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Bosnia Serbs see Karadzic trial as unjust

As Radovan Karadzic's war crimes trial approaches in The Hague, Serbian pride blossoms in Banja Luka.

The prosecution of Karadzic, Momcilo said, is unfair because Bosnian Serbs suffered too. He said war crimes were committed against Serbs during the Bosnian conflict and in World War II, when Nazis and Croatian Ustase massacred large numbers of Bosnian Serbs. But the tribunal is only interested in crimes committed by Serbs.

Momcilo’s friend, Simo, chirped up, saying that no matter what crimes Karadzic committed, he should not be prosecuted because Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat who brokered the peace agreement at Dayton, had promised him immunity.

“We don’t have faith in that court because of what Holbrooke promised Karadzic,” Simo said.

On Oct. 13, an appeals panel at the ICTY ruled against Karadzic’s appeal for the case to be dismissed, saying that even if such an agreement had been made it was not binding on the U.N. tribunal.

Karadzic, a trained psychiatrist who is representing himself, has challenged the legitimacy of the tribunal and has repeatedly tried to delay the trial. When he was finally captured in July 2008, he was living openly in Belgrade under an assumed identity, working as a new-age healer.

For Bosnian Muslims, and especially the families of those killed at Srebrenica, justice has already been delayed too long. They are frustrated with the slow progress of the ICTY and its failure to successfully prosecute the most important Serbian leaders.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006 before his trial finished, while Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general, is still at large.

Karadzic’s trial also comes at a delicate time for Bosnia, which is facing what many say is its most serious crisis since the end of the war. American and European Union negotiators are trying to broker a deal that will end a political stalemate that has paralyzed the country, but so far those efforts have yielded little progress.

Back in Banja Luka, Ramiz Salkic, one of only eight Muslims in the 83-member Republika Srpska parliament, said he fears that Karadzic’s dream of a Serb state outside of Bosnia is once again being fanned by Bosnian Serb leaders. The rhetoric today, he said, is reminiscent of that before the war.

“One small incident that’s not even intended can light a fire,” he said.