for Sky News. Karadzic asked him “So at least an hour of film was reduced to two or three minutes; right?” and Van Lynden said, “That's the process.” The only material van Lynden had in court was the two or three minute clips he edited, the hours of footage he made those clips from were not available.


Trust Me: I Have Sources


Van Lynden vouched for his news reports saying, “What we reported we believed to be the truth.” He said, “We did check with the United Nations, as I've testified earlier within this trial, about precisely about what was happening, about the front lines, about the breaking of -- of cease-fires, about the levels of -- of shelling on one district or another.  Were they always entirely correct?  Probably they weren't.  We did our best.”


When van Lynden testified on May 20th he couldn’t remember who his sources in the UN were. He said, “I don't remember precisely who that was” adding “To remember every single conversation and who gave us that information 18 years later, I'm sorry, I don't know the precise detail.”


Although van Lynden claimed that these unnamed individuals in the UN were a key source of his information, he didn’t consider the reports written by the commanders of the UN Protection Force, General Janvier and General Rose in particular, to be credible.




According to van Lynden, “When we met General Rose in March 1994 in Sarajevo after having been in Pale, we informed him that we had had information while in Pale that Gorazde would be attacked by the forces under General Mladic in April 1994.  General Rose's reaction at that time was that how could we know such a thing and that we were wrong, and we said we did not know for certain but that we had spoken to certain people while we were in Pale to had warned us that this was going to happen.” He explained, “We had heard, not on the streets but from, let's say, more informed contacts that specifically Jaksa Scekic (van Lynden’s producer) had built up there that an attack on Gorazde by General Mladic was likely in April, and we simply passed that on to General Rose and were slightly surprised by his reaction at the time, because he dismissed it out of hand, which of course it's his right to do, but as it turned out, we were right and the information was correct.”


Karadzic put it to van Lynden that the media misrepresented what happened in Gorazde and to that end he read an excerpt from General Rose’s book which said:


“My own theory is that this misrepresentation of the truth did little to stem the tide of propaganda.  The perception of many US east coast commentators is that during the fighting in Gorazde in the UN deliberately misled the world about what happened, underestimated the scale of the disaster, and was economical with the truth.  I explained that most of the damaged houses in Gorazde revealed by US air reconnaissance had not been destroyed in the fighting that took place in the town in April 1994.  They had been destroyed in 1992 when the Muslims drove the Serbs from the town and surrounding area.  These former Serb homes had no roofs, window frames, or doors, and had been stripped of all furniture and fittings.  Many of them had been torched.  They were demonstrably not buildings recently subjected to shelling.  Today, the UN still stands condemned for having underplayed the damage done by the Serbs in Gorazde.”


After seeing what General Rose had written about Gorazde van Lynden said, “To the precise nature of what happened to the buildings that General Rose is referring to, I don't know.  I don't think that General Rose was in Gorazde in 1992, either, so I don't think he knows.” ... as if the UNPROFOR commander didn't have people in the field who reported back to him about what had happened.


Karadzic also read out a report written by General Janvier which said: “Similar to what happened in Gorazde (spring 94) the BiH can attempt to draw UNPROFOR (including the rapid reaction forces) of NATO into the conflict on the BiH side.  Sudden abandoning of positions along the confrontation line, the simulation of a collapse of the enclave, or alarming reports from Bosnian side on the situation in the enclaves, will be indicators for this.”


After seeing Janvier’s report van Lynden said, “What we had warned General Rose about in March 1994 was that what we had been told while we were in Pale.  We know that fighting took place at April 1994 around the Gorazde enclave.  That we can agree.  Do I know the precise nature of that fighting?  No, I wasn't there at the time. My only -- I cannot react to what -- Janvier is saying this for reasons best known to General Janvier.”


Karadzic asked, “Are you challenging the observations made by General Janvier?” and Van Lynden replied, “I can absolutely not confirm them.” He said, “I have not witnessed the Bosnian forces behaving in the manner described by General Janvier.”


