Gabriel Partos: Karadzic reawakens ghosts of the past

Roundup: Talking About History

[Gabriel Partos is a Balkans analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit.]

In delivering the opening statement of his defence Radovan Karadzic set out to portray the Bosnian war as one of self-defence by the Bosnian Serbs against the Muslims who, according to him, were bent on dominating the country.

The wartime Bosnian Serb leader, who is facing 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, elaborated on his controversial version of recent Balkan history by challenging the veracity of many widely-accepted interpretations of what happened during the Bosnian conflict.

Mr Karadzic called the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995 a "myth".

He denied that the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, was under siege during the war.

He described the detention camps for Muslims and Croats in north-western Bosnia as "collection centres" which the inmates were free to leave.

And he argued that the authorities of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic had no plans for the mass expulsions of non-Serbs from the territories under their control.

There was little, if anything, that was new in Mr Karadzic's portrayal of events: by and large, it was a restatement of the case made by the Bosnian Serb leadership during the war, when it had extensive support among Serbs in Bosnia and elsewhere.

If there was a novel aspect to Mr Karadzic's interpretation of history, it was in the way that he ignored the verdicts of numerous trials held before the ICTY in The Hague and several national courts, including the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had established, beyond reasonable doubt, that these atrocities had taken place, as stated in the indictments.

The massacre at Srebrenica - generally regarded as the worst single atrocity committed in Europe since World War ll - has over the years been documented in the minutest detail...
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