Wartime leader Karadzic insists Bosnian Serbs were targets of Muslim state-sponsored terrorism

By Arthur Max, AP
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Karadzic: Serbs were targets of state terror

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told war crimes judges Tuesday that Serb gunfire and shelling during the siege of Sarajevo was restricted to legitimate targets, but accused his enemies of setting up command posts and sniper positions in schools, hospitals and the city museum.

Karadzic’s description of the 44-month siege and the escalation toward the outbreak of Bosnia’s civil war in 1992 give a uniquely Serb view of events. He depicted Bosnia’s Serbs as victims of “state-sponsored terrorism” by Muslim authorities who rushed toward independence from Yugoslavia and who sought to draw international forces into the conflict.

On the second day of his defense statement, Karadzic addressed issues at the heart of his indictment, denying Serb culpability and claiming that key events in the 1992-95 war — the siege of the capital and the mass murder of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica — were stage managed or fabricated to vilify the Serb community.

Prosecutors say Karadzic was the “supreme commander” of a campaign to kill or expel Muslims and Croats from eastern Bosnia and create an ethnically pure Serbian state. He is charged with two counts of genocide and nine other counts of murder, extermination, persecution, forced deportation and the seizing of 200 U.N. hostages. He faces possible life imprisonment if convicted.

Karadzic, referring frequently to maps and speeches flashed onto the courtroom’s computer screens, spoke of an inexorable breakdown of trust between Bosnian Muslim and Serb leaders, the division of the country into ethnic entities and the march toward war.

He cited provocative attacks on Serbs in early 1992: the shooting of a wedding party and the bombing of a church. “The shocks didn’t come every day — they came every hour,” he said.

Serb leaders tried to “protect the Serb people from their own state, from their own police, from the state-sponsored terror of their own country.”

The start of the Bosnian war is generally marked by the beginning of the bombardment of Sarajevo on April 5, 1992, from the surrounding hillsides.

Karadzic asserted that Sarajevo was “not a city under siege.” Instead it was “a divided city, like Beirut.” Serb forces also were surrounded, both inside and outside the city, he said.

Karadzic rose twice from his chair at the defense table to walk over to a large map of Sarajevo. “This is my city. I spent 50 years of my life living in it,” he said, pointing to the front lines that ran through neighborhoods he knew well.

He accused Muslim and Croat forces of “the abuse of hospitals, schools, kindergartens turned into military facilities.” On his computerized map he pointed to sniper positions, rooftop bunkers and firing points from the museum.

When Serb troops responded to fire, he said, “we were accused of firing indiscriminately at Sarajevo.”

The Yugoslav tribunal already has delved into the siege in detail and convicted two commanders of the Bosnian Serb army for relentlessly raining shellfire on the city, in a horror that was played out in front of international television cameras.

Gen. Stanislav Galic who commanded the 18,000-man Romanija Corps that encircled and bombarded the city, was sentenced to life imprisonment and his successor Gen. Dragomir Milosevic was sentenced to 33 years.

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