Court Rejects Karadzic Request for Clinton Subpoena
Judges in The Hague this week rejected a request from wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic to subpoena former United States president Bill Clinton, calling it a “trial tactic” designed to score political points and garner media attention.
In a written subpoena request on July 9, Karadzic claimed that President Clinton did not object to Croatia transferring shipments of weapons from other countries to the Bosnian Muslims. This was, Karadzic said, in “direct violation” of the United Nations arms embargo in effect at the time.
The defendant also stated that a delegation which Clinton sent to Bosnia in August 1995 informed Bosnian Muslim leaders that if peace talks failed, the US was prepared to offer direct military assistance to them and the Bosnian Croats.
Karadzic claimed that this offer was the “pretext” for the second mortar attack on Sarajevo’s Markale market on August 28, 1995, which killed 34 people and injured 78. He accuses the Bosnian government of carrying out the attack. Tribunal judges in the trial of one of Karadzic’s generals, Dragomir Milosevic, found in 2007 that it was committed by the Bosnian Serb army.
Karadzic asked for the subpoena after the US government rejected an attempt to secure Clinton’s voluntary participation in May 2012.
In their August 21 decision, judges rejected Karadzic’s request and criticised his approach.
They said subpoenas should be a method of last resort when information is not obtainable by any other means, and if it is deemed absolutely necessary to the preparation of the trial.
“This chamber has already held that the involvement of the UN member states, including the US, in the alleged arms smuggling into [Bosnia] is irrelevant and unnecessary to the purposes of this trial,” the judges wrote.
The bench also expressed concern about the way Karadzic “has used this highly coercive tool” adding that he had made no serious attempt to satisfy the requirements for obtaining a subpoena.
“Furthermore, the accused devotes several paragraphs in the motion to President Clinton’s right against self-incrimination, wherein he suggests that President Clinton may be liable for crimes committed by Bosnian Muslims against Bosnian Serbs,” the judges said, adding that this was completely unrelated to the subpoena request.
“This leads the chamber to believe that the accused’s motive as far as this motion is concerned is not to advance his legal defence, but to make political points and attract media attention.”
Judges also took issue with the frequency with which Karadzic has requested subpoenas, noting that they should be used only on rare occasions.
“Given the proliferation of subpoena motions filed by the accused throughout his trial, it cannot be said that he used this tool sparingly,” the judges wrote.
They warned that if Karadzic did not revise his approach towards subpoenas, “there may come a time when the chamber rules that his subpoena motions are frivolous”.
Karadzic must focus on legal and factual issues relevant and necessary to his case, rather than the involvement of UN member states in the conflict in Bosnia, the judges concluded.
Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of Bosnia’s self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory.”
He is also accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
He represents himself in the courtroom and has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.