Karadzic: I'm no criminal – I was saving the innocent

Families of Srebrenica victims greet testimony with derision as 'Beast of Bosnia' begins defence

Radovan Karadzic launched his defence at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague yesterday with a display of the armour-plated impudence that served him so well while holding court for the international media during the siege of Sarajevo.

"I am a medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, group analyst and writer," he told the court, looking relaxed and professional and sporting a modified version of his famous quiff. "Instead of being accused of events in our civil war, I should have been rewarded. Here is why: because I did everything in human power to avoid the war." Mothers of victims of the Srebrenica massacre watching from the public gallery snorted in derision and disbelief, shouting out "He's lying! He's lying!" as his catalogue of exculpation continued.

"I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians," he declared. "The number of victims in our war was three to four times less than the numbers reported. I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and military containments. And I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory … I personally supervised the supply of humanitarian aid and the honouring of the international law of welfare."

Karadzic, known as the Beast of Bosnia, is one of the three Serb leaders to face trial in The Hague for their roles in the Bosnian civil war in which more than 100,000 people died. The Montenegrin psychiatrist and poet was President of the self-proclaimed Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic) from 1991 to 1995.

He and Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb army, supported by their ally and patron Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, waged war on the Bosnian Muslim and Croat communities in a sustained effort to ethnically cleanse Bosnia – newly declared a sovereign state – and make it part of a Greater Serbian state. Methods employed included the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which 12,000 civilians were killed, and the massacre of the male Muslim population of the mining town of Srebrenica, in which nearly 8,000 men and boys were hunted down and slaughtered in cold blood in July 1995.

Karadzic faces 10 charges of genocide, other war crimes and crimes against humanity. In his defence yesterday, he claimed that the charges against him were invented by foreign governments and the media, while he himself was earnestly seeking peace. In particular he claimed that the shelling of a Sarajevo market in 1994 that killed dozens of civilians came not from Bosnian Serb forces but were a propaganda stunt by Muslims.

"I constantly sought and accepted four out of five peace agreements," he insisted. "I advocated, initiated and implemented the humanisation of the conflict by applying all measures of a humanitarian nature."

After the war – brought to an end by the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 – Mladic and Karadzic went on the run. Karadzic was sensationally arrested on a bus in Belgrade in 2008. He had reinvented himself as a doctor of alternative medicine, working at a private clinic in the city under the name of Dr Dragan David Dabic. With a white beard to his chest and long hair gathered in a topknot like a Hindu ascetic, he had disappeared in plain sight.

After being brought to The Hague for trial in 2009, Karadzic initially refused to co-operate with the court, claiming he had not had enough time to prepare his defence. The presiding judge in the trial, O-Gon Kwon of South Korea, has given Karadzic 300 hours in which to defend himself, and he has declared his intention to call 300 witnesses. "Everybody who knows me knows I am not an autocrat, I am not aggressive," he told the court yesterday. "On the contrary I am a mild man, a tolerant man with great capacity to understand others."

In the dock: The charges

Judges acquitted Radovan Karadzic of one of the two counts of genocide in June, but 10 other war crimes and genocide charges stand. These include taking part in another act of genocide – the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, in which more than 8,000 were executed.

He also faces charges of crimes against humanity, including ordering and abetting the persecution of Bosnian Muslims and/or Croats. A number of other charges are classed as violations of the customs of war, and include involvement in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, during which 10,000 people died. Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee