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Feisty Karadzic outmanoeuvres prosecution

Latest update : 2008-08-01

During his first hearing at the UN war crimes tribunal, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared combative as he faced a court that came across as ill-prepared. He confirmed his intention to defend himself alone.


During his first hearing before the UN war crimes tribunal, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic put up a good fight as the prosecution surprised the court by revealing it was still working on a new indictment.


Defending himself without a lawyer, Karadzic confirmed to presiding judge Alphons Orie that he would exercise his right to a 30-day delay in entering a plea, as announced earlier by one of his lawyers. The judge scheduled the next hearing for Aug. 29.


“Karadzic can’t choose to plead on an indictment that he hasn’t read,” said Cyril Vanier, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in the Hague.


“He managed to outmaneuver the prosecution," Vanier added. "They've had 15 years to prepare the indictment. Karadzic was ready, but the prosecutor was not.”

Karadzic said he would continue to act as his own defense counsel. "I intend to represent myself... throughout the trial, regardless of what I think of this institution," he told the court.


Karadzic appeared combative and in control of his emotions. “I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t know I’m here,” he told the judge with a chuckle as he was asked whether his relatives needed to be informed of his presence in the court.


Karadzic was transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague on Wednesday, a week after he was captured in Serbia after more than a decade in hiding.


Judge Orie officially informed Karadzic of the 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on the indictment.


He is notably accused of playing a leading role in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 dead, and in the July 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the UN-declared safe haven of Srebrenica.


Prosecutors preparing new indictment


Karadzic surprised the judge when he referred to a new indictment being prepared against him. The judge said he was not aware of a new indictment, but prosecutors confirmed that they were indeed preparing a new indictment. Chief prosecutor Serge Brammetz had not mentioned a new indictment in a press conference on Wednesday.

This could be part of the prosecution’s strategy, FRANCE 24’s Vanier said. “If Brammetz wants a speedy trial, it’s in his interest to reduce the number of charges and keep only the ones for which he can get a conviction,” Vanier said.


The unexpected twist prompted Karadzic to express concern about his rights as a defendant. “I’m concerned the prosecution made a deal behind the defense's back,” he said. 


Karadzic also complained about some irregularities in his arrest, claiming he had been refused the right “to a phone call or even a text message."

Karadzic, who had prepared a four-page statement to read to the court, was only allowed a few words. He briefly alluded to an alleged deal he had made with US negotiator Richard Holbrooke at the time of the 1995 Dayton accord. Karadzic told the court he agreed to withdraw from public life in return for unspecified "commitments" from the United States.


Karadzic’s court appearance gave a glimpse of his defense strategy, FRANCE 24’s Vanier said. “His strategy is going to be to slow down the procedure by interfering as much as possible and to try to make prosecution seem it is not as professional as should be,” he said.


Karadzic faces life imprisonment if found guilty.

Brother describes extensive preparations

According to his Karadzic’s brother Luka, the former leader of Bosnian Serbs prepared extensively for his defense while in hiding and expected to be arrested.

"He was well-prepared for his possible arrest and thinks everything will end well.... True, my brother thought he would be arrested a bit later, in six months," his brother said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia

The authorities who captured the former Bosnian Serb leader confiscated his laptop and more than 50 discs containing documents prepared for his defense in The Hague, his brother said.

Date created : 2008-07-31