Karadzic shuns war-crimes trial, court to proceed

Former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic refused to attend the start of his war-crimes trial on Monday, and judges said they could appoint a lawyer to represent him if he failed to show up again.

Karadzic, who has denied all 11 war-crimes charges arising from the 1992 to 1995 Bosnian war, including genocide, is representing himself and had threatened to boycott the start of the trial, saying he needed more to time to prepare.

Judge O-Gon Kwon said the trial would restart on Tuesday with plans for prosecutors to make opening statements and said that the court would assign a legal team to Karadzic if he once again disrupted proceedings by not appearing.

“There are also circumstances in which a chamber can assign a counsel to an accused if his self-representation is obstructing the proceedings of a trial,” Kwon said.

Judges are eager to get the trial under way after his arrest 15 months ago.

The break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s saw some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II as Serbs, Croats and Muslims fought for land. More than 100 000 people were killed in warfare and by such policies as “ethnic cleansing”.

Massacre at Srebrenica
Karadzic, the Bosnian-Serb political leader, is charged with genocide over the massacre of 8 000 Bosnian-Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. He is also charged over the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, by Serb forces.

Karadzic went into hiding from 1996 but was discovered living in Belgrade in July 2008 and extradited to The Hague. His former military commander, General Ratko Mladic, is still a fugitive sought by the war-crimes tribunal.

The chair where Karadzic sat during pre-trial proceedings at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was empty, and because he had no legal representation other nearby chairs also were empty.

Prosecutors also urged the judge to appoint a legal team for Karadzic to prevent him from “disrupting the trial”. Proceedings were adjourned after 15 minutes, and the judge scheduled a 1.15PM GMT start for Tuesday.

Karadzic has claimed immunity, alleging he made a secret deal with former United States peace envoy Richard Holbrooke that he would not be prosecuted if he dropped out of public life.

Holbrooke has repeatedly denied those claims and the ICTY has rejected Karadzic’s claim of immunity.

The battle of wills at the start of the trial is reminiscent of the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 before his trial ended. Milosevic had also obstructed proceedings to buy time or gain concessions.—Reuters



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