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Wednesday 3 September  
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The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Half-time: the prosecution rests its case against Karadzic

Published on : 4 May 2012 - 5:55pm | By (photo: icty)
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After more than two years of evidence, prosecutors on Friday closed their case in the genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

By Radosa Milutinovic, The Hague

The last of the prosecution’s 195 courtroom witnesses (an additional 142 testimonies were tendered in writing) was an elderly peasant. He told judges Friday how he managed to survive when hundreds of other Muslim prisoners died in the hands of Karadzic's forces during the first massacres after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.

It happened in a farm storage building in the Bosnian village of Kravica on July 13 where, according to the indictment, Bosnian Serb police killed up to 1,000 prisoners.

“You and Ratko Mladic are guilty for this.... You took Srebrenica and you should have let the people leave, not killed them all,” blasted protected witness KDZ-071 at the accused during cross-examination.

"Later"

“We'll come to that...later,” Karadzic retorted dryly in an attempt to deflect the witness' outright accusations, as he has done many times before during his trial. Karadzic is charged with genocide for the murder of more than 7.000 Srebrenica Muslims.

“Later” will come on October 16, when Karadzic, who acts as his own lawyer, is due to start his defense case. He recently announced his intention to present a “robust” defense and to call as many witnesses as prosecutors did.

In the meantime, Karadzic will soon submit a motion for a mid-trial acquittal, based on his claim that prosecutors have not presented enough evidence to support any of the 11 counts in the indictment. His request--allowed by the court’s rules, but which many experienced defense attorneys consider more ornamental than practical--will most likely be expeditiously thrown out by the trial chamber.

Unexpected treasure trove

The enormous magnitude and time span of the crimes allegedly committed by Karadzic's forces during the Bosnian war from 1992-95 have no doubt been difficult to prosecute. But the trial has left a treasure trove of largely unintended evidence that has been collected and adjudicated during 15 years of ICTY trials—a time when Karadzic was busy hiding as a healer in Serbia.

Some of the most damaging evidence at Karadzic’s trial – apart from survivor and eyewitness accounts--came from unlikely sources, such as General Ratko Mladic's meticulously kept war diaries and footage of piles of dead bodies in Kravica, recorded unwittingly by a Serbian journalist and promptly broadcast on Belgrade television.

President and proud

The key question of Karadzic's command and control responsibility was largely made moot by the accused himself. Trying hard to keep his “presidential” posture in the courtroom, Karadzic almost proudly accepted he was the “supreme commander” of the Bosnian Serb army, which is allegedly responsible for most of the grave crimes against the non-Serb Bosnian population.

Another unlikely prosecution witness, Mladic's war time deputy General Manojlo Milovanovic, gave even more weight to the accused’s leadership claims. He explained from the stand that Karadzic was, in fact, the supreme commander of all the armed forces, which means not only the army, but also the police and the “territorial defense”.

The war strategy of these forces was, as tersely defined by General Milovanovic: “Where there's no enemy population, there's no enemy army.”

Karadzic is also charged with the persecution of Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia, a campaign of terror (via shelling and sniping) against the population of Sarajevo and taking UN personnel hostage.

The trial officially started on 26 October 2009, but the trial chamber heard its first prosecution witness some six months later.
 

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International Justice

From the former Yugoslavia to Rwanda, Cambodia and Lebanon, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports on international justice. We offer background news and reporting on war crimes, human rights abuses and genocide.