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Denied Witness Subpoena, Karadzic Tries Again

Former Bosnian Serb leader writes to Bosniak ex-commander's lawyer asking him to appear as defence witness.
By Rachel Irwin

Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic has renewed his bid to have a prominent wartime commander of Bosnian Muslim forces in Srebrenica testify in his defence case.

Last week, judges at the Hague tribunal denied Karadzic’s request to subpoena the commander, Naser Oric. They noted that the accused had not “exhausted” attempts to obtain Oric’s voluntary cooperation. (See Karadzic Denied Subpoena for Bosniak Commander.)

Oric has so far declined to testify or to make any statement to Karadzic’s defence team, citing ongoing investigations against him in Bosnia regarding wartime events in the Srebrenica area.

Oric stood trial at the Hague tribunal in 2004 for the murder and cruel treatment of Serb prisoners and for destroying Serb villages around Srebrenica. He was initially sentenced to two years in prison but was fully acquitted on appeal in 2008.

The eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995 and in the following days more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered.

Karadzic, who was Bosnian Serb president from 1992 to 1996, faces various charges in relation to the Srebrenica massacre, including genocide.

In response to the judges’ refusal of his subpoena request, Karadzic sent another letter to Oric’s lawyer, once again asking that he begin his testimony at the tribunal on February 7.

The lawyer, Vasvija Vidovic, responded on January 23 by warning Karadzic that her client was in a position to “give evidence highly detrimental” to his case.

Karadzic has previously stated that Oric’s testimony is crucial because he could testify that Bosnian government troops “continued to possess heavy and light weapons” despite the fact that Srebrenica was supposed to have been demilitarised in 1993; that weapons were smuggled into Srebrenica; and that Bosnian Muslim soldiers launched attacks against surrounding Serb villages.

He argues that Oric’s testimony would prove that he himself had “legitimate reasons” to order the attack on Srebrenica.

In her reply, Vidovic questioned why Karadzic was so determined to have her client testify when he did not know what Oric would say on these matters.

“It is highly curious that you wish to call a witness to testify who might seriously damage your case, and I kindly ask for your clarification in relation to this,” the lawyer wrote.

She added that once clarification had been provided, she would consult with her client and come back to Karadzic on the matter.

Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.

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