PROTECTED WITNESS AND HERBERT OKUN TESTIFY IN KARADZIC TRIAL
"Mr. Karadzic, if we hadn’t resisted at all, there would have been half a million victims. According to you, we should have stayed indoors, because it would have made it easier for you to get everybody together in one building, rape the girls and women, kill whomever you please and let others go, as you pleased."-Testimony of a Srebrenica genocide survivor.
PHOTO: Radovan Karadzic at the trial acts as his own lawyer and defends himself by denying war crimes and genocide.
At the trial of Radovan Karadzic, a protected witness who survived a Srebrenica execution site and Ambassador Herbert Okun both gave their evidence. This is the third and fourth witness testifying against Karadzic.
The protected witness survived a mass execution of Srebrenica victims at Orahovac mass grave. He survived the savage massacre by playing dead beneath the bodies of men gunned down around him. In her book, "A Relentless Quest for Justice", authored by a former Chief UN Prosecutor Carla del Ponte (in collaboration with Chuck Sudetic), there was a similar case of a boy who survived the massacre:
"And then, suddenly, the shooting stopped. A very young boy emerged from the heap of bodies, covered in blood and mangled flesh. He began walking toward the gunmen, crying for his 'Babo' (father). The soldiers lowered their weapons. The commanding officer ordered them to shoot the boy, , but they refused, telling him to do it himself. The witness intervened on behalf of the boy: 'All of a sudden he took me by the hand. ... I don't want any one of you to experience that, ... the grip, the grip of him on my hand, and I was amazed at his strength.' He took the boy to his van and put some music on, while the gunmen returned to their work. "
According to AP's Mike Corder, the protected "witness was among about 1,000 Muslim men who surrendered to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 and was trucked to a school gym near the town of Srebrenica. There, the men were taken to a small room, given a drink of water and blindfolded before being put on another truck and driven to a nearby meadow.
The killing lasted the whole day and evening. When the night fell, he ran away, leaving behind a field littered with bodies.
'Prisoners were lined up in rows and shot,' Nicholls said. 'The witness managed to survive by feigning death as he lay under the body of another victim.' The witness said more trucks loaded with prisoners would arrive every 10-15 minutes and the men would be executed in the same way. 'This killing continued for hours,' Nicholls said. 'As night fell, the witness managed to creep away and eventually found his way back to Muslim-controlled territory.'
Judges appalled by Karadzic's denial
Having no valid arguments to disprove his guilt, Karadzic resorted to his old fashioned tactics of denying crimes and labeling witnesses as liars who invented massacres. When judges had it enough, they admonished Karadzic for dismissing a Muslim survivor of the Srebrenica massacre as a “soldier not a victim.” Judges warned Karadzic not to make "appalling" comments, but stick to asking pertinent questions to the witness., who escaped from an execution squad by playing dead under the bodies of other Muslim men as they were shot. According to David Charter of Times Online,
The witness also correctly dismissed Karadzic's questions/comments as "rubbish":
"Just after the witness returned to court after a break, Dr Karadzic said: 'You are not a victim, you were a soldier for the Bosnian army.' Judge O-Gon Kwon told Dr Karadzic to stick to questions, then later added: 'We have a witness who survived an horrendous massacre but you made an appalling comment that he was not a victim but a soldier.'
The witness had been in the Yugoslav army and fought for Muslim forces but was unarmed when he gave himself up to Bosnian Serb forces when they took control of the UN Safe Haven of Srebrenica in July 1995. After being kept for a day in a school gym with hundreds of other Muslim men who received little water and no food, he was put on a truck with around 30 other blindfolded men.
'They drove just a short distance to a field and the prisoners were told to get out,' said Julian Nicholls, for the prosecution. 'The men were lined up in rows and shot. The witness managed to survive by feigning death as he lay under the body of another victim. Approximately every 10 to 15 minutes another truck full of prisoners would arrive and they would be killed in the same manner. These killings carried on for hours.'
After the massacre, Mr Nicholls said that the witness saw 'that most of the field was covered in bodies. He noticed not all the prisoners were dead. He could hear sounds coming from some of the men'. When night fell he fled through the woods and reached Muslim-held territory."
...Cross-examined by the Bosnian Serb wartime leader, the witness had to be cautioned by judges to calm down. 'You wanted to drive us out of Bosnia-Herzegovina and create an ethnically clean territory, he told Dr. Karadzic.'"
"The witness doesn’t contest the fact that he later joined the BH Army and that he defended his country. The witness added that under the law, all citizens were obliged to defend BH. ‘And you ethnically cleansed BH’, the witness told Karadzic. The witness also rejected Karadzic’s suggestion that he ‘defended his village against the Serbs’. ‘Fikret Abdic is a Bosniak, but we had to defend ourselves against him, too’, the witness noted.
During the cross-examination, tempers flared often in the courtroom. The witness disagreed with practically everything the accused put to him. ‘Karadzic, you talk rubbish’, the witness said several times. Addressing the judges, the witness said that he ‘can’t give answers to stupid questions’. The witness reminded the court that Srebrenica had been under UN protection but fell nevertheless before the eyes of whole world. ‘First you took our property, then you stole our lives and now you are trying to convince me that we wanted the war’, the witness said as he turned to face the accused."
Karadzic tried to use cheap shots during his cross-examination of the witness by claiming that Srebrenica was not a ‘demilitarized zone’ but a Muslim stronghold which was resupplied with weapons throughout the war. Then, Karadzic read to the witness parts of his previous testimony, where the witness said there were armed men in the column moving out of Srebrenica on 11 July 1995. The witness told Karadzic there were only about 400 rifles in the column of about 15,000 men moving towards Tuzla through the woods. ‘Those who had arms were those who got through, those who didn’t now lie in mass graves and body bags’, the witness added.
Serbs dever demilitarized
The Serbs never demilitarized around Srebrenica. The Bosnian Government had entered into demilitarization agreements with the Bosnian Serbs. On 21 April 1993, the UNPROFOR issued press release saying that the process of demilitarization of Bosnian defenders of Srebrenica had been a success. According to the Agreement, the Serbs should withdraw their heavy weapons before the Bosniaks gave up their weapons. The Serbs refused to demilitarize. They never honored their part of agreement. Instead, Serb military and paramilitary troops continued using surrounding Serb villages as a base for attacks on (and brutal siege of) Srebrenica.
Ambassador Herbert Okun
Ambassador Herbert Okun, who facilitated Bosnian peace talks between 1991 and 1993 on behalf of the UN, told the judges that he had been shocked by Karadzic's "constant references to the World War II genocide in Bosnia-Hercegovina against the Bosnian Serbs" [note: Serbian Nazi fascists also committed genocide against the defenceless Bosniaks in World War II]. It had been Karadzic's position that areas in Bosnia that had a Serb majority before World War II should revert to the self-declared Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska, Okun told Karadzic's genocide trial.
Karadzic Warned of Genocide
"I do recall early on being somewhat shocked by all these constant references," the diplomat testified. A US diplomat Herbert Okun told judges he had warned Radovan Karadzic "that the Bosnian Serbs would commit a genocide".
"I said to him that if he continued with that line of thinking, that one day he would commit a genocide himself, the Bosnian Serbs would commit a genocide. That was before the fighting began, actually.
"I have to say I didn't really take it seriously, when I said it, it was a verbal way of expressing shock at the argumentation that the World War II genocide justified Bosnian Serb behaviour."
Okun said Karadzic also expressed concern in talks that "the birth rate of the Bosnian Muslims ... would in a relatively short time give the Muslim population an absolute majority in Bosnia Hercegovina" to the detriment of the Serbs.