From an 11-day visit to The Hague,
Witness: Chance for
"Perennially Troubled Region" (Balkans) to
Become Model for Conflict Resolution Elsewhere
Echoes from this writer's March 7
testimony at trial of President Radovan Karadzic reveal
there is still work to be done on Truth in Media
War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague (left);
Insider view (right)
HAIKU, Maui, Mar 15 - "I
(have) found that often times disinformation was passed on to the
American public and other Western public not by outright lying, but (by)
the deception by omission, by omission of the salient facts," this
writer said answering a question about the western media
deceptions posed by the Defendant. "And I saw it as
my mission to fill in these gaps so the full truth be known. Because
without the full truth, there cannot be a full reconciliation, and
without the (full) reconciliation, there cannot be real peace and
The preceding is an excerpt from my March 7
testimony before the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague in the trial of
the former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic. As you will
see at the end of this story, the quest for the full
Truth in Media continues even
Here's now the
full context of the opening excerpt. Addressing the Court at one
point of the cross-examination testimony, I said:
Honour, if I may say, the reason for the non-profit organisation
under which I reported my findings from the war, "Truth in Media,"
was not chosen lightly.
And similarly, the reason I'm here as a voluntary
witness, I have been told by the US attorney before I gave that
deposition in 2002 that as a member of the media, under the US Law,
I cannot be subpoenaed. But I volunteered to be here.
And some of you may wonder why I gave up the
sunny beaches of Hawaii to come here in the dead of winter?
But the reason is that what I said to you at
the outset: That I'm here to speak the truth and nothing but the
truth - is not just an oath for me. It's the very same reason
why I travelled through wartime conditions. Because that is
actually my soul purpose, and that is my sole commitment.
So for that reason, I've also counselled at
times Dr. Karadzic when he asked me for opinions about the Western
media, what can or cannot be believed. Because I found that often
times disinformation was passed on to the American public and other
Western public not by outright lying but the deception by omission,
by omission of the salient facts, and I saw it as my mission to fill
in these gaps so the full truth be known. Because without the full
truth, there cannot be a full reconciliation, and without the
reconciliation, there cannot be real peace and harmony."
JUDGE KWON: Thank you, Mr. Djurdjevic.
Yes, Mr. Karadzic? (right photo)
THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you.
In another part of the
cross-examination, the Defendant asked a question that led to a
philosophical discussion about how far the war-waging powers of civilian
presidents should reach, and where the military commanders' leadership
should take over.
President Karadzic asked
the following questions himself. He is
representing himself at the trial, although there were also two western lawyers
present in the Court on his side, as well as a Serbian one during a
pre-trial interview with me. In the following segment of the
Transcript "Q" denotes a question by Dr. Karadzic, "A"
is my answer:
Q. Thank you. When you spoke about military
skills, would you agree that in every country the president or the
leader has strategic command, strategic control, over the army? And
my thoughts about returning territory, towns, my thoughts about
negotiations, is one of a president's prerogatives.
A. Absolutely. I
think in any civilised country that I know of, the military is
subject to civilian rule; and, therefore, in your wartime situation,
you were the Commander-in-Chief.
Q. Thank you. As you
correctly noticed, I haven't got a military education or
background. Did you gain the impression that the tactical and
operative matters were dealt with by the army, but the political
leadership only dealt with strategic issues when it was necessary to
negotiate; for example, when it was necessary to try and put an end
to the war?
A. That's a difficult
question to answer with a yes or no answer. Because as you know, I
have been following this war for many years and have seen a number
of situations in which the wishes of the civilian leadership
conflicted with those of the military command. I do know that -- I
remember having conversations with the military leaders, Mladic in
particular, and some other generals who were frustrated at times to
have to follow the civilian rule and sometimes stop, for example, a
military campaign to allow you and others in the civilian government
to negotiate probably some sort of a diplomatic solution, rather than
try to solve everything on the ground through fighting.
So I'm not sure
where I would draw the line between strategic and tactical
involvement of the civilian government, and that's why I'm saying
it's a difficult question to answer. I guess in the wartime
conditions, I'm thinking back in our country, World War II, other
wars that have been fought. I'm sure that there had been times that
President Roosevelt and Churchill and so on -- (made) similarly what may have
seemed like tactical decisions, and yet they were civilian leaders.
So as I said, this is a bit of a grey area as to where the
jurisdiction of the civilian government ends and the military begins
and vice versa.
At the end of my 3.5-hour testimony, I
asked the Court if I could say something. The Presiding Judge at
first said that's not usually allowed, but then he acquiesced to the
request. Here's an excerpt from the Transcript's closing remarks:
JUDGE KWON: Thank you. Very well. Unless my colleagues have
questions for you, you are -- yes, Mr. --
May I just say something?
JUDGE KWON: We
usually do not hear from the witness but ...
THE WITNESS: I
just wanted to, first of all, say, to commend you for the work you
are doing here, and I hope that you realise that the work that's
being done in this courtroom goes well beyond the Balkans. And if
the full truth and reconciliation can take place in this perennially
troubled region, it could serve as a model for conflict resolution
elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia.
And it's my hope and prayer
when your work is done, that that's the legacy that you leave
Thank you, Mr. Djurdjevic. On behalf of this Chamber as well as the
Tribunal as a whole, I would like to thank you for your coming to
The Hague to give it. Now, you're free to go.
Thank you very much.
