After months of delays, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has finally taken the stand in the Hague to begin his defence against charges of war crimes and genocide.
Recognisable with his familiar shock of grey hair, Karadzic outlined his case in a typically outspoken fashion:
“I won’t say that I didn’t occupy an important post while I was serving my people nor will I shift the blame onto someone else. I will defend that nation of ours and their cause, which is just and holy.”
Karadzic faces 11 charges, including two of genocide, over the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He also seemed to question the court’s impartiality:
“It seems that the prosecution has struck a deal with our wartime enemies – the prosecutor is trying to turn this tribunal into a NATO disciplinary commission.”
Karadzic said the Bosnian Serb action was in self-defence against a Muslim campaign to claim Bosnia during the break-up of Yugoslavia.
One of the crimes he is charged with is organising the massacre of more than 8000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica. A group of the victims’ relatives gathered outside the court:
“We hope that the trial will be as short as possible and there will be no repeat of the Milosevic case. We are also hoping that Mladic and Hadzic will face justice. That would be the biggest victory for the world, Bosnia Herzegovina and Europe and it will ease the pain for us, the victims.” said campaigner Munira Subasic, President of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Association.
Karadzic denies the charges and, as he has not entered a formal plea, the tribunal has registered a not guilty plea on his behalf.