Jay Surdukowski Publishes Law Review Article on War Crimes Trial of Radovan Karadžić

Jay Surdukowski’s article “The Sword and the Shield: The Uses of Poetry at the War Crimes Trial of Radovan Karadžić, the Poet-Warrior” has been published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Law and Literature.

A substantial body of scholarship has developed addressing the narrative importance poetry plays in understanding war and conflict.  Mr. Surdukowski’s article develops a new thread in that conversation by examining how poetry and the discussion of poets served multiple, competing, and sometimes outright contradictory purposes at the four-and-a-half-year-long war crimes trial for Radovan Karadžić, a Bosnian Serb leader during the third Yugoslav War.

Mr. Surdukowski’s article endeavors to classify each of the principal ways poetry was used as evidence or as argument at Karadžić’s trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. A review of 47,659 pages of the public trial transcripts reveals that poetry and discussion of poets served both as a sword and a shield, depending on whether the prosecution or defense invoked poetry and poets, and why. Finally, the article comments on poetry’s narrative import for the legal-historic record of Karadžić’s trial and the precedent it sets for including creative arts in prosecutions for war crimes – a precedent with utility for deterrence and vigilance in an increasingly fractured international scene.

The article follows Mr. Surdukowski presenting a paper on the topic in Belgrade, Serbia in December of 2017 at a symposium commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Yugoslavia wars.

Read the article here.