Segments in this Video

Introduction: The Serbian Lawyer (02:06)


In summer 1991, Yugoslavia disintegrated in civil wars that killed approximately 130,000 people. Serb leaders Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic were largely responsible. This film is about the young Serb lawyer who defended them in court; view footage of television reports of the accused. (Credits)

Representing Radovan Karadzic (02:33)

In The Hague in October 2009, the Serb leader faces genocide charges for the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre and other atrocities. Marko Sladojevic tries to remain impartial while representing him, and has not found many incriminating documents— despite being portrayed as a mass murderer.

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (03:36)

A woman who lost 32 family members at Srebrenica says there is no justice. Marko experienced a propaganda war in Belgrade and came to The Hague to learn the truth about Serbia. The prosecution plays a speech excerpt in which Karadzic says Bosnian Muslims may become "extinct.”

Cutliero's Agreement (02:41)

Marko's wife expresses concern for his health. He does not believe Karadzic was directly involved in genocide; the ICTY prosecution uses speech excerpts out of context. Karadzic had actually proposed a peace plan that could have avoided war.

Fleeing the Yugoslav Wars (02:22)

Although he now defends Karadzic, Marko opposed the Serbian regime while he lived in Belgrade. He was 15 when Yugoslavia broke up; Milosevic's leadership resulted in war, isolation and poverty. He immigrated to Holland after the 1999 NATO bombing.

Taking Refuge in the Netherlands (02:37)

Marko studied law at the University of Leiden in 2000. Many Dutch people reacted negatively to his Serbian nationality, until they got to know him. Once Milosevic was out of power, Marko saw him as an underdog to defend.

Marrying an "Enemy" (02:49)

Marko's wife Tina is Slovenian. In 1991, the Yugoslav army stopped Slovenia from breaking away from Yugoslavia. He debates the constitutional legality of both actions with his parents-in-law, who compare Milosevic to Tito.

Establishing the Truth (03:06)

Marko and Tina met while working on Milosevic's defense team. They discuss maintaining a professional distance from their client and presenting the whole picture of events during the Yugoslav wars. Tina’s Slovenian family supports her work, although they do not understand it.

Markale Market Evidence (04:04)

Marko travels to Sarajevo. View footage of 1995 Serbian attacks on the city. The ICTY prosecution claims a man was killed by a mortar shell; ballistic experts say the Bosnian police conducted a flawed investigation.

Fact vs. Fiction in Sarajevo (02:25)

The Western media blames Serbs for civilian casualties. The ICTY prosecution cited sniper and shelling incidents; after analyzing each, a different picture emerged. Marko will interview Russian Colonel Demurenko, who was UN Chief of Staff in Sarajevo during the war, as a witness.

Truth about Sarajevo Siege (02:56)

Marko interviews Colonel Demurenko, who was UN Chief of Staff in Sarajevo in 1995. Demurenko says Serbs and Bosnians fired equal amounts; pro-Western media blamed unaccounted shots on the Serbs.

Markale Market Investigation (03:07)

Marko's legal team reviews Col. Demurenko's finding that the Serb mortar attack on the Sarajevo market was staged. Marko suggests using a report saying a bomb may have been detonated in the market, to raise doubts about Serbian culpability.

Personal vs. Professional Ethical Conflict (02:28)

ICTY judges acquit Karadzic of one account of genocide, but refused to dismiss the Srebrenica killings. Muslims in Sarajevo are outraged. Marko has more information than the prosecution or judges, but can never share it.

Defense against Genocide Accusations (02:38)

Karadzic claims his actions as a war leader were legitimate and necessary— a legal strategy similar to Milosevic’s. He says he did everything possible to avoid war; Markale events were propaganda and Sarajevo had 2,000 legitimate military targets. Victims' families protest his statements.

Biased Press Coverage (03:16)

Marko and Tina discuss media coverage of Karadzic's defense that took his statements out of context. They listen to reports of increasing ethnic tensions in Bosnia, including calls for a referendum on Serbian secession.

Hearing the Other Side (04:18)

Marko travels to Sarajevo to interview Nenad Kovacevic about his experiences in the Bosnian War. He describes four years of snipers, bombings, and rationing— and sees Karadzic and Milosevic as criminals.

Desensitization (01:52)

Marko visits the Sarajevo building demarcating Serbian and Muslim territory; bullet holes remain. As a Serb, he has gotten used to violence carried out in his people's name; individual victims are lost in mass numbers.

Karadzic as a Hero (05:15)

A Serb woman shows Marko graves of young men massacred by Muslims in Vlasenica, Bosnia. She sees the Serb leader accused of genocide as defending her people. Marko discusses how ethnic groups seek revenge for massacres, leading to new wars.

Visiting Home (04:39)

Marko stops by his parent's apartment in Belgrade, watches home movies, and visits his old school. Despite sanctions during the Bosnian War, he had a good childhood. He reflects on the futility of conflict.

Fact vs. Conviction (03:14)

Marko and a friend recall participating in Belgrade protests against Milosevic. Their views about the war have diverged; his friend does not understand how he can defend Karadzic in court.

Genocide Charges Reinstated (04:42)

In July 2013, the ICTY reversed the lower court decision acquitting Karadzic. A witness testified that he had planned to kill one third of Muslims—also reported in the New York Times. Marko learns that evidence is based on hearsay.

Cost of Impartiality (03:03)

Marko does not know who to believe: Karadzic, the New York Times, or ICTY judges. His skepticism and search for truth impacts his personal life. He and Tina separate.

Emotional Toll (03:57)

Karadzic asks a witness about bodies in a morgue. After a decade at the ICTY, Marko feels exhausted, desensitized to violence, and wants to end his career in international law. View footage of Markale Market attack victims.

Revealing the Objective Truth (02:16)

Marko and two friends from the ICTY, a Muslim and a Croat, decide to write a book presenting their joint narratives of the Bosnian War. He hopes to avoid a new cycle of ethnic conflict by acknowledging crimes.

Reconciliation Attempt (04:55)

Marko asks Tina to meet, to work on their marriage. On the way, he listens to a song about a Yugoslavian soccer star; he also plays on an ex-Yugoslavian team. He and Tina get back together. The Karadzic trial verdict is expected in 2015.

Credits: The Serbian Lawyer (01:27)

Credits: The Serbian Lawyer

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The Serbian Lawyer

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Do those who have violated all principles of humanity deserve protection under the law? The Serbian Lawyer has this question at its heart as it examines the ongoing impact of the Bosnian genocide. Focused on the personal dilemmas faced by the lawyer tasked with defending war criminal Radavan Karadzic, this doc presents us with juxtapositions of emotion and principle, and asks us whether protection of the law should extend to its worst transgressors.

Length: 83 minutes

Item#: BVL118398

ISBN: 978-1-64023-001-9

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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