Karadzic wins small victory at war crimes trial
The judges’ decision to impose a lawyer on Karadzic indirectly gave him more time to prepare -- exactly what the Bosnian Serb wartime leader has wanted.The Hague – Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic won a small victory in a battle of wills with UN court judges when they adjourned his genocide trial to March 2010, legal analysts said Sunday.
While the judges opted to impose a lawyer on Karadzic, who has boycotted his trial since it started on 26 October, they did not strip him of the right to conduct his own defence and effectively gave him more time to prepare -- exactly what he was after.
"This is an indirect way of giving Karadzic a bit more time to prepare his case," while trying to minimise further interruptions, Willem van Genugten, international law professor at the Netherlands' Tilburg University, told AFP.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Thursday ordered the imposition of a defence lawyer on Karadzic and adjourned his genocide trial to 1 March.
Karadzic, 64, has refused to attend his trial since it opened in The Hague nearly two weeks ago, insisting on more time to prepare his defence, which he is conducting himself with the backing of about 20 legal advisers, many of them volunteers.
He had asked the court in September for an extra 10 months to study 1.3 million pages of prosecution evidence and hundreds of witness statements.
Karadzic stands charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war in which some 100,000 people died and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes.
The judges warned that Karadzic would lose his right to self-representation should he continue his boycott when the trial resumes, in which case the court-assigned lawyer would take over.
"After several warnings (ignored by Karadzic), the tribunal had to send out a serious message if it didn't want to lose credibility," said Van Genugten.
In Thursday's decision, the judges said Karadzic had "substantially and persistently obstructed" the proceedings and "effectively brought the trial to a halt."
There have only been two days of trial hearings to date, both used for the opening statement of the prosecutor who urged the court not to allow Karadzic's antics to dictate the trial schedule.
"The judges were looking for a compromise to end the impasse," said Harmen van der Wilt, international law professor at the University of Amsterdam.
"They had to show that they retain the control, that they won't be held hostage, all the while trying to cooperating with the accused," he said.
According to Xavier Tracol, a former ICTY prosecutor, Karadzic "has won a battle but not the war."
"His objective is to hold the tribunal hostage. Winning time is one way of achieving that."
Karadzic, who denies all charges, risks life in jail on accusations that he orchestrated the mass killing of Muslims and Croats in pursuit of a "Greater Serbia" that was to include 60 percent of Bosnia's territory.
Marko Sladojevic, one of Karadzic's legal advisers, said that his client had not yet decided whether he would appeal, but would "take a constructive approach and will try to find a compromise that will satisfy all sides involved".
Arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008 after 13 years on the run, Karadzic is charged faces charges over the massacre of 7,000 Muslims at Srebrenica and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that killed some 10,000 people.
"I am glad that they imposed a lawyer, on him, I hope it will prevent him to manipulate the trial," Srebrenica survivor Munira Subasic told AFP.
"It is painful for us to see how his every wish is granted, almost as if they fear not to hurt his feelings. But we will continue to fight for justice, we will testify against him, we will pursue justice with all available means."
Karadzic's trial is expected to continue until 2012, while any appeals have to be finalised by 2013.
AFP / Expatica