Radovan Karadzic gives a rare interview

“How could the Serbs be aggressors on their own cities, villages and homes?” he asks. “We are the ol

When Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, appeared in the dock for hearings in his war crimes tribunal in March last year, he seized the opportunity to claim that he had been grossly misrepresented.

In a four-hour soliloquy, he painted himself as an anti-communist dissident who had been much maligned: not the warlord who oversaw a bloodbath and a programme of ethnic cleansing, including the 1995 Srebenica massacre. "There is no Serb responsibility," he declared of a war that left at least 100,000 dead – two-thirds of whom were Bosnian Muslims.

Now, Karadzic has given a rare interview to Politics First magazine, offering his view of the Bosnian conflict, and there are few surprises. It is the same narrative of victimhood, self-justification and downright denial.

On the objectives of the Bosnian Serb leadership during the war:

Our objectives can be expressed in a few words: to prevent genocide against the Serbs and to survive until a political solution could be found.

Of the allegation that the Serbs were the aggressors in the war:

How could the Serbs be aggressors on their own cities, villages and homes? We are the oldest population in Bosnia. We only wanted to control our own areas.

On the negative portrayal of the Serbs in the western media:

The contribution of the media to our suffering, to prolonging the war and to the Satanisation of our side was immense. It should be studied as an example of how the media should never act. The media did more damage to us than Nato bombs.

Of the allegation that the Serb leadership was ultra-nationalist and racist:

It cannot be said that we were racist when Muslims and Croats are part of our own race. We did not have any problem living with the Muslims; we just did not want to live under their domination. I and all of my people held freedom as our first priority.

Asked how he would defend his actions leading up to and during the war in Bosnia:

The truth is that we never favoured war and did our best to avoid it. When it came, we looked for a political solution that would allow us just to have the minimum of our freedom and our identity. I was a communist dissident for 40 years, and the Republika Srpska was the most democratic of all the entities in Bosnia. My political party appointed experts to government, regardless of their affiliation, and an independent judiciary. We embodied all of the values of democracy and Christianity. It is a shame that those with the same values fought against us rather than embraced us.

As with Slobodan Milosevic's speech to the war crimes tribunal, there is no mention of the 11 specific charges against him, which range from the mass murder at Srebenica, to the 43-month siege of Sarajevo carried out under his command, to the hostage-taking of more than 200 UN soldiers to the camps where thousands of Bosnian Muslims died.

The full interview is available to read at Politics First. Karadzic's trial at The Hague started on 26 October 2009 and is expected to finish at the end of 2013.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage