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Tuesday
Oct162012

Radovan Karadzic Begins His War Crimes Defense at the Hague

ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) -- Accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic launched his defense Tuesday claiming he had not cost lives but saved them.

The former Bosnian Serb leader is accused of slaughtering 7,000 Muslims in a camp at Srebrenica and killing 12,000 civilians during the siege of Sarajevo, but he challenged the allegations against him at the International Tribunal at the Hague. Karadzic argued that he was a "tolerant man" who has done "everything within human power to avoid the war and to reduce the human suffering."

"Instead of being accused, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I have done," he said.

"I did everything in human power to avoid the war. I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians. The number of victims in our war was three to four times fewer than the numbers reported in public," Karadzic told the court. "I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and contained the fighting. And I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory... I constantly sought peace and accepted four out of five peace agreements."

He laid the blame for three and a half years of carnage in Bosnia on foreign governments and claimed the media invented the charges against him.

"Sarajevo is my city and this whole story that we bombed Sarajevo for no reason is unfounded. Each shell that fell on Sarajevo hurt me as well," said Karadzic, adding that there were more than 2,000 legitimate military targets in the city.

Karadzic is accused of 10 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These include the execution of Muslim intellectuals and prominent citizens along the Drina in 1992, sniper attacks on civilians in Sarajevo, and the infamous massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the U.N.-protected "safe heaven" at Srebrenica. He's also charged with holding U.N. peacekeepers hostage.

The presiding judge O-Gon Kwon of Korea has granted Karadzic 300 hours to complete his defense, the same amount of time used by the prosecution team. Karadzic plans to call on 300 witnesses in his defense. It is expected the process will take two years. He has indicated he will contest "everything except the weather."

Karadzic was captured in Belgrade in 2008 after being on the lam for 13 years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio