Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Karolos Papoulias. (Photo: Colijn Verkempinck/Wikimedia)
Judges at the Hague tribunal this week denied wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic’s request to subpoena the president of Greece to give testimony in his defence case.
According to the written request submitted in August, Karadzic wanted the current Greek president, Karolos Papoulias – who was foreign minister from 1993 to 1996 – to testify about conversations they had during the Bosnian war.
Karadzic cited a few examples, including a discussion shortly after the first mortar attack on Sarajevo’s Markale market on February 5, 1994, which killed some 60 people and injured more than a hundred. He says that at a meeting with Papoulias in Belgrade, he “told him that the Bosnian Serbs were not responsible for the shelling and were ready to place their weapons under UN control”.
Karadzic says they also discussed his desire to agree a peace plan in July 1994.
The accused argued that Papoulias’s testimony was needed because it would be “more trustworthy and of greater weight” then Karadzic’s own public statements or those of his associates.
The Greek government responded to the request by stating that while the Papoulias did meet Karadzic between January 1994 and June 1995, it was in a diplomatic context, and the president has “no direct knowledge concerning the actual occurrence of the crimes allegedly committed and the circumstances surrounding them”.
While the judges noted that the issues cited in Karadzic’s request were relevant to his case, they said a subpoena was a last resort and the testimony sought must be of “substantial or considerable assistance”.
They said the president’s “confirmation that that the accused denied the responsibility of the Bosnian Serbs for the Markale market shelling will not materially assist the accused during his defence case”.
In addition, the judges found that the evidence that Karadzic seeks from President Papoulias is “clearly obtainable through other means”, and noted previous warnings to the accused “about his prolific use of subpoena motions as a trial tactic”.
“[The chamber] continues to be concerned with what seems to be the accused’s practice, namely to subpoena every individual who is in some way connected to the case but who is not willing to cooperate with him,” the judges concluded.
Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of Bosnia's self-declared Republika Srpska 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 more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.
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