Radovan Karadzic: Serbian Hero

Radovan Karadzic
Despite a politically motivated war crimes conviction and a sentence of life imprisonment, former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic is widely seen as a hero by Serbs for defending them from Islamic extremists in Bosnia.

www.slobodan-milosevic.org - March 22, 2019
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic’s sentence for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was increased by appeal judges at a UN tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, from 40 years to life imprisonment on Wednesday.

In an otherwise tendentious and misleading article in the New York Times, Marlise Simons reported that “The appeals were little covered by the news media in Serbia, where The Hague’s tribunal is widely viewed as anti-Serb and many Serbs see Mr. Karadzic as a hero.

She said, “Serb leaders in Bosnia denounced Wednesday’s decision as proof of the court’s bias, claiming that the tribunal was not interested in crimes committed against Serbs.”[1]

This article will explain why Serbs see Radovan Karadzic as a hero, and how they got the idea that the Tribunal is uninterested in crimes committed against Serbs.

The Nuremburg Tribunal that convicted Nazi leaders after the Second World War ruled that “War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”[2]

Radovan Karadzic’s conviction turns that principle on its head. Dr. Karadzic was not allowed to present evidence showing that the Bosnian-Serbs were defending themselves from illegal aggression, or that their Muslim adversaries were committing crimes against them.

Lead prosecutor Alan Tieger, openly declared that “As this Trial Chamber has repeatedly pointed out to Dr. Karadzic, this case is not about who started the war, jus ad bellum.”[3]

The prosecution argued that “International humanitarian law (IHL) applies to all parties in an armed conflict irrespective of the lawfulness of the other party’s resort to force, a violation of IHL can never be excused as a valid reprisal to an alleged violation of jus ad bellum.”[4]

Mr. Tieger argued that “the side that is acting in self-defence against illegal aggression does not because of that fact gain any right to violate the law of armed conflict.”[5]

When the Trial chamber refused to subpoena documents sought by the Karadzic defense from the United States government they did so on the grounds that “the issue of who was responsible for starting the war is not relevant to the Accused’s defence case.”[6]

The judges often admonished Karadzic for presenting evidence that showed the Serbian war effort was defensive. On one occasion the presiding judge told him, “Who started the attack is not relevant for the purpose of this case at all. So I was concerned very much about delving into whether the nature of certain combat activities was defensive or offensive. It’s all related jus ad bellum as I indicated yesterday. In the future, the Chamber will keep a closer look as to the relevance of the Defence witnesses’ evidence and, if necessary, it may consider not allowing the evidence at all.”[7]

Evidence of crimes committed against Bosnian-Serb civilians was also deemed “irrelevant” and openly suppressed by the prosecutors and the judges during the trial.

Associate prosecutor Melissa Pack argued in open court that “evidence of crimes against Serbs is not relevant.”[8]

The prosecution objected to the admission of defense exhibits on the grounds that “they consist of detailed evidence of crimes against Serbs and don’t satisfy the standard of relevance.”[9]

The judges openly sided with the prosecutors. The presiding judge freely admitted that “We didn’t allow the accused to expand on the issue of crimes committed against the Serbs.”[10]

The judges declared that “the Chamber has consistently excluded evidence pertaining to crimes committed against Bosnian Serbs on the grounds that it is irrelevant.”[11]

These sort of remarks coming from the judges and prosecutors explain why Serbs see the tribunal as biased – and they have a point.

The Tribunal looked at the wartime actions of the Bosnian-Serbs in a vacuum and it sentenced Radovan Karadzic to life in prison without considering the mitigating circumstances that provoked them.

It’s the same as if somebody looked at the behavior of the Allied forces in the Second World War without giving any consideration to anything the Axis powers had done. If the only issue you considered was the destruction and the civilian casualties caused by Allied bombing raids against Germany and Japan, and you ignored everything Germany and Japan had done to provoke the bombing, you would come to the conclusion that the Allies were war criminals bent on wanton killing and destruction.

That’s the type of warped understanding that the verdict against Radovan Karadzic promotes about the Bosnian war.

The Bosnian-Serbs were attacked by a faction of militant Islamic fascists who sought to control Bosnia, and Dr. Karadzic was called upon to lead the defense of his people.

