The truth about Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian War

Oliver Kamm

Radovan Karadzic, the well-known quack doctor, began his defence today at The Hague. He is on trial, before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It is already clear that he has particular hostility to Western journalists who exposed his crimes. Penny Marshall of ITN was among them, and she writes here that Karadzic still blames the messenger.

At a press conference in London in July 1992, Karadzic, as Bosnian Serb leader, had brazenly denied the allegations of atrocities and challenged journalists to go and see for themselves. Unfortunately for him, Penny Marshall and her colleague Ian Williams, and Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian, did so. Karadzic mistakenly assumed that he would be able to dispose of the evidence before the journalists arrived. These British journalists exposed inhuman conditions in which emaciated prisoners were incarcerated at Omarska and Trnopolje in Northern Bosnia.

Ms Marshall remarks that, while Karadzic was in hiding, “some of his apologists and supporters launched an attack on my journalistic integrity in an attempt to destroy my reputation and damage ITN”. They did indeed. A publication called LM Magazine claimed that the film footage was faked. It was a fantastic libel that poisoned public debate far beyond the political fringe where LM resided. I’ve written here about these lies, which you still find ventilated in the ideological netherworld where the Stalinist Left and the xenophobic Right meet.

The truth about Trnopolje, Sarajevo and Srebrenica is as it was reported by these and other brave journalists (including my colleague Richard Beeston, our Foreign Editor). Their revelations matter for conciliation in Bosnia.

My friend Rolf Ekéus, a Swedish diplomat who served as the first head of the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, is a Commissioner for the International Commission on Missing Persons, whose scientists have done harrowing work in Bosnia uncovering mass graves and identifying the victims. He told me last year, in an interview for The Times: “If they can know what happened to their sons or fathers, the relatives of the dead can make peace in their souls.”


Read more: “I should have been rewarded for all the good things that I’ve done" says Karadzic as war crimes trial opens

Balkan Ghosts | Oliver Kamm

Balkan Ghosts: that’s the title of our main leading article (£) in today’s paper. It’s about Syria. It argues that there are heavy costs to not intervening. The ghosts are the victims of the Bosnian war of 1992-95, which killed almost 100,000 people in a country the size of Scotland. Historical counterfactuals can never be proved or refuted, but I have little doubt that many of those victims might have lived if Nato airpower had been deployed earlier in the conflict. I make this case in an article in the current issue of Prospect magazine.

The names of the peace plans for Bosnia have passed into history: the Carrington Plan, the Vance-Owen Plan, the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan, the Contact Group Plan. Their principal common feature was that they failed.

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The Times says…

Tuesday June 12, 2012

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