Dr Radovan Karadzic, former president of the Bosnian Serbs, has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. In an exclusive interview conducted in Republika Srpska, he gave Thomas Deichmann his side of the story. All opinions expressed are Dr Karadzic's personal views
Thomas Deichmann: Dr Karadzic, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently announced that bringing you to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague is her 'top target' now. Do you think you will be arrested soon?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: I can't say anything about that because I don't know what they intend to do. Certainly I doubt that they want to see me in The Hague. They would have more trouble with me than I would have with them.
Thomas Deichmann: Albright also went to Belgrade. What were her demands to Serbia's president Milosevic in regard to your arrest and that of General Mladic [also indicted for war crimes]?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: She may have mentioned something, but Mr Milosevic is not in a position to deliver me or Mr Mladic. We are not citizens of Yuoslavia and delivering us would be against his constitution.
Thomas Deichmann: Why do you not recognise the Tribunal?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Because the Tribunal is not a juridical institution. It has been founded in illegal ways by an unauthorised body and on a discriminatory basis. Its aim is to prosecute my whole nation. It is particularly addressing the responsibility for the destruction of Yugoslavia to the Serb nation, and is drawing out terrible consequences for the whole region.
Western politicians know that after the whole affair there will be many investigations by independent bodies. So the Tribunal aims to make the truth invisible forever. They want to put a big seal on their own deception and the lies. And this big seal is meant to be The Hague Tribunal.
Thomas Deichmann: What do you mean when you say the Tribunal would fear you going there?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: They fear me because I am not going to defend myself. I am going to accuse. Even now I will not be silent any longer, because I am attacked throughout the world on the basis of completely wrong facts, on the basis of distorted truth. And it is not only an attack on me personally. It is also against my family and my nation, my people. There are people who are talking about me who do not know anything about me. Many diplomats who are coming here, even small clerks of their own nations, they dare to say terrible things about me and spit at me even though they know nothing. They talk in the most terrible colours as if I am a monster. I am not a monster. I am a writer, I am a good and respected psychiatrist and I am supported and beloved by my people. I have not done anything wrong.
Thomas Deichmann: The Western media call you a war criminal.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: They are absolutely wrong. We did not cause the war and we are not responsible for the war. During the war we have behaved strictly according to the international laws of war, to international standards according to the Geneva Convention. We have proofs for that. Nobody has shown any proofs for the opposite.
Thomas Deichmann: But the Tribunal has so far listed 36 different counts against you: genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention of 1949, violations of the laws or customs of war. Are you suggesting that all the allegations are a fiction?
Dr Radovan Karadzic; Absolutely. These allegations are completely fake. They don't have any truth. They produce only empty noise and empty accusations. They did not take into account what really happened here and the documents that we have submitted to anyone who wants to see them.
Thomas Deichmann: What about the question of who was responsible for the outbreak of the Bosnian war? There is a consensus in the Western media that the Serbs, and in particular you, were the aggressors.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: How could I possibly be an aggressor in my own country? This is just noise to hide what they themselves have done to this country.
We were one of three ruling parties in Bosnia Herzegovina. We had 64 per cent of territory with a Serb majority. We had one third of the authority, I was in coalition with the Muslims and the Croat parties. We strongly opposed the secession of Bosnia Herzegovina. Finally, only under pressure from the European Union, we accepted the secession on one condition, that Bosnia Herzegovina becomes a confederation of three states. According to the Lisbon Conference on 18 March 1992 that had been accepted. That was three weeks before the war started. That was our only condition. And that was a horrible concession because the Serbs did lose their own mother state, Yugoslavia. We have done everything to avoid the war. But we could not do it because the Muslims and the Croats abandoned the Lisbon agreement. We can't be called the aggressors - not even in relation to Sarajevo. Four fifths of the territory of Sarajevo was Serbian.
Thomas Deichmann: Already at a very early stage of the war you had lost all sympathy in the West. Roy Gutman from Newsday and others published stories about concentration camps and death camps in July and August 1992. What was the truth about these camps?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Concerning the camps stories: this is the most dreadful lie that happened, and turned the whole world against the Serbs. We did have a lot of prisoners of war in many areas. But they have not been killed. Our people had to keep them somewhere. I don't know what the conditions were but there were no civilians, women, children, elderly people in prisoner of war camps. I personally ordered the commanders to open the camps to the International Red Cross.
