The Lead

Psychiatry’s Role in the Bosnian Genocide

Psychiatry’s Role in the Bosnian Genocide
Memorial This wall of names is part of the genocide memorial near Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia. Srebrenica became known worldwide for the biggest massacre of civilians since WW II.

It was a moment for long sought justice. On March 24, 2016, psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison—essentially a life sentence for the 70-year-old former “Butcher of Bosnia”—by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. His crimes: the 1990s genocide and atrocities committed by Serbs against tens of thousands of Muslims. The court found that Karadzic had “the intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica” and had criminal responsibility for genocide.

There were many who worked tirelessly to bring justice to the blood-drenched Balkans. But a critical element in collaring Karadzic was relentless reporting by Freedom in the early 1990s. Working with the magazine was French attorney Patricia Duval and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Scientology-sponsored group that for decades has fought psychiatric abuses.

There is no more fundamental a violation of human rights than the wholesale slaughter of populations. Indeed, some of Karadzic’s statements during the carnage reflected the twisted circular logic of psychiatry as justification for the horrors he perpetrated.

Beginning in 1992, as Muslims and Croats were being forced from their homes in Bosnia amid wholesale slaughter and rape, Duval, acting as a Freedom correspondent, made repeated trips to the region to interview survivors, investigate the roots of the genocide, collect information aimed at bringing the atrocities to a halt and publish the findings in U.S., Dutch, French, German, Swedish and other editions of the magazine.

The “Butcher of Bosnia”, psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic
ButcherThe “Butcher of Bosnia,” psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic, convicted and sentenced to 40 years for his role in the genocide of tens of thousands of Muslims.

As noted in the cover story of Freedom’s U.S. edition in May 1993, psychiatrists Karadzic and Jovan Raskovic devised “ethnic cleansing,” a strategy for genocide with its roots firmly planted in the Nazis’ racial hygiene policies. “So far, an estimated 110,000 people have died as a result of ethnic cleansing programs,” Freedom reported, “while more than 1.5 million have been driven from their homes.” Included in the crimes, the article noted, were reports of at least 50,000 girls and women raped.

These atrocities earned Karadzic the moniker “Butcher of Bosnia.” Raskovic died of a heart attack in July 1992, just a few months after the violence began.

Arguably the most important event for international justice since the Nuremberg trials, Karadzic’s conviction this year on 10 of 11 charges was hailed as a landmark in the 23-year history of the tribunal.

While the decision is under appeal, the tribunal’s factual determinations leave little doubt that Karadzic, who turns 71 on June 19, will stay in prison.

Indicted in July 1995, Karadzic evaded arrest by running for cover, posing as a medical doctor under the name Dragan Dabic, his physical appearance altered by measures that included a massive, unkempt beard and long hair.

As Freedom reported, the court found Karadzic to have been “at the forefront of developing and promoting the ideology” that brought about and supported ethnic cleansing.

Although the court established that a common plan existed to perpetrate ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in particular shared with Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s president, it found, as Freedom and CCHR asserted from the outset, that Karadzic was the ideologist and mind behind it, and that he was much more extreme than others he drew into his insane ideology.

Aggression and ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Serb forces resulted in mass migrations of Bosnian Muslims to Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia and its environs, seeking shelter where the U.N. Security Council designated a “safe area” under the U.N. Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in April 1993.

On July 6, 1995, however, Bosnian Serb forces attacked UNPROFOR outposts and went on to seize control of Srebrenica by July 11, holding the captured Dutch soldiers hostage.

Bosnian Serb forces held thousands of primarily Bosnian Muslim men and boys at collection points and sites, and then summarily executed them, burying them in mass graves. In one short period between July 12 and early August 1995, the court found at least 5,115 Muslim males from the Srebrenica enclave were killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

Karadzic, the court determined, bore criminal responsibility for persecution, extermination, murder, deportation and inhumane acts, all of which constitute crimes against humanity.