For the record, David Harland (former head of UN civil affairs in Bosnia) gave very similar testimony about Gorazde to what is contained in Janvier’s report when he testified on May 10, 2010. Namely that the Muslims tried to trick the Serbs into firing on UN peacekeepers there in order to provoke Western military intervention against the Serbs.


It’s interesting to note that van Lynden cites the UN as an important and credible source of his information when he’s condemning the Serbs, but as soon as UN sources reveal anything unflattering about the Muslims he doesn’t believe them anymore.


Karadzic asked van Lynden if he knew that the Bosnian-Serb attack on Gorazde in April 1994 was in response to Muslim attacks emanating out of the enclave.


Van Lynden replied saying, “It's clear, Mr. Karadzic, that for you everything is only ever a counter-offensive.  No one ever shot at the Bosnians until the Bosnians shot at the Serbs.


“I'm sure that there were instances where the Bosnians did shoot first, leading to a counter-attack.  Was I in Gorazde at that time?  No, I wasn't.  Is the information that I've just given to this Court correct that we were told in Pale in March 1994 that an attack was likely in April on Gorazde, yes, that information is correct, and did such an attack occur?  Yes, it did.  Can I say absolutely that it's the whole truth and nothing but the truth that this was not to a degree a counter-offensive?  No, I can't.”


Of course we don’t know who in Pale allegedly told van Lynden of the impending attack on Gorazde because van Lynden never identified those people in his testimony as anything more precise than “informed contacts” and “certain people” who told him.


Van Lynden Takes offense to General Rose’s Book


Karadzic read another quote from General Rose’s book which said: “Many journalists in Sarajevo also supported the war option, either because they believed that it was morally right to engage in some form of holy war against the Serbs or else because images of war sell better than those of peace.  A journalist working for a leading London newspaper summed up this view when he told Simon Shadbolt (Gen. Rose’s aide) that he did not care about the facts or the UN argument in favor of peace, his object was to get the West involved in a war in Bosnia.”


Van Lynden reacted to the passage from General Rose’s book with outrage. He said, “I absolutely do not believe that any journalist that I ever encountered in Bosnia believed in any kind of holy war against the Serbs. That's something in the Serb figment of the imagination.  That's utter nonsense. And an unnamed journalist working for a leading London newspaper, I'm surprised General Rose could write such things.  I really cannot comment further on that.  I'm pretty outraged to read something like that.”


Van Lynden’s hypocrisy is striking to say the least. Is the unnamed journalist in General Rose’s book supposed to be somehow worse than Van Lynden’s unnamed sources at the UN, or his “informed contacts” and “certain people” who he said warned him about an impending attack on Gorazde?


In it’s own pathetic way, van Lynden’s testimony was entertaining – if for no other reason than to see what he’d say next. General Rose was British, his assistant Simon Shadbolt was also British, and the journalist that General Rose referred to in his book was British too. But van Lynden said the phenomenon that General Rose was describing was a figment of the Serb imagination.


To that end, van Lynden himself would have to be a figment of the Serbian imagination because the clear intention of van Lynden’s reports was to drag the West into the Bosnian war. That is clear from the things he said on television.


Van Lynden Complains All the Way out the Door


Before van Lynden left he complained to the judges about the cross-examination. He complained that Karadzic was indecent for not letting him in on his cross-examination strategy ahead of time. Van Lynden said, “It was noticeable to me or it has been during these days that none of the questions I was posed when I met Mr. Karadzic in prison were ever asked in the court and that he could have shown me the decency and the courtesy of showing me the documents that he was going to bring before me in the court, but he did not do so.  This is strange to me, because Prosecution and Defense have the right to see documents, and I do not understand why a witness should not have that right as well.”


Van Lynden's complaining betrays his intentions. From his complaining one can conclude that he would have testified differently if he had known what Karadzic had in store for him. The job of a witness is to tell the truth to the best of their knowledge, and that shouldn't change no matter what the intention of the person doing the cross-examination is. The truth is the truth, and the witness knows what they know. The witness's answers to the questions shouldn't change based on the information that the witness knows the person asking the questions has at their disposal. It is obvious that van Lynden's intent was to mislead and that his testimony was disingenuous, and that he was upset because Karadzic exposed him.


