Witness testimony begins on Tuesday in Radovan Karadzic’s genocide trial, with a Bosnian Muslim testifying about the horrors of life in a notorious Serb-run detention camp during his country’s bloody 1992-95 war.
Karadzic’s case is the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal’s most important since former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in his jail cell in 2006 before judges at the U.N. court could reach a verdict in his trial. The cases cover many of the same atrocities.
The first day of testimony against the former Bosnian Serb leader comes months after his trial started in October with the prosecutor’s opening statement. Karadzic boycotted that hearing to protest what he claimed was lack of time to prepare his defence against the 11-count indictment.
The first witness is Ahmet Zulic, a Muslim who was herded into Manjaca camp after Bosnian Serbs “ethnically cleansed” non-Serbs from the northwest Bosnian town of Sanski Most.
Karadzic, 64, is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly orchestrating atrocities perpetrated by Bosnian Serb troops and paramilitary thugs throughout the war. He faces a life sentence if convicted.
He insists he is innocent and argues Serbs were defending themselves against what he has described as a fundamentalist plot to turn Bosnia into an Islamic republic.
In his own opening statement in March, Karadzic said Muslims were the first to attack in Bosnia and their fighters “had blood up to their shoulders.”
“Their conduct gave rise to our conduct,” he told judges.
Prosecutors have 300 hours to present their case. It spans the brutal Bosnian Serb campaign to drive Muslims and Croats out of large parts of Bosnia early in the war through the deadly siege and sniping campaign in the capital, Sarajevo, to the bloody climax of the conflict in Srebrenica, where Serb forces murdered some 8,000 Muslim men in Europe’s worst massacre since the Holocaust.
Karadzic was first indicted in 1995 along with his military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, who remains on the run. Karadzic went into hiding soon after the war ended and was a fugitive from justice until July 2008 when he was arrested on a Belgrade bus. He had grown a long beard and hair and was posing as a New Age healer called Dr. Dragan Dabic.
Zulic will be followed onto the witness stand by Sulejman Crncalo, a Muslim factory worker driven out of Karadzic’s wartime power-base of Pale and into Sarajevo. There his wife was killed in the deadly bombing of a market place in 1995.
Other witnesses early in the case include diplomats involved in peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, a war correspondent and a historian.
Keywords: War crimes trial,