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Karadzic trial: proud Serb defiance vs. victims' stories

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Will this trial bring justice? Nothing can right the wrongs suffered in Bosnia during the war. Yet some have criticized the ICTY for either going too far or not far enough in seeking just resolution to the Balkan conflict. Despite these criticisms, the court still provides one thing that nothing else can: a voice for the victims. If history is based on who writes it, this trial can offer their account of what really happened. 

The indictment is chilling. It describes how in Sarajevo, Karadzic led a four-year campaign of terror to purge the city of non-Serbs. Rocket launches, snipings, and shellings shrank Sarajevo’s population by 64 percent of its prewar size. Casualties approached 75,000, with the city left in ruins. It also points to Karadzic as the mastermind of the infamous Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, where 7,500 Muslim men and boys were systematically marched off and slaughtered. 

Aside from former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 before his trial could end, Karadzic is the highest profile figure to come before the ICTY. Like Mr. Milosevic, Karadzic was a politician rather than a military man. His power came not through rifles, but nationalist rhetoric. And the link between his words and the bloodshed that followed will take center stage in the coming days. 

It is here where victims and other witnesses will testify to what they heard Karadzic say and the atrocities that they experienced thereafter. In the eyes of lead prosecutor on the case, Californian Alan Tieger, there is more than ample evidence to tie Karadzic’s words to the brutality carried out on the ground. Mr. Tieger has pointed to the charged parliamentary session of October 1991, where Karadzic presented this threat to the non-Serbs in the room: “The road you have taken will lead you straight to hell. And in that hell, the Muslim nation [of Bosnia] may ultimately disappear.” The ethnic cleansing that took hundreds of thousands of lives began less than four months later.

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