Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 14:47 UK

'He was a smart, rather vain man'

Kate Adie
Kate Adie says Radovan Karadzic could have stopped things

Former BBC chief news correspondent Kate Adie reported extensively on the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990s.

She met Radovan Karadzic, whom she calls one of the conflict's "great architects", several times - and witnessed the often violent results of his policies.

"He was a clever man. He'd come to Sarajevo when he was a teenager, from Montenegro, which for some people in former Yugoslavia was thought to be a bit of the 'boonies' [rural country].

"And he made his way professionally through medicine - doctor, became a psychiatrist.

"He began to make a name for himself as well as in the old communist Yugoslavia, getting to know the system...

It was a horrible war... People literally hopped over the wall and slaughtered their neighbours
Kate Adie
"And when he came later to be involved in conflict, and to direct it from a political point of view, he knew the ins and outs, the weaknesses and strengths, of the people he was up against."

What does she think drove him?

"I think he was an old-fashioned Yugoslav.

"The country has been riven for centuries with divisions. They can all go back giving you their view of history, they can all talk about old grievances in a way that not many small countries can continue to do for years and years.

"His family suffered during the war (World War II), and like hundreds of thousands had a legacy from the war of knowing who supported one side, and who the other...

"So he had all of those things in his background, and that I think is probably the driving force."

Eleven counts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities
Charged over the killing of some 12,000 civilians during the siege of Sarajevo
Allegedly organised the massacre of at least 7,500 Muslim men and youths in Srebrenica
Targeted Bosnian Muslim and Croat political leaders, intellectuals and professionals
Unlawfully deported and transferred civilians because of national or religious identity
Destroyed homes, businesses and sacred sites

Adie has covered many conflicts as a reporter - but this one was particularly "messy", she says.

"It was a horrible war. It was like a huge domestic conflict writ large. Neighbours killed neighbours. That is not a usual thing, even in a civil war.

"People literally hopped over the wall and slaughtered their neighbours. I was once in a kitchen with a family who shot their postman, while we were there."

Adie said there was a bit of a myth in western Europe that the former Yugoslavia under the authoritarian communist leader Josip Broz Tito - who died in 1980 - had been a unified place where people "rubbed along".

"That was not true.

"There were enormous great rifts underneath. Tito played off one group against another, awarding some certain favours, keeping others wanting things. So it was a big boil ready to burst."

'Desperate survival'

One of the main charges against Mr Karadzic at the UN tribunal for war crimes and genocide is the killing of some 12,000 civilians during the siege of Sarajevo.

Adie was in the city during the 43-month siege, and was injured herself. She can remember vividly the damage it suffered.

He would insist on reading me poetry
Kate Adie
"It was a big modern city... rather the size of Bristol, reduced within days to medieval squalor by lack of electricity, water supply cut off and fuel disappearing.

"And reduced to a desperate survival situation, chopping down its trees, growing vegetables along roadside kerbs. And then constantly under fire, mortar fire, sniper fire...

"We all sustained bad injuries" - she has a reconstructed foot - "but nothing compared to the number who were killed. We saw people killed in front of us."

Adie said that, as a reporter, she would not pass personal judgement on Mr Karadzic.

"But he's one of the great architects of the conflict, a man who could have stopped things, who was clever enough and was involved in negotiations at the beginning of the conflict which could have led to a shortening of the war.

"He was clearly smart, rather vain and pompous at times. He would insist on reading me poetry, his poetry. He was a known poet."

His poetry, however, was in Serbo-Croat, which Ms Adie did not speak, "so I'm afraid it didn't have that much effect on me".

'Random, determined violence'

The arrest of Mr Karadzic and other indicted war criminals is one of the main conditions of Serbian progress towards European Union membership.

That he was finally caught after 13 years on the run has not particularly surprised Ms Adie.

We rarely saw anything in the actual conduct on the ground of the violence that actually spoke to us of either hugely organised or minutely micro-managed military instructions
Kate Adie
"It was to be expected, in a way, because the Serbian government has now changed, and there had been clear indications from Belgrade of them wanting to come into the modern European circle...

"So you know, there was a squaring of the circle."

However, she says, there is a risk that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague may be looking for evidence that does not exist.

"They put great faith in the idea that everything can be documented for evidential reasons...

"But in fact we rarely saw anything in the actual conduct on the ground of the violence that actually spoke to us of either hugely organised or minutely micro-managed military instructions. That sort of thing didn't happen...

"It was random and determined violence, which obviously had a pattern, and obviously had a driver behind it.

"But the court endlessly looks for 'did you communicate on the, did you give the order to' - the answer is in most instances, probably no."

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