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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies