Radovan Karadzic threatened months before the start of the Bosnian war that 300 000 Bosnian Muslims would ”disappear from the face of the Earth” while his forces turned Sarajevo into a ”black cauldron”, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in the Hague heard this week. Karadzic told colleagues he had 400 000 Serbs under arms awaiting his orders and 20 000 men ready to besiege Sarajevo.
Fourteen years after the end of the conflict, the former Bosnian Serb leader faces 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the Srebrenica massacre, the siege of Sarajevo, the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs and the seizure of more than 200 United Nations peacekeepers as hostages.
But he has shunned the proceedings on grounds that he is not yet fit to conduct his own defence. The presiding judge, O-Gon Kwon of South Korea, ordered the case to proceed despite the boycott.
Attorney Alan Tieger, leading the prosecution, delivered several hours of graphic evidence against Karadzic, painting a picture of him as a ”supreme commander” who enjoyed total control of Bosnian Serb politics, parliament, police, paramilitary forces and the army throughout the 44-month war.
He portrayed Karadzic as a cold-blooded monster who had methodically planned the war well in advance and conducted it to the letter. At the end of the war, in mid-1995, he boasted he had ordered the murder of more than 7 000 Muslim males at Srebrenica, Tieger said.
Although he spurns defence lawyers, Karadzic has a team of 40 legal experts and lawyers assisting him and has filed about 400 motions to the court since being detained.
O-Gon said Karadzic was entitled to defend himself but might have forfeited this right by his boycott. The judge also said that he might impose defence lawyers next week if the non-appearances persisted.
The trial is arguably the most important of the tribunal’s 15-year existence. —