Robert Donia Takes the Stand


Robert Donia, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, is the first expert witness to be called by the Prosecution in the Karadzic Trial.


Donia is a historian and author. He described his expertise saying, “I have specialized in political and social history, principally of the 19th and 20th centuries, and principally in the area of south-eastern Europe, in particular Bosnia-Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia.” He wrote three expert reports for the prosecution: 1) "The Origins of the Republika Srpska, 1990 to 1992.", 2) "Thematic Excerpts from the Assembly of the Republika Srpska, 1991 to 1996", and 3) "Bosnian Serb Leadership and the Siege of Sarajevo, 1990, to 1995"


Donia described his role as a historian saying, “I think fundamentally I prepare narratives, to elucidate a sequence of events, the causes of those events, and the linkages between them to produce a coherent story of events and the topic concerned.”


Donia said the report containing excerpts from Bosnian-Serb Assembly sessions contained "what I judge to be the most revealing and helpful excerpts from the Assembly minutes". He explained that the report was written "with the intent of creating exactly that kind of a narrative so that a reader could follow the progression of people's thinking and their own understanding of events at the time."


The prosecutor spent much of the hearing examining Donia about the “Six Strategic Goals” passed at the 16th Assembly Session of the Bosnian-Serb assembly on May 12, 1992 – after the beginning of the war.


Donia said that the goals represented the “assessment of the leaders that these were important goals that should be publicly known.”


The goals were:


1)       Establish state borders separating the Serbian people from the other two ethnic communities.

2)       Set-up a corridor between Semberija and Krajina.

3)       Establish a corridor in the Drina River valley, that is, eliminate the Drina as a border separating Serbian states.

4)       Establish a border on the Una and Neretva rivers.

5)       Divide the city of Sarajevo into Serbian and Muslim parts and establish effective State authorities in both parts.

6)       Ensure access to the sea by Republika Srpska.


The goals are listed in ascending order from the most important to the least important. The prosecutor exhibited a statement (exhibit P956) by Momcilo Krajisnik which said, “The first goal is the most important one, and in relation to all other goals, all other goals are sub-items of the first one.”


Donia explained to the court, “The first strategic goal really is a general principle and governs in principle the other goals.” He said, “It is expressed as a general principle, but it has many possible, let's say specific, components to it.  It clearly embraces the separation of the national communities but does not specify whether that separation is to be territorial, physical, organizational, or institutional, or human, or some combination of those.”


Donia also commented on the fifth goal. He said, Karadzic "valued this separation of the city as a way of denying to the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina the attributes of a state."


The prosecutor showed Donia an ethnic map of Bosnia (exhibit P783) based on the 1991 census, and asked, “Can you relate the population distribution as depicted on this map to the boundaries of the strategic objectives that you depicted earlier for us?  Does the territory encompassed by the strategic objectives cover multi-ethnic areas?”


Donia replied saying, “Yes, insofar as we can determine from the strategic objectives what was intended in territorial terms.”


The prosecutor also asked Donia about the way municipal boundaries (Opstina’s) had been drawn in Bosnia prior to the war. The witness expressed his opinion that, “Ethnicity in the overall picture of municipality boundaries played no role or very little role in the actual design of where boundaries were placed.”


But he did concede that Bosnian-Serbs and Croats felt that the boundaries had been drawn to their disadvantage. He said, “I think from the late 1980s, perhaps even earlier, the Serb nationalist thinkers, in Sarajevo in particular, developed a critique of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Communist era that included the critique of the municipal structure, and their contention was, and I would point to a number of early speeches by Dr. Karadzic in which he expressed this view, their contention was that the municipalities had been drawn to the disadvantage of the Serb people.  Croats in Bosnia, some of them also voiced the view that municipalities were developed to the disadvantage of the Croatian people.”


A complete transcript of this hearing is available at:


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