PALE, Bosnia (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb officials opened a student dormitory on Sunday named after their wartime leader Radovan Karadzic in a show of defiance before he faces Thursday’s verdict on alleged genocide during the Bosnian war.
Karadzic was the first president of the self-declared Bosnian Serb Republic, which the Bosnian Serbs tried to carve out of Bosnia and link to Serbia during the 1992-95 war. It survives as an autonomous part of Bosnia under the United States-brokered Dayton peace accords that ended the war.
The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague will hand down its verdict on 11 counts of genocide and war crimes allegedly committed by Karadzic during a war in which 100,000 people were killed.
“We dedicated this dormitory to a man who is without doubt one of the founders of the Republika Srpska, to Mr Radovan Karadzic,” said Milorad Dodik, the Serb Republic nationalist president, while opening the dormitory in Karadzic’s wartime stronghold of Pale along with Karadzic’s wife and daughter.
Dodik, who has repeatedly threatened the secession of the Serb region from Bosnia, said the moment was “strongly symbolic” and chosen ahead of the Karadzic verdict after a five-year trial that he said was “humiliating for the Serb Republic”.
“We see that this is selective justice, that it’s not the justice for all parties, that it is directed against one people and its representatives,” Dodik told students, teachers and local officials who gathered for the event.
A sleepy mountainous village before the war, Pale grew into a town after Karadzic set up his headquarters there and brought his supporters from Sarajevo during the 43-month siege of the capital by his forces, during which about 11,500 people died.
He is widely seen as the mastermind behind the Bosnian Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing that forced two million people from their homes and led to thousands being held, tortured and raped in detention camps.
Milos Milisic, the president of the Serb Republic’s Student Union, said the name of the dormitory “Dr. Radovan Karadzic” was not important to students.
“The students could not influence (the name), they were not authorized and did not interfere in naming it,” Milisic told Reuters. “It means nothing to us. For us, the most important thing is the dorms have been opened.”
But for some, such as journalism student Bobana Djevres, the name is well-deserved.
“I think that Karadzic was the most responsible for the creation of the Republika Srpska and for making this town a university center,” Djevres said.
She expects a positive verdict for him on Thursday.
“After all, he is ours, but the law will make a judgment.”
Editing by Adrian Croft and David Goodman