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Europe

The Hague judges adjourn Karadzic trial to review boycott

Video by Margaux CHOURAQUI , Luke SHRAGO

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-11-04

Judges hearing the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have temporarily adjourned the case. They must decide whether proceedings can continue despite Karadzic's boycott of the trial.

The judges hearing the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic adjourned the case while they decide what to do about his persistent boycott of the proceedings.

The former leader attended the procedural hearing on his case on Tuesday at The Hague’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but has asked for a ten-month delay to further prepare his defence. It was his first appearance before the court since he announced his boycott of the trial last month.
 

In the field: "Prosecutors want to avoid an empty chair trial at all costs"

Karadzic, 64,  who has chosen to defend himself against war crimes charges with the aid of a team of legal advisers, announced October 21 that he would not be present as proceedings began, saying that he was being treated unfairly and needed more time to prepare his defence. Karadzic has requested up to 10 more months to have enough time to review some one million pages of evidence.

Karadzic’s refusal to participate in his trial for war crimes has created some thorny issues for the tribunal, which must proceed carefully with a case that could make or break its legitimacy in the eyes of the world.  

“This is a very tricky legal problem, there is no precedent for this,” says FRANCE 24 correspondent Cyril Vanier at The Hague. “There is no rule for this in the statutes of the tribunal, so the judges are in uncharted legal territory.”

One of the options now under consideration by the court is to proceed with the trial

"One of the options on the table is indeed forcing him to attend the trial"
despite Karadzic’s absence and appoint a defence lawyer to act for him, which could delay the trial by several months to give Karadzic’s new lawyer time to prepare.
 
“Should he maintain his position that he will not attend the trial we may proceed in his absence and assign counsel to represent him,” judge Kwon said on Monday.

Karadzic’s trial was scheduled to begin on October 26 but was adjourned by a day after his refusal to appear. Prosecutors began opening arguments the following day.
   
“We advise him to consider this carefully prior to making his oral submissions tomorrow,” the judge said on Monday.

From Sarajevo to Srebrenica

Court proceedings resumed in the former Bosnian Serb leader’s absence on Monday, with prosecutor Alan Tieger maintaining that Karadzic was well aware that forces under his command were targeting civilians during the siege of Sarajevo.

“The accused knew throughout the course of the 44-month siege that his forces were shelling and sniping at civilians and creating conditions of terror for the citizens of Sarajevo,” Tieger said.

The former wartime leader has been charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his actions during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, which claimed an estimated 100,000 lives.

Karadzic is also accused of being one of the masterminds of a plan to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He has been blamed for the July 1995 massacre of at least 7,000 Muslim men and boys at the UN-declared safe zone at Srebrenica, which was under the watch of lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers at the time.

Speaking at the court on Monday, Tieger called the Srebrenica killings – the single largest massacre on European soil since World War Two – “one of humanity's dark chapters”.
 
Posing as an alternative healer during his 13 years on the run, a bearded Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008.

He faces life imprisonment if convicted. Karadzic has denied all the charges against him.

Karadzic’s military commander, Ratko Mladic, is still on the run.  

 

Date created : 2009-11-02

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