interview dr. ismet ceric

Dr. Karadzic worked under Dr. Ceric in a Sarajevo hospital clinic.

Q You knew Radovan Karadzic very well. Did it surprise you what he became?

Dr Ceric: Yes, I knew him for many years before the war. More than 15 years. He started to work with us as a very young doctor. And his professional activities were here in the clinic. And because of that, we knew a lot about him--but I don't believe it's possible to know a personality such as Dr Karadic.

Q: You mean, it's not possible to know him or understand him?

Dr Ceric: It's impossible to understand him. If you know somebody for many years and he behaved in one way-- for example he never in that time was a strong nationalist. All around him were the Bosnia Muslims; majority of his friends were Bosnia Muslims. And, after a few months or one year of political activities, when he became leader of the political party, he changed his mind, he changed everything and went up on the hills and with heavy artillery destroyed the town, destroyed this clinic, killed the people with whom he lived for more than twenty years.

Q So what kind of man was the Karadzic that you knew as a friend and a colleague?

Dr Ceric: Well, he started to work with us as a very young doctor and we tried to support him -- we tried to support everybody who is young. And he talked a lot about his poetry. And we supported him on that. But during the years we saw that his poetry is not excellent. That it's a very, very ordinary poetry. But he believed that he is one of the best. He said sometimes that he is the third [best] poet in the history of Serb poetry. We knew something about the history of Serb poetry. It's absolutely unbelievable.

Q So in general was this a characteristic of Karadzic -- that he deceived himself, he had big ideas about himself?

Dr Ceric: Sometimes it was absolutely unbelievable. We thought that he just had a unique sense of humour, you know. He said, 'I am an excellent poet, I am an excellent psychotherapist, I am excellent businessman in the communist system.' At the time we thought it was his unique sense of humour. But now we are absolutely sure--it's now clear that he believed that he is a great poet, that he is a great psychotherapist, a great doctor and everything. Just as he said.

Q: As a psychiatrist how do you describe people who believe these things about themselves?

Dr Ceric: (Laugh) Well, as a psychiatrist, there are very broad scales of such kind of -- not disorders but abnormalities . I believe that in this case, it's that kind of a personality disorders you know, with a little bit grandiosity in the personality. You know --I am the best, I am excellent....

Q: Can you describe some of his characteristics, I mean was he clever? Was he lazy? Did he work hard? Was he a good psychiatrist?

Dr Ceric: I must say that his psychiatry was ordinary. Not bad, not bad, but not excellent. He was ordinary. But he is not hard worker, he hasn't patience to work a lot with the patients you know. Sometimes as a chief of department where we work, I had problems with his patients. They said to me that he spoke with those patient very shortly without any interest in the patient and many times, I had to say to him -- 'take care about those patients' or something, you know. He tried to find the easy way for everything.

Q And did you like him as a man?

Dr Ceric: Yes I like him because everything was superficial you know. He wasn't very hard to communicate, talk with. He tried to be sympathetic. He really tried to be the good colleague and around the clinic, he hadn't an enemy in the clinic.

But when he started to be the political leader and said some awful things about the people here, about Bosnia or something you know about the war and the people don't like him and were very angry with him.

Q How do you describe somebody who turns against his home and against his former life and tries to destroy it? How can this step be taken?

Dr Ceric: This is a very hard to explain. I try to for six years to explain what really happened. And he visited many times my own house on the Muslim holidays-- my mother and my family and was the guest in the family and he respected this kind of religious holidays. And he said that in his opinion this is the same as other religion.

And after that he started with heavy artillery to destroy my house and try to kill my sons who liked him a lot because he was the doctor in some football club and my younger sons like lots of football. And one of my son very often went with Radavan and with the other players....And when war started they had to go to the frontline to fight against him. My sons sometimes, they accuse me, 'why didn't you recognise that Radovan is the war criminal we know now?'

Q: And what do you say?

Dr Ceric: Sometimes I can say nothing.

Q You told me that fantasy was something that you'd seen earlier in him..... I mean, he had grandiose ideas about his poetry..grandiose ideas about his business.

Dr Ceric: Mm.

Q: You knew that he had been in prison, for example.

Dr Ceric: Yes, he'd been... One time he came and said--'You work very hard and you haven't nothing --I haven't any kind of property.' And he said, 'Well it's time to earn some money, to change, to build the new house or something you know.' I said, 'Radovan, it's stupid thing, this is a communist system. It's not time and not place and not system to earn money, to be the businessman. If you continue with such ideas you'll end up in jail.' And after one year he really was in jail.

Q: But you allowed him to come back to the clinic.

Dr Ceric: Yes. Because the support and pressure from the association of writers in the former Yugoslavia, association of the writers from the Bosnia, the Communist Party, from Bosnians, pressed so hard, not only on me, but on the General Director of Clinical Centre that after maybe eight months we had to accept him.

Q: So Radovan always had friends in high places?

Dr Ceric: Yes. It was surprising that he had so many people pressuring our General Director of Clinical Centre and pressing me, and sending the letters asking to help him. .

Q: It seems to me from what you're saying is that he was a friend of the family, he was a colleague and you liked him. But you didn't really know about half his life,--

Dr Ceric: Yes, he has many different faces, a lot of different faces He showed to me and my other colleagues one face, and to other people in other places another kind of face. Many, very strange faces as we know now--I didn't know that he enjoyed gambling, I never believe that. But people from Belgrade who came after the war said to me that he lost huge money in some casinos in Belgrade.

Q: Do you think he really wanted to be a politician, he really wanted to be a war lord, or was there some doubt in his mind?

