War crime tribunal weighs up next move as Karadzic refuses to appear

Published Date: 01 November 2009

By Nicholas Christian

RADOVAN Karadzic will be told this week whether or not his war crimes trial will proceed without him.

The former Bosnian Serb leader looks set to continue refusing to attend proceedings of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague tomorrow.

That will force Judge O-Gon Kwon to schedule a special session on Tuesday to make

up his mind on whether to press ahead with prosecution in the absence of the lone accused.

Karadzic, who was captured 15 months ago after years in hiding in Serbia disguised as a heavily bearded alternative health therapist, has claimed he has not had enough time to prepare his defence. He had intended to represent himself in court.

The 64-year-old is charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-1995 war in which around 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million “ethnically cleansed” from their homes.

Karadzic is accused of having “participated in an overarching joint criminal enterprise to permanently remove Croat and Muslim Bosnian inhabitants from the territories of Bosnia-Hercegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory”, according to his charge sheet.

He is alleged to have worked with former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who died midway through his own UN genocide trial in March 2006.

His lawyer, Marco Sladojevic, last week told reporters not to expect Karadzic in court. “He will not attend on Monday,” Sladojevic said, although he added that his client may turn up for any strictly procedural hearing on Tuesday to decide the fate of the trial, which is expected to last two years.

Last week UN prosecutors opened their cases against the once flamboyant politician, who still enjoys some support in both Bosnia and Serbia.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Alan Tieger called Karadzic the “undisputed leader” and “supreme commander” of the Serbs responsible for atrocities throughout Bosnia’s brutal four-year war.

He said: “Karadzic harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to pursue his vision of an ethnically segregated Bosnia.”

Prosecutors allege Karadzic was the driving force behind atrocities beginning with the “cleansing” of towns and villages to create an ethnically pure Serb state in 1992, and culminating in Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War, the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica by Serb forces.

Karadzic, first indicted in 1995, has submitted more than 250 motions to the court in his defence.

Judge Kwon has said he may be forced to assign a defence counsel to represent Karadzic. That could mean having to adjourn the trial to give an assigned lawyer time to prepare.

Tieger played video of a notorious Karadzic speech before war broke out, in which the Bosnian Serb leader predicted that Muslims would disappear from Bosnia.

“By the disappearance of the Muslim people, Karadzic meant that they would be physically annihilated,” Tieger said. He showed judges footage of skeletal Muslim prisoners behind the wire fence of a Serb-run detention camp and read from transcripts of intercepted phone conversations.

He quoted Karadzic as saying that Serb forces would turn the ethnically mixed Bosnian capital of Sarajevo into “a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die”.

Witnesses who survived the 44-month siege of Sarajevo have described living “in constant fear, day after day, for years, knowing that they or their loved ones were targets,” Tieger said, before showing judges video of a young boy shot dead by a sniper and Bosnian Serb forces targeting mourners at a funeral.

He said Karadzic and other high-ranking Bosnian Serbs engaged in a campaign to vilify Bosnia’s Muslims and drive them out of towns and villages as war erupted in 1992. Non-Serbs in Bosnia were rounded up and incarcerated in a series of camps controlled by Karadzic’s police and army, Tieger told the tribunal’s judges.

“In the best of circumstances, detainees existed in dehumanising conditions,” Tieger said. “In the worst, all too frequently, detainees were subjected to beatings, rape, terror and death.”

The Bosnian war crimes court, set up in 2005 to relieve the burden on the Hague-based tribunal, has put dozens of Bosnian Serbs on trial over Srebrenica.

Twelve have been jailed, seven acquitted and seven are still being tried.

Several are still at large, including Karadzic’s military commander, General Ratko Mladic.

Karadzic’s deputy Biljana Plavsic, 79, was recently released by Sweden after serving two thirds of an 11-year term for war crimes.

Last Updated: 31 October 2009 8:13 PM

Source: Scotland On Sunday

Location: Scotland


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