Concerning the most famous camps Trnopolje and Omarska: I personally invited Penny Marshall and other journalists to come and see in August 1992. And they came and they did a terrible job - shameful for their profession and for Europe.
Thomas Deichmann: But the IRC was only allowed to enter Omarska after the ITN visit.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: The IRC had my general approval. That was an order without any limitations to get everywhere they wanted. The order was signed by me.
Thomas Deichmann: At precisely the time that the camps stories blew up, in July 1992, you were in London at a conference. What was your impression from talking to journalists there about the camps?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: In London I got the impression that they really believed that there were such concentration camps. Therefore I decided to let them come and find out themselves. I thought they respected themselves and they respected their own profession. I invited them and I think even some of them came with the same plane as I did.
Thomas Deichmann: Were you surprised about how ITN finally presented their story in their news bulletins on 6 August 1992?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: I was astonished. I could not believe such a prominent company framing something that terribly influenced the fate of my people. This is not simply a media story. Nobody can count how many Serbs died because of these pictures. Nobody can count how many bombs hit Serb targets and how many civilians have suffered and died because of this one misleading picture with the barbed wire.
Thomas Deichmann: Were you surprised by the international reaction their images provoked?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: No. Actually I had an understanding for the reaction. Because if it was the truth, the reaction was proper.
Thomas Deichmann: Do you dispute that people in Omarska and Keraterm were mistreated and killed?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: No. I can't exclude solitary cases of abuse on the basis of personal revenge. We had civil wars in the region for the last 500 years.
Thomas Deichmann: The world media immediately talked about 'The Proof' for a new Holocaust in Bosnia. Did you later regret inviting Marshall and the other journalists? It seems as if you completely misjudged the situation.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Yes. Sometimes I accuse myself for being so naive and so trustful towards such a big company like ITN. I should not have been. But our entire leadership realised that any attempt to hide the truth would be much worse than letting them see what they wanted.
Thomas Deichmann: Penny Marshall from ITN later said this whole trip to the camps was a 'PR mistake of the Bosnian Serbs'.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: That was not our mistake. We opened the country to people with a conscience. If they don't have a conscience that is their own mistake before their own audience and before my people who died because of their pictures. We are not skilful in PR. We did not want to make PR.
Thomas Deichmann: Was there any contact between you and Marshall after August 1992?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: No. I only send her messages through a contact that she should come out and tell the truth and clear her own conscience, and maybe come here and apologise to the people. She then would be a much more respected person than now when she is saying nothing. I invite her again to say publicly that she was invited by us, that she saw Trnopolje and she found a piece of barbed wire which was not around Trnopolje camp, but around a small area protecting property. And that she made a picture that others named a concentration camp. She cannot now excuse herself by saying, she did not call Trnopolje a concentration camp. The others did it on the basis of her own job. She should come out and say the truth no matter how painful it is. This is the only way for an honest, proper person.
Thomas Deichmann: But the British journalists were dissatisfied because you gave them the okay to see all the camps they wanted to, but then they were not allowed to see the whole of Omarska camp. Did you try to play a game with them which backfired on you?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: No I did not intend that. But now you can ask who was wrong: the local commander who did not allow them to see everything or me. My position is still not to hide anything. But on the terrain sometimes you have people who are stubborn and not so naive and trustful as I was.
Thomas Deichmann: How do you feel when journalists compare you with German Nazis who were sentenced to death 50 years ago during the Nuremberg trials?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I feel sorry for them. How possibly can they say such things. I have been defending my people only in a necessary measure. We did not even take Sarajevo. We defended our territory according to the Lisbon Agreement. We did not overreact in any situation.
Thomas Deichmann: The result of the ITN reports was that the Serbs were seen as the new Nazis, running concentration camps, organising a new Holocaust in Bosnia. How do you feel about these comparisons?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: There is absolutely nothing comparable. The Serb side has lost and suffered the most in this war. Why people believe such comparisons and make no effort to go further than the first impression - that is their own fault. Of course the consequences are paid by my people.