The leader of the Bosnian Islamists was a convicted Nazi collaborator named Alija Izetbegovic. His collaboration with the Nazis was a well-known fact. The New York Times even printed it in his obituary when he died.[12] Their report said:

During World War II, when Bosnia became part of the puppet-Nazi state of the Croatian Ustashe, Mr. Izetbegovic joined the Young Muslims, a group torn between siding with the German-sponsored Handzar divisions organized by the German SS or with the Yugoslav Communist partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. Mr. Izetbegovic supported the Handzars.

After Tito’s Communist government was established in 1946, a military court sentenced Mr. Izetbegovic to three years in prison for his wartime activities.

In 1970 Izetbegovic wrote a book entitled The Islamic Declaration, where he advocated Sharia law and the establishment of “a united Islamic community from Morocco to Indonesia”. He wrote that the establishment of an Islamic order was his “incontrovertible and invincible aim” and that “the Islamic movement should and can, take over political power as soon as it is morally and numerically so strong that it can not only overturn the existing non-Islamic power, but also build up a new Islamic one”.

Izetbegovic wrote that Western feminists were “a depraved element of the female sex” and said “There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions”.

Izetbegovic argued that the “means of mass influence -- the press, radio, television and film -- should be in the hands of people whose Islamic, moral, and intellectual authority is indisputable.” And he believed that “casinos, night clubs, dance halls and all other forms of entertainment incompatible with the moral tenets of Islam” should be banned.[13]

In 1983, Izetbegovic and Hasan Cengic, the man he would later appoint as his defense minister during the 1992-95 war, were sent to prison for inciting an Islamist uprising against Yugoslavia.

According to the 1983 trial judgment, “Alija Izetbegovic asserted that Islam must be a state system or social system in all countries where the population is Muslim, and that the necessary conditions should be created to turn Bosnia and Herzegovina into an Islamic republic with Islamic laws.”

The judgment quoted Izetbegovic telling his followers that “Our imams should be armed and they should interpret and apply Islam following the example of Iran’s Shiite imams.”

The judgment quoted Cengic saying that “Jihad should be pursued to its final outcome in order to exterminate the enemy and the infidels.” He said, “We should not wait for a challenge or a provocation. Muslims must invent a challenge. They must be the ones who produce the challenge, and the goal will then come by itself.”

According to Cengic, “The goal of the Islamic revolution in our country is the creation of a unified Islamic state comprising the area of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sandzak, and Kosovo.”

The judgment quoted him admonishing Muslims, “do not take an infidel as your friend. Do not be friends with your fathers or your brothers if they favor the absence of our faith.” He said, “A Muslim woman should not nurse the children of a non-Muslim woman. A Muslim cannot receive the blood of or give blood to a non-believer. Muslims must be superior to all others, and every effort should be made to create an environment in which everyone will be of pure Muslim blood.”[14]

After he was released from prison, Izetbegovic made no secret of his intent to instigate a war. On February 7, 1991, Alija Izetbegovic stood in front of the Bosnian parliament and publicly announced that he was prepared to “sacrifice peace for a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina.”[15] – by which he meant a “sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina” under his control.

Hasan Cengic’s father openly boasted that they had been setting-up armed paramilitary groups for almost two years before the war.

He told Ljiljan, the official newspaper of the Izetbegovic’s political party (the Party of Democratic Action -- SDA), that “Already on August 1, 1990, we had a platoon armed with automatic weapons, a machine-gun and a mortar. They all had camouflage uniforms and they pledged their allegiance in the Ustikolina mosque, with their hands on the Koran. The deceased Husein Cavrk, a BH Army major decorated with a Golden Lily award was the unit commander. He was killed on Preljuca near Gorazde.”[16]

On June 10, 1991, a year before the war started, the Bosnian Muslims established the Patriotic League. In its judgment in the Stakic case, the Tribunal acknowledged that “In anticipation of Bosnian-Serb resistance, the Bosnian-Muslim leadership founded the paramilitary organization, the Patriotic League. In June 1991 the SDA created the National Defense Council whose task was to guide the work of the Patriotic League.”[17]

In addition to the Patriotic League, the Green Berets were another paramilitary organization created by Muslim leaders in 1991.[18]

By the time the war started in the spring of 1992, the Green Berets were reported to have had more than 80,000 Muslims under arms in Bosnia.[19]

Nikola Gardovic, a Serb, was the first civilian victim of the Bosnian war. He was the father of the groom in a Serbian wedding party that was attacked by Muslims in Sarajevo on March 1, 1992 during an illegal referendum on Bosnia’s secession from Yugoslavia.