[The witness withdrew]
Now, the preceding are some high-level
excerpts from the Transcript I have just received. Earlier, you
have had an opportunity to see my initial report, filed right after the
testimony was concluded on March 7. Here's an excerpt which includes
some of the reactions of those who watched the testimony "live" on TV or
in the courtroom (from
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, Mar 7):
The testimony took a little under four hours. It was broadcast live
on public-service type TV all around The Hague Court, and with a
half-hour delay also in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, etc., as well as
around the world through Internet video streaming.
Of course, I did not know any of that in advance. So I was surprised
when so many people came to congratulate me on my testimony after it
was over. Those not in the courtroom were evidently watching it on
They used adjectives such as, "like a breath of fresh air," "very
eloquent," "powerful," "balanced," "moving," "fascinating"... etc.
One member of the prosecution team said, "it looked as if you had a
script at the back of your head."
Which I did. My Spirit guides and teachers
were helping me with the "script." But I didn't tell him that.
What meant the most to me, however, was that these laudatory
comments came from ALL sides in the trial - prosecutors, court
clerks, even the defense lawyers who smiled affectionately and
appreciatively at me at the end (by court rules, they are not
permitted to talk to a witness).
President Karadzic, the defendant, also smiled at me appreciatively
throughout the trial, and gave me a thumbs up at the end. The Prosecutor came to the witness room afterward to expressed his
"deepest appreciation" for my testimony, and added that my closing
remarks "were very moving and had a powerful impact (on the Court).
Now keeping all that in mind, check out
this report about my testimony by the "official" Court media agency:
WITNESS: KARADZIC TOLD ME
HE HAD ORDERED THE CAPTURE OF SREBRENICA.
Not a single word about any of the preceding "big picture" comments I
had made in the Tribunal courtroom made it into this "official" report.
This story is a prime example of what I was talking about at the trial -
how disinformation can be created by OMISSION of salient facts, not only
by outright lying.
See what I mean when I say there is still
work to be done on the Truth in Media?
is a former war correspondent from Bosnia and Serbia. He is also a
writer, musician, thrice-ordained Inca-trained shaman and a
business consultant based in Maui, Hawaii. He is seen in the right
photo playing his flute in the fog of Scheveningen Beach at The Hague
while awaiting his turn to testify.
Click here to request access to the full Transcript.
Also see... "Beat
Swords into Plowshares"-essay (June 1, 2011):
Humane Sides of Accused
(June 4, 2011)
Sometimes Truth Hurts, But It Always Sets You Free
(June 6, 2011)
Karadzic Acquitted of Genocide Charge
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, June 28 - Global headlines last week lit up with
the news that the former President of the Bosnian Serb Republic has been
acquitted of a genocide charge. It was the trial in which this writer
also participated back on March 7 as a witness (see
Witness: Chance for
"Perennially Troubled Region" (Balkans) to
Become Model for Conflict Resolution Elsewhere).
Some people who form their opinions based on the media headline courts
were shocked. Even the headlines, such as this one, sounded rather
bombastic and incredulous:
Notorious War Crimes Suspect Acquitted On Genocide Charge
Not so this writer who met with President Karadzic a number of times in
Bosnia and in Belgrade during his work in the 1990s as a war
correspondent. Karadzic has always come across as a cultured,
soft-spoken MD (psychiatrist) and a poet, which is what he was before
history pushed him to the forefront of the political dissolution of the
To me, the most puzzling thing was why this decision was delivered by
the Court when the trial is only at about a half way point. So this
writer contacted the Prosecutor's Office at The Hague and asked for an
confused," I wrote. "Since when does the court render judgment half
way through a trial? Or was this a ruling on a defense motion to
dismiss all charges? Or just to dismiss this one?"
Here's the answer I received on Friday.
After the presentation of the prosecution
evidence, we have a 98bis hearing in which the Defence can submit
that the prosecution have not presented sufficient evidence on any
of the counts to support a conviction and if such is the case the
Trial Chamber can dismiss that count. At the hearing the
prosecution are entitled to present an overview of their case in
which it is outlined to the Court the evidence of witnesses in
support of the counts.
The Court then consider the counts and the evidence in support of
them and then produce a ruling deciding whether or not the
prosecution have presented sufficient evidence to support the
In this case, it was proposed by the prosecution that the ethnic
cleansing in the municipalities amounted to genocide, however the
Court had a different view and dismissed the count although the
genocide count still remains for Srebrenica. In any event we will
still proceed on the remainder of the counts with the defence due to
start the presentation of their evidence on 16.10.2012.
So there you have it, right from the horse's mouth, as they say. Looks
like it's one down and 10 to go for Karadzic.
The Court is now in summer recess till September 3. And so we will also
adjourn from this topic until then.
Also check out...
Serb General Repents, Apologizes to All War Victims (Dec 8);
Defiant Serb General Ejected from
Beat Swords into Plowshares at the Hague (June 2,
Humane Sides of Accused War Criminals,
Sometimes Truth Hurts, But It Always Sets You Free
Milosevic: Who Says There's No Death
Penalty at the Hague?
the UN Justice on Trial" - TiM Bulletin (8/17/98);
Rise and Fall of General Perisic: From
Hero to Snitch
The End Game Is Near: Kosovo, Montenegro
Next Serb Dominos to Fall?
"The Woman Who Broke Gen. Mladic's Heart"
Bosnia: What’s the Full Truth? (Letter to Wall Street Journal, Feb 1996);
Bosnia War Diary (July 1994);
All in a Day's Work
(Karadzic) (July 1995);
Wartime Diary Notes about Karadzic, Krajisnik (May 1994);
"Collateral Damage" Hits Home