Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, on trial at the UN war crimes court, today in cross-examination questioned prosecution witness Robert Donia about the causes of the Bosnian war.
Karadzic addressed topics dating back to WWII and the period of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, SFRY. He discussed the way SFRY was created and later on, deconstructed. He claimed that the questions were relevant as they helped establish the causes of the war.
Karadzic is indicted for war crimes committed in Bosnia, including genocide and crimes against humanity, during the country’s war in the 1990s. He allegedly formed a joint criminal enterprise in order to “permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
Donia, an American historian, agreed with Karadzic’s statement that nationalist parties were formed before the war, or before the elections in 1990, though not officially since such a practice was forbidden by law.
Karadzic also claimed that the results of the first democratic elections in Croatia, won by the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, were a reason for Serbs in both Bosnia and Croatia to fear for their survival. Donia did not agree fully with Karadzic’s claims.
Karadzic told the witness that before becoming a leader of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, he was an active supporter of the ecological movement in Bosnia.
Asking about the situation before the war in Bosnia, Karadzic, who founded the SDS, claimed that most of the Serbs in 1990 voted for the party. Donia disagreed.
“Many Serbs did vote for other parties, socialist, reformist, and you complained about that before the war in your interviews,” Donia said.
Out of 240 seats in the Bosnian Parliament for that election, 86 were won by predominantly Serb parties, including 83 by the SDS.
Led by the SDS, the Bosnian Serbs formed the Bosnian Serb assembly in October 1991, then established a separate entity which was later named Republika Srpska. At approximately the same time, Bosnia’s multiethnic parliament adopted a declaration on independence, a move which was not supported by many Bosnian Serbs.
In the courtroom, Karadzic claimed that the declaration of independence violated the Constitution, but Donia said he could not comment on that.
“I told you that I am not a constitutional expert. What I can say is that the argument about something being against the constitution was often used back then by all the parties. The same argument was used by Bosnian Croats and Muslims against mobilisation in September 1991, during the war in Croatia.
However, they said this without consulting the constitutional court or any expert in the field. You are trying to do the same with me and I do not want that,” Donia said to Karadzic.
Cross-examination will continue on 3 June. Hearings will now be held four days a week.