Courtside

Karadzic's Wartime Authority Assessed

Witness says defendant is referred to as “supreme commander” of the Bosnian Serb army in various documents.
  • Prosecution witness Reynaud Theunens. (Photo: ICTY)

A military analyst testifying this week in the Hague tribunal trial of former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic told judges that the accused refers to his own wartime authority in reported remarks and documents speak of his status too.

Prosecuting lawyer Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff presented the witness with a quote Karadzic is said to have delivered during a 1994 Bosnian Serb assembly session.

“I am the one who signs and decides, and I will be responsible for each decision,” Karadzic reportedly said at the time, as quoted by Uertz-Retzlaff.

“What does this reflect in relation to Mr Karadzic’s authority?” she asked.

“In this paragraph, Mr Karadzic confirms his authority as supreme commander of the [Bosnian Serb army],” explained prosecution witness Reynaud Theunens, who previously worked as a military analyst in the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP. He has testified in seven other trials at the tribunal and authored reports on military structures.

The witness said that Karadzic was referred to as the “supreme commander” of the army in various other documents as well.

Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of Bosnia's self-declared Serbian republic from 1992 to 1996, is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which "contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".

He is also accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of some 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995.

Karadzic, who represents himself in court, was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.

Theunens also spoke about a letter that Ratko Mladic - the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb army who was arrested at the end of May after 16 years on the run - allegedly sent to Karadzic about problems with paramilitary units, specifically one led by Zeljko Raznatovic, otherwise known as Arkan.

According to Theunens, Mladic states that Arkan’s men are “active in the Second Krajina Corps” of the Bosnian Serb army, but they are not actually part of any unit, not subordinate to any unit, and “not receiving assignments” from the army.

“So the conclusion of Mladic is that paramilitary formations are acting independently of the [army],” Theunens said.

Uertz-Retzlaff pointed out that Mladic then asked Karadzic “to revoke his decision to empower Arkan, to disarm [his men] and also requests the [ministry of interior]” to assist in this.

“To your knowledge, did the president stop Arkan and did the [ministry of interior] intervene?” Uertz-Retzlaff asked.

“I don’t know,” Theunens responded. “I know that Arkan and his men left eventually, but don’t know the circumstances. I haven’t seen any documents on those circumstances.”

When it was Karadzic’s turn to cross examine the witness, he claimed that Theunens’ “work for the OTP was to reinforce and complete the indictment against me”.

“I wouldn’t agree with that,” Theunens responded, adding that he didn’t write the report “for” the OTP and tried to analyze everything in an objective way.

“This report was written irrespective of the indictment,” Theunens said.

When Karadzic continued to press the point, Theunens remarked that the accused seemed to “want to make a link between the indictment and my report”.

The witness stressed that “the role of the OTP is limited to the direction [of the report] and providing feedback as to whether the report covers the topics”.

“I’m still confused,” remarked Karadzic after further discussion on the issue. “If your report is something they needed, how could they write indictment against me without it?”

“That’s not for the witness to answer,” interjected Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon.

Karadzic also suggested there were similarities between Theunen’s report and the prosecution’s pretrial brief.

“Who copied from whom?” Karadzic asked. “Did [the OTP] copy from your report or did [you] copy from pretrial brief?”

“I did not copy the pre-trial brief, I do not invent facts,” Theunens responded.

“My job is to analyze documents, which means that any finding in the report is based on documents and I’ve explained which documents I’ve used, [so] any similarity between the pretrial brief and my report is outside of my powers,” he continued.

“I did not participate in the drafting of the pre-trial brief, [so] I don’t know if the prosecution used my report in the pretrial brief. That’s all I can say.”

The trial will continue in three weeks, after the court’s summer recess.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.


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Witness says defendant is referred to as “supreme commander” of the Bosnian Serb army in various documents.