Radovan Karadzic. Name rings a bell? To most Bosnians, the mere mention of that name would conjure up images of destruction and pre-meditated murder. The name sends shivers down my spine, and I wasn’t even close to where he unleashed his wrath on innocent civilians.
The Bosnian War saw the worst atrocities in Europe after WW2, and the ethnic cleansing, murder and rape of Bosnian Muslims was a deliberate attempt to assert Serb nationalist identity as well as geographical control. As president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, Karadzic made it his personal mission to claim territory for Bosnian Serbs and to expel Muslims from the area by any means. His ultranationalist tendencies manifested themselves in the forced expulsions of tens of thousands of non-Serbs from Serb towns, creation of concentration camps, massacres such as that of Srebrenica and a total disregard for the life and property of anyone who wasn’t a Christian Serb.
If anything can be more unbelievable than his actions, it is his denial of these events and his justifications. In July 2008, after eleven years of hiding by pretending to be a alternative medicine healer, he was arrested and sent to the International Criminal Tribunal in Hague. After many delays, his trial resumed on 1st March, 2010, and his opening statement was devoid of any responsibility or remorse. He had the audacity to describe his actions as “just and holy” and in self-defense. He portrayed himself as the protector of Bosnian Serbs and their territory, claiming that expulsion of Muslims or Croats was never the intent.
Reading his statement I was totally baffled. How do people become so full of hatred towards other people, and so obsessed with their own race and identity, that everything seems justified? How can they be responsible for the horrific deaths of tens of thousands of people, and still condone it? Is it denial, or just a cover-up? What drives such people?
Karadzic, predictably, blames others for what unfolded in the territories comprising former Yugoslavia. He blames western governments that precipitated the break-up of the region, journalists who spread false information and specially Bosnian Muslims who wanted to establish an Islamic state. The main crux of his defense lies on the basis of this Islamic state and how it posed a threat to Serbs. Considering how events unfolded and who suffered the most in the ensuing violence, the assertion of Islamic militancy and fundamentalism seems flawed.
It cannot simply be self-defense either, as Bosnian Muslims did not engage in acts of genocide against the Serbs and their actions did not warrant such a severe reaction. The Serb Democratic Party in conjunction with police, military and thugs launched a campaign of ethnic killing, and they knew exactly what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve. Mass graves and horrific first-hand accounts are proof enough.
Karadzic’s logic or lack thereof, is extremely interesting. In today’s world where is it almost fashionable to talk of militant Islam and brand Muslims as terrorists, Karadzic is trying to use the trend for his benefit. He seems to be capitalizing on the distrust that nations have of Islamists and fundamentalists, claiming that it was the same desire to protect against the “Iran-style” Islamic state that propelled him to commit such acts. The use of terms such as fundamentalist, Islamist and terrorists relating to Muslims is a much more recent phenomenon, and thus is not easily reconcilable with his reason.
As it is, the calculated manner in which ethnic cleansing was carried out speaks volumes about the intentions and motives of Serb politicians and leaders such as Karadzic. One can only hope that perpetrators of such violence will face the consequences of their actions, though no amount of punishment can make up for the misery they have inflicted.
Karadzic insisted that his party was “a party with more intellectuals than any party in Europe.” Who says intellectuals don’t have it in them to hate, destroy and kill? They’re just in a better position to delude themselves and others about their innocence.