Karadzic makes first court appearance since trial

4th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

The Hague -- Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Tuesday made his first court appearance since the start of his genocide trial, stubbornly insisting on a further delay.

Wearing a black suit, pink shirt and red tie, Karadzic took his place in the accused dock of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for a procedural hearing to consider options for continuing the trial in the face of his defiance.

"I don't want to boycott these proceedings but I cannot take part in something that has been bad from the start or where my fundamental rights have been violated," he told the judges and he demanded more time to prepare.

"The situation is such that I would really be a criminal if I were to accept these conditions -- to enter into a trial and proceedings for which I am not prepared."

Karadzic, who denies all the charges against him, could be jailed for life if convicted. He was arrested on a Belgrade bus last July after 13 years on the run, and has decided to conduct his own defence.

He has refused to leave his jail cell since the trial started on October 26, saying he needs more time to review 1.3 million pages of prosecution evidence and the statements of hundreds of witnesses.

"I have given up my walks in the fresh air," working day and night to prepare for the case, said Karadzic.

He is charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war that claimed some 100,000 lives and caused 2.2 million people to flee their homes.

The court had found on more than one occasion that Karadzic had had enough time to prepare, said presiding judge O-Gon Kwon.

"It is the trial chamber, not an accused person which determines readiness for trial," said the judge. "It is in your best interest to attend and participate fully in the trial so that justice can be done."

The judge adjourned the hearing, promising a "decision on this matter in writing later this week."

Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff urged the court to allow the proceedings to continue, accusing Karadzic of "obstructive behaviour."

"Mr Karadzic cannot be permitted to manipulate the proceedings through his decision not to attend," she told the court, warning that "if necessary, force can be used to secure his presence in the courtroom."

Other options for the court include continuing the trial in Karadzic's absence, or imposing a defence lawyer on him -- a step he has vowed to fight.

In a letter to the court on Sunday, Karadzic said he would be present for Tuesday's hearing in the hope that "we will be able to find a solution which will lead not only to an expeditious trial, but a fair one."

Prosecutor Alan Tieger has branded him the "supreme commander" of an ethnic cleansing campaign of Croats and Muslims during the Bosnian war.

Charges against him include the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at the UN-protected Srebrenica enclave in July 1995, and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo which ended in November 1995 after some 10,000 people, many of them civilians, were killed.

Karadzic is alleged to have worked with Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic in pursuit of a "Greater Serbia" which was to include 60 percent of the territory of Bosnia.

Milosevic died midway through his own genocide trial in March 2006, while Karadzic's former military general, Ratko Mladic, is still on the run.

Mariette Le Roux/AFP/Expatica

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