AMSTERDAM – Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic on Monday asked U.N. judges to dismiss his war crimes case halfway through the trial.
Prosecutors finished presenting evidence against Karadzic last month, and he is calling for dismissal of all or some charges before he presents his formal defense. Such requests are rarely granted.
"The prosecution has made a huge effort to try to make some kind of an indictment out of nothing," Karadzic said at the Yugoslav tribunal in The Hague. His remarks offer what is likely a first taste of how he will argue his defense, which is due to start in October if the request for dismissal fails.
Karadzic, 66, is charged with genocide at Srebrenica, Bosnia, and a long list of other war crimes for allegedly orchestrating a bloody campaign by Bosnian Serb troops to eliminate Muslims and Croats from other parts of Bosnia and carve out an ethnically pure Serb mini-state.
Karadzic is conducting his own defense, with a team of supporting lawyers.
"The entire indictment against me is founded on my alleged intent, or that 'we Serbs' intended to get rid of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from the territories where they had the right to live," he said. "The prosecution did not prove the basic part of this allegation."
Several minutes into Karadzic's testimony, Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon asked him whether he needed a break to collect his thoughts. Another judge, Melville Baird, warned Karadzic against making blanket claims about what has or has not been proved in his case without substantiation. He recommended Karadzic stick to making arguments about where prosecutors' evidence may be lacking.
Karadzic claimed he could not possibly have foreseen the July 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, in which Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Gen. Ratko Mladic killed at least 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Karadzic said he was not aware of the killings even when they were well under way.
Among soldiers and lower ranking commanders "everyone kept their mouths shut" about what was happening from higher-ranking officers, he said.
"How can the president of the republic, who has his hands full all day every day, possibly know something that was not known to the people in the chain of command in the very areas the events occurred?" he asked rhetorically.
Karadzic was president of the breakaway Republika Srpska in July 1995, but it became part of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the Dayton Accord signed later that year.
He said prosecutors had not produced any document or other record showing he actually gave any illegal command.
Karadzic and Mladic were indicted together in 1995 as the chief architects of Serb atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War. They both went on the run after their indictments. Karadzic was arrested on a bus in Belgrade, Serbia, in 2008 and Mladic evaded attempts to arrest him for another three years until he was caught in May 2011.
Both say they are innocent of any wrongdoing.