Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Judges at the Hague tribunal this week denied Radovan Karadzic’s request to subpoena the wartime commander of Bosnian Muslim forces in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica.
The commander, Naser Oric, stood trial at the 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 Srebrenica enclave 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.
He wanted Oric to testify as a defence witness at his ongoing trial. (See Karadzic Wants Subpoena for Bosniak Commander.)
Oric declined to testify or make any statements, citing ongoing investigations against him in Bosnia regarding wartime events in the Srebrenica area.
Karadzic claimed that Oric’s testimony was 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.
In addition, Karadzic said that Oric could testify that the Bosnian government “sacrificed Srebrenica and its residents as part of a greater strategy to obtain parts of Sarajevo” in an eventual peace agreement.
Oric’s testimony would prove that Karadzic had “legitimate reason” to order the attack on Srebrenica, the accused contended.
Trial judges denied Karadzic’s subpoena request and noted that the accused had only made one attempt to interview Oric, and therefore “reasonable efforts” to obtain his cooperation had not been “exhausted”.
As they have in the past, the judges chided Karadzic for his numerous requests for subpoenas, which they said “should not be used as a default tool used each time a potential witness refuses to be interviewed or testify in his case”.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.
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