Dr Ceric: I think that he wanted to be a political leader, but I don't believe that he had the idea to be the main commander of this terrible war, with all the groups of the paramilitary... But step by step, month by month he became engaged and believed that he's the big leader, that he's the great historical leader of the Serbs. And I believe that he now has the idea of having a place in history for himself-- not as excellent poet but as a war criminal.

Q: You told me about the time he telephoned your mother in April 92.....

Dr Ceric: Yes. He liked my mother a lot and she liked him and every holiday he came. And when he was outside Sarajevo he sent a telegram with a message 'congratulations for the religion holidays' And when the first days of the war came he called my mother and sent congratulations for the religion holidays.

Q: What does this tell you about him do you think?

Dr Ceric: (Sigh) This is absolutely unbelievable. He doesn't live in reality. At the time there was a joke among our colleagues and our nurses that one day in the future, it's possible that Radovan would come to the clinic early in the morning and say, 'Okay I'm back and I'm not guilty of nothing-- for everything, everyone else is guilty..the Americans or something..... so how about some tea or coffee.'

Q: Do you think it's possible?

Dr Ceric: Yeah. People believe that that is possible. He hasn't a feeling of guilt. This is a kind of projection-- that some other people are guilty. He's not guilty. He had good ideas, the good everything.

Q: So he may just come walking back one day?

Dr. Ceric: That's what people here say.

Q Do think that he is sincere in what he believes?

Dr Ceric: Yes. But he very often changes his ideas, beliefs and sometimes he forgets what he said one month before about the same thing. And when we say, 'okay you said one month ago this....' he says, 'okay, but everything is changing, the world is changing. I am an intelligent man because I change my mind.'

Q Before you lost contact with him, did you ever talk to him about what he was saying about Muslims and about the people that he used to live amongst? Did you ever say-- what are you doing?

Dr Ceric: When he started to become a very hard nationalist he tried to discuss this with me and I tried to keep a distance with him. But he came in my room and said, 'okay, have you a little bit of time to discuss and he said, you know, I'm in position that I must fight for the political goals of my party, of my people' and I said, 'I'm so surprised and I don't believe that it's a good for your people and for everybody here and this is a way to catastrophe.

And I asked him, 'what is your political ideology, your program?' He said, 'Well, you know we believe that Isetbegovic wants to establish here an Islamic country.' And I said, 'Maybe the president wants to do something, but the people don't. And he said 'Okay, I believe that when the Muslims have the majority, this will become Islamic country and we can't live in Islamic country or something like that.'

And after that I insisted, 'What is your political ideology, what is the political program?' Every party, every political movement has a kind of ideology. He never said anything to me except that. And that was the reason for the war, the reason for destroying the country, that was the reason for 200,000 killed.. This is the reason for the poverty here, not only in the territory of the federation, but in the whole territory in Bosnia and Herzegovenia, especially the Serb side. And I said to him in the end, everything will be on your neck. And he smiled. He didn't believe that. He believed that he was untouchable.

Q: Is he an honest man?

Dr Ceric: No. He has a thousand different faces. It' s not characteristic of an honest man (laugh).

Q: Is he a brave man?

Dr Ceric: No, it's a good question. I remember an incident. He was very tall and strong, and in psychiatry there are sometimes problems with aggressive patients. And once one of our psychopathic patient came with a knife on the ward. And Radovan went into his room and closed the door. And this guy destroyed the glass. And Radovan stayed in the room, and one very young nurse went in the hall and said to this guy, 'Please, come here and give me the knife' and after that I said, 'Don't talk to me now about the brave history of Montenegro and everything, I must be careful with you--because Delvira, (this is the name of the nurse) is not present at every dangerous moment.'

Q: Is he capable of cruelty?

Dr Ceric: I don't know that. I don't believe that. He had many times some psychosomatic problems and he suffers a lot -- you know, he has some kind of pain and he was so unhappy and depressive because of that. He looks like a strong man, but really he has a lot of psychosomatic problems, neurotic symptoms and he's changing from season to season. From the springtime and in the autumn he was depressive with this... and during the summer and winter he was stable and little bit , sometimes euphoric.

Q So he had a sort of personality disorder?

Dr Ceric: I believe that.

Q Treatable?

Dr Ceric: No. Personality disorders are not treatable. We can help in some way but it is not a disorder, it's a kind of abnormality you know. What does it mean this traumatic abnormality? Well, there are some people who are tall, some short, some fat, have big foot --you can't change that.

Q Nobody recognised what he would become?

Dr Ceric: Yes, nobody. And we must remember to be careful with the so-called normal people --sympathetic and normal people --who sometimes say some strange things. Be careful with those people.

Q Can you forgive him for what he did?

Dr Ceric: Definitely no. He destroyed not only this country, he destroyed my life. I lost the best part of my life. I lost my property, he destroyed my car in front of the clinic. I lost my money and money of my wife. And my sons spent four years in the trenches. Why?

Q: Do you feel in any sense a sense of revenge?

Dr Ceric: No. I don't believe in revenge. I believe in the international criminal tribunal in The Hague, not revenge. Why kill him? We must stop such kind of revenge, they must all go to the Hague and stand in front of other people, to see what really happened.

Q And if he did go to the Hague and was put on trial, would that have a big psychological impact do you think in the country?

Dr Ceric: Yes, I believe the process of reconciliation is very important process after the war. Without an honest real trial under international accords, we can't start with this process.

Q: And would it be something special for Karadzic to be on trial?

Dr Ceric: Yes, it's important for people to see that you can't do something without punishment. He believed that with the money he earned during the war--as I have read in the newspaper--that he can live the rest of his life on Caribbean islands or in some nice place in Africa. That is impossible. For everybody it is impossible and for Radovan too, he must go and be punished for what he did.


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