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Prosecutors Wrap Up Opening Statement Without Karadzic Present


Prosecutors Wrap Up Opening Statement Without Karadzic Present

Prosecutors Wrap Up Opening Statement Without Karadzic Present

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Radovan Karadzic was originally scheduled to give his opening argument Monday at the Yugoslav war crimes trial in The Hague, but he continues to boycott his trial. So prosecutors picked up where they left off last week - detailing the case for genocide and other war crimes that have been brought against the former leader of the Bosnian Serb republic.

Monday's arguments focused mainly on the 1995 massacres at Srebrenica, a war-time atrocity that prosecutor Alan Tieger called "one of humanity's dark chapters."

Tieger described in detail how 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after their forced expulsion from what was designated a U.N. protected area. The killings and expulsions of women and children from Srebrenica were described as part of a highly organized plan to cleanse eastern Bosnia of its Muslims to make way for a Serb state.

That plan, said the prosecutor, came from Karadzic himself.

Prosecutor Tieger outlined how Karadzic made this happen, from ordering the shelling of villages and the murder of residents to taking U.N. peacekeepers hostage and cutting off supplies to the besieged and desperate enclave. Ultimately, that plan led to mass murder during the course of a few days in July 1995, with thousands of Muslim men and boys executed in a warehouse, a school, on river banks, a farm and a cultural center.

These were crimes, said prosecutor Tieger, that Karadzic knew about and later covered up and that have been proven in other cases at this Tribunal.

"Now we know there are some who out of nationalist fervor may stubbornly or naively claim that Srebrenica never happened. But when the man who was the supreme commander of the forces that committed the crimes, the man who acknowledged that he set those forces in motion, the man who is in contact with his forces throughout. When that man denies what happens, it is because he knows that the truth condemns him," Tieger said.

He said Karadzic continues to deny the crimes, his only regret being that some Muslim men got away. Judges were shown photos of dead bodies piled outside a warehouse, blindfolded corpses and others still clutching at weeds along the banks of the river Drina, and the video of a captured man calling to his son to surrender.

Both father and son were later found in mass graves. Over the course of this trial, prosecutors will be calling survivors and others to testify against the man they say at the very least had to be aware of the crimes because of the massive logistics it took to carry them out.

The defendant's seat was empty, but prosecutor Tieger projected a photograph of Radovan Karadzic as he posed a final question to judges: is it only the military commanders and regional leaders who are responsible for the ruined cities and lost lives?

"Or is it also their leader, the supreme commander of the VRS, the president of the SDS, the man who established the institutions, set and implemented the polices, directed his men and defended their actions? Your honors, the evidence from the victims and other witnesses, the evidence form internationals, the evidence from official Republika Srpska documents and reports, the evidence from the accused's associates, the evidence from the mouth of the accused himself demonstrates that the answer, beyond a reasonable doubt, is a resounding yes," Tieger said.

But before prosecutors can start presenting that evidence, judges must resolve the issue of Karadzic's non-compliance. Karadzic says he needs months more to prepare his case. He has told judges that he will appear in court Tuesday for a hearing on how to proceed with a fair and expeditious trial.

Judges warned him to think carefully about what he will say as they are considering appointing a lawyer for him, something Karadzic insists he will oppose.

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