Eyewitnesses identified Gardovic’s killer as Ramiz Delalic “Celo”, the commander of a Green Berets paramilitary unit in Sarajevo.[20]

In spite of warrants issued for his arrest by the Bosnian Interior Ministry, Izetbegovic’s regime appointed Delalic to the command of the Stari Grad police department in Sarajevo. He was also appointed to the command of the 3rd Mountain Brigade and the 9th Motorized Brigade of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina (ARBiH).[21]

During the war, the Bosnian-Muslims re-constituted the Handzar division.[22] The Division was named for the same Nazi SS division that Izetbegovic was jailed for supporting while he was a member of the Young Muslims during World War II.

In 1993 and ‘94, two Western reporters saw Osama bin Laden visiting Izetbegovic’s offices in Sarajevo.

According to the German author Jürgen Elsaesser, Renate Flottau (Der Spiegel’s correspondent for the Balkans) told him that she had personally seen Bin Laden on two different occasions at Izetbegovic’s Sarajevo office in 1993 and 1994.[23]

Eve-Ann Prentice, a reporter for the London Times and the Guardian, testified under oath that she had also seen Osama bin Laden being escorted into Izetbegovic’s Sarajevo office in November 1994.[24]

According to the 9/11 Commission’s report, four of the September 11th terrorists fought in Bosnia on the side of the Muslims: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Nawaf al Hazmi, Salem al Hazmi, and Khalid al Mihdhar.[25]

The 9/11 Report asserts that “The groundwork for a true global terrorist network was being laid” thanks in part to Bin Laden’s Bosnian connections. The report found that “Bin Laden’s impressive array of offices covertly provided financial and other support for terrorist activities. The network included a major business enterprise in Cyprus; a ‘services’ branch in Zagreb; [and] an office of the Benevolence International Foundation in Sarajevo, which supported the Bosnian Muslims in their conflict with Serbia and Croatia.”[26]

Izetbegovic’s regime worked with the Iranian government to import thousands of mujahadeen into Bosnia to wage holy war against the Serbs and spread Islamic extremism.

According to a 1996 U.S. Government report on the American role in Iranian arms transfers to Croatia and Bosnia, “Iran ordered senior members of its Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (“IRGC”), the elite force used to advance militant Islam, to travel to Bosnia to survey the military needs of the [Izetbegovic] government. IRGC trainers taught the Muslims how to use anti-tank missiles and helped with troop logistics and weapons factories. The IRGC also incorporated religious indoctrination into military training. Iran used this leverage to urge Hizballah to send foreign fighters to the region as members of the Mujahideen. The effort was successful and a force of thousands drawn from several pro-Iranian groups and other Islamic Opposition movements assembled in Bosnia.”[27]

In spite of Izetbegovic’s extremist views, his criminal convictions, and his ties to known terrorists, most Western journalists and government officials considered him to be a “moderate” Muslim working to establish secular multi-ethnic democracy in Bosnia.

The Prosecutors who charged Karadzic with war crimes knew perfectly well that Izetbegovic’s regime was insincere when it paid lip-service to establishing a secular multi-ethnic democracy Bosnia.

They noted that “the mere presence and employment in combat of the Mujahedin and EMD during the war in BiH casts serious doubts on the sincerity of the ARBiH’s stated goal of maintaining a secular and multi-ethnic Bosnia where all nationalities could live peacefully.”[28]

Western intelligence agencies were also aware that Izetbegovic’s commitment to secular multi-ethnic democracy was disingenuous. The CIA noted that “the Army’s nominal Deputy Commander, Brigadier General Jovan Divjak, a Serb, acts primarily as the leadership’s token non-Muslim; he reportedly plays only a minimal role in army operations.” According to their report, “The primary Muslim political party-the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has dominated the Army in almost the same way that the Yugoslav League of Communists dominated the JNA.”[29]

Richard Butler, a military expert employed by the Prosecution said: “The goal of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina was to establish their control over the entirety of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the military arm of the government in Sarajevo.”[30]

In 1995, the Croatian President Franjo Tudjman – who was no friend of the Serbs – informed American officials that Bosnian-Muslim leaders had told him their plan for the Serbs was to “exterminate them all” and to “drive one and a half million Serbs out of Bosnia.”[31]

The Bosnian-Serbs know all too well what their fate would have been if Dr. Karadzic and General Mladic hadn’t established Republika Srpska and resisted the Islamist regime in Sarajevo. To his people President Karadzic is, and will always be, a hero.

