Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Tadic Takes the Stand

After enduring months of prosecution testimony, the accused finally took the stand, portraying himself as a victim.

For the past six months, Duško Tadic has sat in the dock listening, for the most part patiently, sometimes apparently without interest, to the 100 witnesses who have so far appeared before the Tribunal. Two-thirds of them have testified against him. Last week, it was finally Tadic's turn to appear as a witness.

The defence strategy was to portray Tadic as a victim-an ordinary little man caught up in the great whirlwind of war. To avoid being sent to the front and to earn some sort of wage, he applied to join the traffic police reserves. Led by the questions of his British defence counsel, Steven Kay, Tadic asserted that he had never been in the camps of Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje, or in the other places where the alleged crimes described in the indictment had taken place. He also claimed that-together with his Muslim and Croat friends-he had attempted to bring the war-devastated town of Kozarac back to life, and for this, the Prijedor authorities had persecuted him and arrested him ten times. Because of this, he had fled to Germany in November 1993.

Tadic consistently defended his position as a victim under cross-examination. When the prosecutor asked if it was possible that the dozens of witnesses who had testified before the Court that they had seen him at the times and scenes of the crimes were all in the wrong, Tadic said: "Terrible things happened to many of those who testified here. But I suffered with them, too. I had bad experiences at the hands of the Serbs."

While the defence strategy presented Tadic as a victim of war and the Serb nationalists, the prosecution portrayed him as a committed Serb Democratic Party (SDS) activist and vehement supporter of the creation of an ethnically pure Serb state in Bosnia. According to the prosecution, he had proved his loyalty to the regime of ethnic cleansing by, among other things, denouncing Serbs who disagreed with his views to the SDS higher organs and the security police.

In his depiction of the accused, the counsel for the prosecution, Alan Tieger, used the report of the Kozarac SDS committee-written and signed in August 1993 by Duško Tadic in person, as president of that committee. In that report, which covers the period from 1990 to 1993, Tadic claims credit for carrying out the plebiscite of the Serb people in Bosnia (about "remaining" within Yugoslavia) and for attempts to arm the Serbs in Kozarac and prepare them for war.

The prosecution emphasised the parts of Tadic's report which denounce local Serbs married to Muslims and Croats as "disloyal" and "unreliable": they did not participate in the Serb plebiscite (but did participate in the referendum for an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina) and took part in the joint (ethnically mixed) guards and patrols which had tried to prevent the outbreak of violence in Kozarac before the war.

By such behaviour, Tadic suggested to the higher authorities, those Serbs had "shown clearly whose side they were on." Confronted with the evidence, Tadic tried to justify the report by saying that it was written on the basis of notes from meetings of the local SDS committee and the local community, and hence "the document was not always a reflection of what he thought."

The judges will soon decide which of these two portraits of the accused is more convincing. This week a rebuttal witness will appear, and the closing arguments of prosecution and defence have been announced for November 25 and 26.

More IWPR's Global Voices