How Karadzic's poetry helps to prove his genocidal intent
Jay Surdukowski is the lawyer, scholar, and poet I previously mentioned who has agreed to let me publish an excerpt of his research. Below are some excerpts from his excellent article "Is Poetry a War Crime? Reckoning for Radovan Karadzic the Warrior-Poet" which was published in the Winter 2005 issue of the Michigan Journal of International Law.
What the article is about...
This Note will suggest that the Office of the Prosecutor of the InternationalHow poetry can be used to prove genocidal intent...
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) can use Karadzic’s texts and
affectations to warrior poetry in the pretrial brief and in admitted evidence,
if and when Karadzic ultimately appears for trial. The violent nationalism of
radio broadcasts, political journals, speeches, interviews, and manifestos have
been fair game for the Office of the Prosecutor to make their cases in the last
decade in both the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals. Why should poetry, perhaps
the most powerful maker of myth and in the Yugoslavia context, a great mover of
dangerous men and women, be any different in the eyes of international law? Even
beyond providing background proof for rabid nationalism, the texts, videos, and
other testimonies relative to Karadzic as poet-warrior could have value in
demonstrating mens rea for crimes Karadzic is accused of orchestrating. This
Note will suggest in particular that the materials at least have evidentiary
value in the mens rea determination for genocide, the most significant crime
Karadzic has been indicted for and the offense that has been branded the
“ultimate crime.” The videotape of the world’s deadliest poetry reading
[Karadzic and Russian nationalist poet Eduard Limonov taking turns reciting
poetry and firing a sniper rifle into Sarajevo] as well as Karadzic’s
poems and incitements with poetry at the front lines should be a part of the
Prosecution’s case just as these other evidentiary and context-building
The major opening where poet-warrior evidence might specifically beAn example of Karadzic's poetry, from Goodbye Assassins...
admissible is proving the intent involved in the crime of genocide—the most
important charge Karadzic faces.
In practice, proving genocidal intent is an “all encompassing” inquiry.
This is chiefly because the specific intent needed for genocide, the
“intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic racial or religious
group” is difficult to prove. Lacking a confession or concrete documentary
evidence of a plan, inferences on mens rea are drawn case-by-case from whatever
evidence is presented at trial. In determining proof of discriminatory
intent, “the Trial Chamber takes account of not only the general context in
which the acts of the accused fit but also, in particular, his statements and
deeds.” Such evidence may include previous statements and acts of the
defendant and the “general political doctrine that gave rise to the acts.”
Goodbye Assassins, it seems from now onKaradzic's self-satisfaction with Sarajevo's destruction, as one of his early poems had predicted...
The gentlefolks’ aortas will gush without me.
The last chance to get stained with blood
I let go by.
Ever more often I answer ancient calls
And watch the mountains turn green.
Goodbye, assassins, a rare thought of genesis
enters my mind. Of knowing the heaven.
And blood, that ugly word, violent and dark,
Angers Milutin, the ancestor asleep,
gentle even in death, as if in times of fasting.
From the grave, as if from the primeval beginning,
Innocent and simple,
His love rises toward streams,
A piece of bread,
Which sufficed him.
His thoughtful gaze at the streams,
The heavens, unbroken, total,
Takes in me as well.
I cannot share your madness!
Lost brothers, time puts us to the proof.
Shoot the heads of the world without me!
Insane mates. The century’s ravens.
The world travels a narrow path,
Without strength or belief, a target or a bullet.
The papers ooze the age lymph;
Confused the devils get married.
I detect forebodings, fear excessively
For the heavens’ light and the rare summers.
Goodbye, assassins, the boundaries between
The worlds are trampled
Instead of the heart, a hornet drones in vain.
History turned its back on us.
What should one shoot at?
Like an octopus, the age hides its vertebra,
And the winter approaches
With white drifts.
There is a poem of mine about Sarajevo. The title was “Sarajevo,” and first lineReading Karadzic's poetry is proof enough for anybody that he's a sicko obsessed with killing and violence. Let's hope that, based on Mr. Surdukowski's scholarship, that Karadzic's poetry is also used against him as evidence in his Hague trial.
was “I can hear disaster walking. City is burning out like a tamyan in a
church.” In this smoke, there is our conscious of that. And a squad of armed
topola—armed trees. Everything I saw armed, everything I saw in terms of a
fight, in terms of war, in terms of—in army terms. That was 20, 23 years ago,
that I have written this poem, and many other poems have something of
prediction, which frightens me sometimes [laughter].