Netherlands Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, defending himself against charges of Europe’s worst genocide since the Holocaust, told judges Monday he was not the barbarian depicted by U.N. prosecutors, but was protecting his people against a fundamentalist Muslim plot.
During a four-hour opening defense statement at the U.N. war crimes tribunal, Karadzic barely referred to specific allegations of mass murder at Srebrenica, indiscriminate shelling of Sarajevo, the destruction of Bosnian Muslim and Croat villages or the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.
But he took personal responsibility for Serb actions, as Yugoslavia dissolved and the region descended into a war in which some 100,000 people were killed, saying he was standing up for ethnic Serbs against Muslim Bosnians.
He claimed Bosnia’s Serbs were under threat and physical attack by Muslims, led by former Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who rejected power-sharing proposals and wanted an Islamic republic in Bosnia.
The Serbs “wanted to live with Muslims, but not under Muslims,” he said.
The image of the Muslims as victims was untrue, he said. The prosecution “is trying to make me out to be a barbarian attacking a good and friendly neighbor.”