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Karadzic Denies Sarajevo, Srebrenica War Crimes

A video grab shows Radovan Karadzic as he began his defense on March 1.

A video grab shows Radovan Karadzic as he began his defense on March 1.

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -- Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic today described the two worst atrocities of the 1992-95 Bosnian war as myths perpetuated by Bosnian Muslims and categorically denied his involvement.

The 1992-96 siege of Sarajevo, where 10,000 died in one of the Bosnian conflict's darkest chapters, was not a siege but the result of Muslims killing each other, Karadzic said at his war crimes trial, where he is defending himself.

The killing of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, described by prosecutors as the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, was also a fiction concocted by Muslims using bodies gathered into mass graves to cast blame on Serbian forces, Karadzic said.

"It is going to be easy from me to prove that I had nothing to do with it," Karadzic said, arguing that the evidence of any killings in Srebrenica was too sketchy to prove what happened.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia have charged Karadzic on 11 war crimes charges, including two of genocide for his role as leader of the Bosnian Serbs as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart by Serbs, Croats, and Muslims fighting for land.

In rambling testimony, Karadzic said the deaths in Sarajevo were the result of a "cunning strategy" by young Bosnian Muslims "aimed at bringing in foreign troops and foreign intervention."

Karadzic is accused of orchestrating the siege, where sniping and shelling held the inhabitants of Sarajevo in terror for 43 months as they tried to move around the city. Some 10,000 were killed and many more wounded.

"They shelled their own people and killed their own people from snipers," Karadzic said during the second day of his opening statement.


The statements by Karadzic, who is representing himself and denies all charges, gives an indication of how he plans to argue his case, mainly by casting blame on Bosnian Muslims or denying that atrocities took place.

Reaction from survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, who came to the Hague to attend proceedings, was swift and indignant.

"He should be given the Nobel Prize for lying," said Sabra Kolenovic of the Mothers of Srebrenica.

After today's statement, the trial was adjourned again by Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon pending an appeals ruling on Karadzic's request to postpone the trial, the court's highest profile case since the lengthy trial of Slobodan Milosevic ended with his death in 2006.

Karadzic's trial had already been adjourned for four months after he boycotted the start of the trial, claiming he needed more time to prepare and that he had immunity from the court.

Mindful of how Milosevic was able to drag out his war crimes case at The Hague over four years, the court appointed London barrister Richard Harvey as Karadzic's legal adviser to step in if he boycotts or obstructs proceedings.

A psychiatrist before becoming president of the self-proclaimed Republica Srpska, Karadzic stepped down from power in 1996 and went into hiding until he was captured in 2008, bearded and disguised as an alternative healer in Belgrade.