Thomas Deichmann: Let us talk about some of the other cases used against you - the bread line massacre for example, when 14 civilians were killed in May 1992 in Sarajevo, which led to the UN embargo. The Western media blamed the Serbs. You denied it.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: It is quite obvious to anyone objective that Moslems have done it. There are evidences, there are reports of the UN, which got stuck in Washington. Many people in Washington are responsible for hiding evidence. These reports say that the mine could not come from the Serb positions. Other evidence has shown that it was an explosive on the ground. If the UN people were free to talk, that would have been obvious immediately the same morning.
Thomas Deichmann: You are also indicted for a sniping campaign in Sarajevo. That is fiction in your mind?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Do you know how many Serbs were killed by snipers? The first sniping victim, a girl, was killed by a Muslim, Mr Juka Prazina. There is video evidence for that. I do not exclude the possibility that Serbs have responded, but I guarantee you that General Mladic would not allow any sniping, particularly against civilians. And we have signed the anti-sniping agreement on 14 August 1994. Before that the Muslims have done many tricks to get moral sympathy in the world, particularly since some media were willing to buy that kind of stuff.
Thomas Deichmann: In summer 1995 again a grenade killed many people in a market place in Sarajevo . This attack led to heavy Nato air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs, and the Western media demanded more. You again denied being responsible for the attack. But what is your evidence?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Our own people did not fire at that time at that target. Just read what Lord Owen, Jossef Bodansky, US army Charles Boyd and UN General Andrej Demurenko said about that. I have asked for an international independent investigation. But I was rejected. I do not accept anything if it is not done by an impartial commission. That explosion was also staged. This is a very cheap story but of course you can only trust it if you have an interest to trust it.
Thomas Deichmann: A couple of weeks before the Nato airstrikes - from 26 May to 2 June 1995 - the Bosnian Serb army took 284 UN hostages as human shields. This is another part of the Tribunal's indictment against you. How do you justify this act?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: There is a contradiction saying UN soldiers were hostages. According to international law only civilians can be hostages. UN soldiers had been involved in two ways in the bombardment of Serb positions. First their own commander asked for airstrikes. Second, they pointed with lasers on to the targets, guiding the strikes. They were neither civilians nor impartial. Our soldiers were entitled to help themselves with that desperate action.
Thomas Deichmann: The Tribunal issued a separate indictment against you and General Ratko Mladic because of Srebrenica. When the Bosnian Serb army took over that safe area in July 1995 many people were killed. Last year mass graves were opened by UN investigators. The media talk about up to 8000 missing people.
Dr Radovan Karadzic: How do we know that many people were killed? What did they discover in these graves? Much less than the Serbs discovered in the same area. We have discovered 50 mass graves and UN General Morillon was present there. From 10 to 50 soldiers and civilians were in these graves, killed by Muslims from Srebrenica. We can show you names and dates. And Srebrenica was never a safe haven. This was admitted by Boutros Ghali several times. It was not demilitarised as it should have been. It was a Muslim stronghold with the aim to harass the Serbs. I know that many Muslim soldiers were killed in fighting. They fought in the forests in the following weeks; 9000 Muslim soldiers were based in Srebrenica.
Thomas Deichmann: How much were America and other Western countries involved in the development of the war?
Dr Radovan Karadzic: Many Western countries have been involved diplomatically or militarily. This is something unbelievable. The war is mathematics and we could not do better with such an enormous big power against us.
Look how they behave. [UN envoy] Mr Holbrooke admitted to CNN that according to the Dayton Agreement I was not supposed to leave my party position. But he made me leave it and he is proud of that. He is proud of doing something illegal. He is proud of saying 'look how powerful I am by doing something that is not in peace accord'. Can you imagine that kind of pride? That is why I will not be silent. I will not participate in political life in my country, but I will not be silent.
My whole people are very angry. Those [Nato] helicopters that are flying over my home make people very angry. That is why I am going to accuse them. I have the evidence for the responsibility of many governments. I would call some Lords to get out their correspondence, and I would call some Secretary Generals and former Secretary Generals to come out with their evidence. I would take their own books and show what they have done to this country. They don't have any right to accuse me.
Reproduced from LM issue 102, July/August 1997