Crimes 'Could Not Have Been
Committed by the Defendant'
By Andrew Kelly
THE HAGUE, May 7 (Reuterss) The Bosnian Serb defendant in the first international war crimes trial for 50 years had no role in the camps where he is alleged to have killed, raped and tortured Muslims and Croats, his lawyer said on Tuesday. "Although the camps existed, although they were places in which unspeakable crimes were committed, these crimes were not and could not have been committed by the defendant," Dutch defense lawyer Michail Wladimiroff said.
"The defense case is simply that Dusko Tadic was not involved in the camps in any capacity," defense lawyer Michail Wladimiroff told the tribunal in his opening statement. Tadic, the first person to face an international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War Two, is charged with crimes against non-Serbs at the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps in northwest Bosnia in 1992.
Earlier on Tuesday Australian prosecutor Grant Niemann accused Tadic of committing atrocities in the camps as part of a systematic reign of terror aimed at driving Muslims and Croats away so that Serbs could claim the territory for themselves. "The evidence of the prosecution will prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused, Dusko Tadic, committed the crimes... and that it was pursuant to a widespread or systematic attack against the non-Serb population of the Prijedor (area)." Niemann said the trial would examine events of unspeakable horror during the "ethnic cleansing" of the region.
Tadic, a cafe-owner, karate teacher and committed Serb nationalist had visited the three camps at will to kill and maltreat inmates, the prosecution alleged. Niemann said the camp atrocities seemed to have been conducted with the tacit approval of the Yugoslav national army and local Serb paramilitary groups.
Wladmiroff said the defense did not deny that Bosnian Muslims had suffered but said Tadic was the unfortunate victim of their desire to find a scapegoat for their suffering. "The thirst for revenge must not be satisfied at the well of polluted justice," Wladimiroff said as he insisted on a rigorously fair trial for his client. "The tribunal must be wary of the desire for revenge and the need for a scapegoat," he added.
Presiding Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald of the U.S. opened the sitting by stressing Tadic's right to a fair trial. "Under any system of justice he is entitled a fair trial, and to ensure that he receives one is our paramount purpose for being here," she said.
Tadic was arrested in Germany in February 1994 after Bosnian refugees identified him as their tormentor. Since then he has spent over two years in jail awaiting trial. Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Tadic appeared tense but waved to a person he recognised in the public gallery. He later took notes as the prosecutor detailed his alleged involvement in a series of sadistic killings and beatings.
The trial is likely to take several months, with over 100 witnesses being called, some of whom will be allowed to give evidence via satellite from Bosnia. In addition to Kirk McDonald, a U.S. law professor and federal court judge, Tadic will be judged by Sir Ninian Stephen of Australia and Datuk Lal Vohrah of Malaysia. There is no jury, but defendants can challenge a conviction before a separate panel of five appeals judges.
May 7 · On Trial's Eve, Tadic Claims Innocence
May 6 · Friend Says Tadic was Cruel in Childhood
May 5 · War Crimes Trials Begin Tuesday
Key Facts about the War Crimes Tribunal
War Crimes Profile: Dusan Tadic
War Crimes Tribunal May Pale Compared to Nuremberg
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia from the United Nations
Coalition for International Justice
Reports concerning human rights abuses in Bosnia published by Intac Access
Major War Criminals/Suspects from CalTech's Bosnia Site
Reports on War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia from CalTech's Bosnia Site
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