Karadzic boycotts Yugoslavia Tribunal

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Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic says he will boycott his trial at the Yugoslavia Tribunal,  which is due to begin on Monday.

In a letter to the tribunal judges, the former president of Republika Srpska he says has not had enough time to prepare his defence. Last week, the 64-year-old former president, who is defending himself, tried to postpone his trial by ten months to get through the huge dossier. Then his legal advisor Peter Robinson said, “He has not had adequate time to even read a fraction of the 1.3 million pages of documents.”

Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz says Mr Karadzic has had 15 months to prepare and his rights have been respected. Since his transfer to the detention centre in The Hague, Mr Karadzic had tabled 270 motions on various issues. He has also tried to have the charges against him dropped by claiming he was promised immunity in a secret deal with former US peace mediator Richard Holbrooke on the condition he left public life. The tribunal has ruled against this claim several times.

Fair trial
Karadzic’s refusal to attend the court hearing presents the tribunal with a problem as procedures demand the defendant’s presence as the “minimum guarantee” for a fair trial. There have been two occasions in the past when a defendant has not turned up to trial. General Veselin Sljivancanin refused to attend a hearing in 2003, but was eventually persuaded to come to court. And General Radislav Krstic, tried for genocide after the fall of Srebrenica, was absent due to a leg amputation. In the latter case the judges ruled that he had waived his right to attend after he left the case to his lawyers. In his letter Mr Karadzic says lawyers cannot defend him, “Because the situation is so complex” and because he experienced “all the relevant events from the first to the last day”.

The Prosecution filed a shortened indictment to avoid a lengthy trial. Mr Brammertz says the trial would focus on the victims:  “It is about the execution of a plan to have thousands, tens of thousands of people removed from their areas by killing them, putting them in camps and by rapes.”

More than 100,000 people were killed during the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s through ethnic cleansing policies and warfare.

War crimes
Mr Karadzic faces trial for 11 counts of war crimes, including  genocide and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995. He is accused of being responsible for the genocide of 8000 men and boys from the Srebrenica enclave in 1995. The enclave was meant to be a safe haven for Muslims under the protection of Dutch troops. Radovan Karadzic is also charged with the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

The former Bosnian Serb leader was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after he had been on the run for 13 years.

Read a recent interview with Radovan Karadzic with RNW's International Justice department