Radovan Karadzic denies part in Bosnian war crimes


Initial appearance of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia .


Serge Ligtenberg

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, began his defense Tuesday by denying the charges against him, stating that he should instead be rewarded for reducing suffering and promoting peace.

Karadzic told the court in The Hague that he was a "mild and tolerant" man who did not know what crimes were committed in his name, the Telegraph reported.

Karadzic, who was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after 13 years on the run, is one of three Serb leaders who have been brought to trial for war crimes committed during the break-up of the Yugoslav peninsula in the 1990s. Over 100,000 people were killed, and millions were displaced during the conflict.

"Instead of being accused, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I have done," he said, the Associated Press reported.

He spoke during a 90-minute period in which the court allowed him to make a statement on his role in the war. According to the AP, because the statement was not made under oath, Karadzic could not be cross-examined by prosecutors.

"I did everything in human power to avoid the war," Karadzic said to the court, Reuters reported. "I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians. I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and military containment. And I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory."

According to the BBC, Karadzic's statements were met with "cries of dismay, disgust, and disbelief from the public gallery."  

Last June, judges in The Hague acquitted Karadzic of one count of genocide, stating that prosecutors did not prove there was intent to wipe out a specific group of people, in whole or in part. He is still wanted for 10 counts of genocide and war crimes.