After his sentence was increased to life in prison, his lawyer delivered a written statement to the press in which Dr. Karadzic said, “The sacrifice I bear today is smaller than that of many others, thousands of young people have built their lives in Repulika Srpska, many are post-war invalids, and the biggest victims are those whose sons, often their only sons, gave their life for the freedom of the Serbian people.”

He said, “I will not stop fighting for the truth about our just struggle in the war that was imposed upon us and in which members of all three peoples were killed.”

He emphasized that “We do not hate others, and we proudly guard what is above us - our Republika Srpska.”

[1] Marlise Simmons, “Radovan Karadzic Sentenced to Life for Bosnian War Crimes,” The New York Times, March 20, 2019

[2] The International Military Tribunal for Germany (1946-09-30), Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals: The Nazi Regime in Germany, The Avalon Project, Yale University <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judnazi.asp>

[3] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 47592-47593

[4] Prosecution’s Submission Re. Notice of Special Defence as to Count 11: Reprisals

[5] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 47690

[6] ICTY Case No. IT-95-5/18-T, Decision on Accused’s Fifth Motion for Binding Order (United States of America), 22 August 2012

[7] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 30365

[8] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 12743

[9] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 8347

[10] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 46536

[11] Radovan Karadzic trial transcript, pg. 32652-32653

[12] David Binder, “Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim Who Led Bosnia, Dies at 78,” The New York Times, October 20, 2003

[13] Alija Izetbegovic, The Islamic Declaration, (Sarajevo, 1990), Pg. 5, 30, 37, 39, 47, 56

[14] District Court of Sarajevo Judgment from 20 January 1983, Available as Ratko Mladic trial exhibit D01532, D01532.E

[15] Richard Holbrooke, To End A War, (New York, Random House, 1998), p. 32

[16] Interview by Halid Cengic, Ljiljan (Sarajevo), May 18-25, 1998; See Also: ICTY Case No. IT-97-25-T, the Prosecutor v. Krnojelac, Exhibits D18 & 18A

[17] ICTY Case No. IT-97-24-T, Judgement: Prosecutor v. Milomir Stakic, July 31, 2003; ¶ 33

[18] ICTY Case No. IT-96-21-T, Judgement: Delalic et al., Part II (Background and Preliminary Factual Findings), November 16, 1998; ¶119

[19] “Bosnia Teetering on the Brink of a Bloodbath,” Evening Standard (London), March 4, 1992

[20] Testimony of Ramiz Delalic “Celo”, Halilovic trial transcript, ICTY, May 17, 2005: Pg. 11; See Also: “Sarajevo Court to Renew Proceedings on Murder that Precipitated Bosnian War,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, February 1, 2002; Source: Federation news agency, Sarajevo, in Serbo-Croat 0930 gmt 1 Feb 02

[21] “Other Reports on Bosnia-Hercegovina; Bosnian Interior Ministry Issues Arrest Warrant for Wedding Killing,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 5, 1992; Source: Yugoslav News Agency in Serbo-Croat 1900 gmt 3 Mar 92; See Also: Testimony of Ramiz Delalic “Celo”, Halilovic trial transcript, ICTY, May 17, 2005: Pg. 12

[22] Halilovic trial Exhibit 00296, 00296e

[23] “Bosnia and the Islamic Jihad in Europe,” M. Bozinovic’s Interview with Jurgen Elasser, May 2005

[24] Slobodan Milosevic trial transcript, ICTY, February 3, 2006; Pg. 47949

[25] The 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Official Government ed.; Pg. 147, 155

[26] Ibid., pg. 58

[27] US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, Final Report of the Select Subcommittee to Investigate the United States Role in Iranian Arms Transfers to Croatia and Bosnia (“The Iranian Green Light Subcommittee”); October 10 & 25, 1996; Pg. 543-545

[28] Prosecution’s Final Trial Brief in Case No. IT-04-83-T, Prosecutor v. Rasim Delic, 13 June 2008, Para. 15

[29] 1995-08-03a - BTF Assessment: An Evaluation of The Washington Post Article ‘Would Lifting Embargo Help Bosnia?’, August 3, 1995 <http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/1817859/1995-08-03A.pdf>

[30] Prosecution expert Richard Butler, ICTY Karadzic Transcript, 19 April 2012, pg. 27697

[31] Minutes of the Meeting Held on 16 August 1995 in the North Lounge of the Presidential Palace in Zagreb at 13:50 hours, ICTY ERN #0187-0722-0187-0757-ET, Pg. 11