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Witnessing Justice for Victims of Karadžić

I walk into Court Room 1 on Tuesdaymorning, January 31, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the FormerYugoslavia in The Hague.

Arriving on this long-imagined scene issurreal. There, just on the other side of the thick one-way glass, is Dr.William (Bill) Haglund, former director of our InternationalForensic Program, sitting at the witness table. He’s staring at the reddenedface and shocking white head of hair of Radovan Karadžić, whose face I know fromyears of newspaper images and “wanted” posters.

Bill Haglund testifies at the ICT for former Yugoslavia Jan 2012

Dr. William Haglund, a forensic anthropologist, death investigator, and former director of PHR’s International Forensic Program, was the UN's Senior Forensic Advisor for the Tribunal and conducted forensic investigations of mass graves in the former Yugoslavia.

 

A psychiatrist, Dr. Karadžić was indicted by theTribunal in 2009 for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide againstthe Muslim population of Bosnia. He is finally on trial for these manycrimes, including the massacre of thousands of men and boys separated fromtheir families when his troops overran a UN safe haven at Srebrenica in 1995.

I practically burst into tears as I starestraight ahead at the row of judges in red robes who are presiding over thishistoric case. An agitated Dr. Karadžić fidgets and rubs his hands together,apparently formulating his next question as he takes up his own defense and cross-examinationof Bill.

For years, the government refused to handover Dr. Karazdžić, and many of us feared this day would never come.

Even thoughI’m watching him, I find it hard to believe that Bill is finally able to presentthe validity and credibility of the excruciating months of work done by PHRteams in 1996 to exhume the mass graves in and around this enclave in Bosnia.

I’m recalling that at one point duringthe weeks of excavations led by Bill and conducted by an international team ofPHR archaeologists, anthropologists and pathologists, Bill rolled out asleeping back and slept at the edge of one of the graves. The UN ProtectionForces only had a mandate to guard live humans, not human remains, and sleepingnext to the dead was the only way Bill could safeguard the integrity of thesite and make sure no one tampered with the evidence.

Bill is deliberate and even professorial.At one point Karadžić asks Bill how he was able to come to the conclusion thatthe bodies in the graves were those of civilians rather than combatants. Billresponds that combatants don’t wear blindfolds.

Karadžić then asks if they might not havebeen blindfolds but rather Muslim warrior head- bands that slipped down andlanded over the eyes of the buried bodies. Bill answers curtly that these weretied tightly and didn’t move up over the eyes or down below them.

As Karadžić continues in a haphazard wayto grasp for holes in the evidence or testimony, I’m filled with pride and gratitudefor Bill, the trial lawyers, and the many PHR scientists whose persistence andpatience that have brought us to this day.

I’m hoping that thethousands of loved ones who lost fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons will seea measure of justice in this trial. In the end, justice may come slowly, but itwill come.