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Karadzic appears before UN war crimes tribunal


Latest update : 2008-07-31

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has appeared for the first time at the international war crimes court in The Hague for a preliminary hearing. He said he would like more time to study genocide charges against him before entering a plea.


Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader indicted for genocide and war crimes, appeared alone Thursday for the first time before a UN tribunal since his decade-long flight from justice ended.


Karadzic told presiding judge Alphons Orie that he would exercise his right to a 30-day delay in entering a plea at his trial, as announced earlier by one of his lawyers. “I renounced this right,” a clean-shaven Karadzic said.


As a result, a new date was set for the hearing on August 29th.


Karadzic appeared 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 detention unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) shortly before 8am local time on Wednesday after an overnight transfer from Belgrade.


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.


The surprise came when Karadzic requested a copy of a new indictment, which turned out to still being prepared by the prosecuting team. Something chief Prosecutor Serge Brammetz failed to make public in his Wednesday press conference.


This could be part of the prosecution’s strategy, Cyril Vanier, France 24 correspondent in the Hague 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.


This unexpected twist prompted Karadzic to express concern about the rights of the defense. “I’m concerned the prosecution made a deal in the back of the defense,” Karadzic 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 then briefly alluded to an alleged deal he had passed with US negotiator Richard Hollbrooke at the time of the 1995 Dayton Accords.


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



Read the official indictment against Karadzic


He faces life imprisonment if found guilty.


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 Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin paper.


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.


Karadzic "hopes for help from Russian diplomacy," he added.


Moscow is a traditional ally of Belgrade and has expressed concern that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague is biased against Serbs.



Date created : 2008-07-31