WAR CRIMES TRIAL
MAY 7, 1996
Is Bosnian-Serb Dusko Tadic a monster guilty of war crimes, or simply a former cafe owner, traffic policeman and a victim of mistaken identity? Lindsay Hilsum of Independent Television News reports on the opening day of the Bosnia War Crimes Trial in the Hague, Netherlands.
LINDSAY HILSUM, ITN: Dusko Tadic arrived to face an indictment cataloguing some of the worst horrors of the war in former Yugoslavia, allegedly committed in the early months of 1992. He's accused of mass murder, torture, and sexual assault. Tadic, a Serb, wasn't a soldier, but a cafe owner and traffic policeman. There's no jury at this tribunal but a panel of three judges. The most severe sentence they can hand down is life imprisonment.
SPOKESMAN: Please be seated.
LINDSAY HILSUM: The intense media interest is not because Tadic is a unique figure but because he's alleged to have been part of a cruel plan, and he's a symbol of why this international tribunal was created.
GRANT NIEMANN, Prosecutor, War Crimes Tribunal: When an individual commits a crime, the state stands as the bastion of justice, but when the state commands the crime, only the community of nations can protect the individual. Otherwise, evil has no boundary.
LINDSAY HILSUM: These images focused the world's attention on the camps at Omarska and Trinjapolje in Northern Bosnia. Here Muslims who were once friends of Dusko Tadic were among those imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The prosecution detailed the names of victims and the role Tadic, a karate black belt, allegedly played in one of the incidents.
GRANT NIEMANN: The man who appeared to be in charge was Tadic. Tadic didn't use any weapons, only his feet in a karate fashion. Salim Milosevic and Siyad Sevic and other prisoners were found dead in the same spot later that day.
LINDSAY HILSUM: Tadic's lawyer cast down on the entire proceedings. He said the prosecution witnesses would be unreliable and they'd named the wrong man. Defense witnesses, who may run the risk of imprisonment themselves if they come to the Hague, will testify by video link from the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia. There was, said the lawyer, the danger of an unfair trial.
MICHAEL WLADIMIROFF, Defense Lawyer: If, as we maintain, it cannot be sufficiently proved and Dusko Tadic is innocent of these offenses, then the temptation to use the lack of clarity in the law to satisfy an international community hunger for a verdict or guilty must be resisted at all costs.
LINDSAY HILSUM: But the prosecutors here in the Hague have a greater concern. The two most prominent Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, have been indicted but remain free. The chief prosecutor, Justice Richard Goldstone, has repeatedly called for their arrest but no one, not even NATO's troops in Bosnia, has apprehended them. At Dayton, President Tudjman of Croatia and President Milosevic of Serbia pledged to cooperate with the tribunal, but they haven't, and the tribunal, itself, has stopped short of investigating these two leaders who may be implicated in war crimes. What's most striking about today's trial in the Hague is that the most infamous of those indicted or implicated are not here and may never be brought to justice.