The former President of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic, will begin presenting evidence in his defence at the trial for genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday, October 16.
While Karadzic’s defence has announced calling at least 300 witnesses and complains about insufficient time, experts doubt they will hear new evidence, although many of the proposed witnesses have not appeared at the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, before.
Goran Petronijevic, a member of Karadzic’s defence team, in a statement to BIRN claims that the former Bosnian Serb leader will “prove that most of the allegations against him are a falsification”.
The defence, according to Petronijevic, will present its evidence following the same pattern as the Hague prosecution, which means that it will start with evidence about crimes in Sarajevo, then from the municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally “disputing the allegations about taking international soldiers as hostages and the crimes in Srebrenica.”
“The first defence witness will be the famous officer of the Russian forces in Sarajevo, Andrej Demurenko, who was an eye witness and participant of the events at the Markale market. Demurenko was the first man to find that – even if a grenade did explode in the market – it could not have come from the Bosnian Serb positions,” states Petronijevic.
After Demurenko’s testimony, Petronijevic says the defence will present findings of a team of ballistic experts which will try to dispute the allegations of ten sniping and nine shelling incidents – including the attacks on the Markale market in 1994 and 1995 which killed more than 100 people.
Mirko Klarin, the director and editor of the SENSE news agency which specialises in covering the ICTY war crimes trials, claims that even though Karadzic’s list of proposed witnesses contains names of people that will testify before the court for the first time, their statements briefs reveal that many arguments used by defences in previous trials will be heard again.
“The statements show that we will again hear theories that Bosniak forces shelled Sarajevo citizens, that the massacres were framed and other known conspiracy theories.”
“The first witness, Demurenko, had previously testified at the trial of Dragomir Milosevic and said that the shells that hit Markale were fired from the territory of the Bosnian Army. However, the Trial Chamber did not accept his statement. We will see if he will fare better in Karadzic’s case,” says Klarin.
Dragomir Milosevic, former commander of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps of the Bosnian Serb army was sentenced in 2009 to 29 years in prison for crimes in Sarajevo.
Defence Wants More Time
Karadzic’s trial started in October 2009. The prosecution took two years to present its evidence and about 200 witnesses were called.
Taking into consideration that the prosecution spent about 300 working hours to present its case, the ICTY allocated the same amount of time for Karadzic’s evidence.
Karadzic is appealing this decision and his lawyer Petronijevic hopes that the appeal will be accepted, adding that 300 hours is not enough time to dispute the prosecution’s evidence.
“We are in a situation where we are searching for the truth after 17 years, because the prosecution managed to rush all trials so far so the defence teams did not dispute the bases of the crimes the way we intended to,” says Petronijevic.
On the other hand, Klarin thinks it is not very likely that Karadzic’s appeal will be accepted, and adds that part of the reason why the defence feels it does not have sufficient time lies in the fact that Karadzic is defending himself.
“During the prosecution’s case he used more than 70 per cent of the time. The prosecution used 300 hours and Karadzic used more than 700 hours for cross-examination. The fact that he is defending himself is certainly making the trial go slower. We can see in the case of Ratko Mladic, who has lawyers, that the proceedings are very efficient,” said Klarin.
The former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, Ratko Mladic, is also on trial before the Hague Tribunal for genocide and other crimes during the Bosnian war.
The slow nature of the proceedings is a big issue for Hatidza Mehmedovic, the president of the “Mothers of Srebrenica” association, who is offended by the denial of the crimes committed in 1995.
“How is it possible that defendants are not scared, when they say genocide did not take place in Srebrenica? How is it possible they are not ashamed of the sea of white tomb stones in the Memorial centre in Potocari,” asks Mehmedovic.
To the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, was a true sensation, and one to be exploited day after day.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.