Judge Fumes at Slow Preparation for Karadzic Trial

Performance of tribunal prosecutors comes under fire once more in proceedings against former Bosnian Serb leader.

Judge Fumes at Slow Preparation for Karadzic Trial

Performance of tribunal prosecutors comes under fire once more in proceedings against former Bosnian Serb leader.

Saturday, 1 November, 2008
Prosecutors in the war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic angered Judge Iain Bonomy again this week, prompting him to leave the courtroom briefly in frustration.



The presiding judge later told the former Bosnian Serb president that since he was taken into tribunal custody on July 30, preparation for the trial had “gone virtually nowhere”.



As the pre-trial hearing got underway on October 28, Judge Bonomy was noticeably frustrated by prosecutor Alan Tieger's inability to tell him how many documents his team had yet to disclose to Karadzic, who is conducting his own defence.



The documents, which are intended to support the office of the prosecutor’s proposal to update the charges against the accused, have yet to be translated into Serbian. Karadzic is being given the opportunity to review the documents and respond to the proposed amendments before judges make a ruling on the submission, which was filed on September 22. The accused has since called on judges to reject the prosecution’s application to amend the charges against him, saying that their request broke tribunal rules.



“Rather an unsatisfactory state of affairs, Mr Tieger, at this stage, I have to say,” said Judge Bonomy, before temporarily adjourning proceedings. “That's the sort of simple information that this trial chamber is entitled to have before it whenever it comes into court.”



This was not the first time since pre-trial proceedings related to the Karadzic case began at the tribunal that prosecutors have fallen foul of Judge Bonomy and his desire for efficiency. During a hearing on August 29, the judge criticised Tieger for the Office of the Prosecutor’s failure to seek amendments to the indictment in a timely fashion.



“I find it surprising that, bearing in mind the period since the original indictment... that you tell me now that it's only once the accused is in custody that this exercise [to amend the indictment] is being undertaken. I'm surprised,” he told Tieger in court.



The OTP has sought to amend the charges against Karadzic, reducing his criminal responsibility to 27 of the 47 Bosnian municipalities contained in the last version of the indictment from April 2000. Prosecutors say the amendments will contribute to “a more efficient and expeditious” trial. They also say they have adjusted the indictment to reflect evidence presented at the tribunal since 2000 and to bring the charges up to date with current case law.



If the changes are passed, Karadzic will be charged on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors are seeking to charge him for two separate counts of genocide – one relating to the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica and the other in connection with crimes committed in ten municipalities across Bosnia between March 31 and December 31, 1992. Karadzic, who led the Bosnian Serbs between 1992 and 1996, was arrested in July after 13 years on the run.



At this week’s status conference – the second such hearing intended to facilitate the preparation of all parties for trial – Tieger confirmed that the material supporting the prosecution’s proposed amendments to the indictment would be provided to Karadzic by the end of this week. The defendant had 14 days to respond to the proposed amendments, but did so almost immediately on October 30, claiming the prosecution’s submission should be dismissed due to its excessive word length.



Karadzic then stated that he did not have adequate resources to conduct his defence and argued that proceedings were progressing too quickly.



“I am astonished at your reference to speed. I am extremely disappointed at the very slow rate at which this case is proceeding,” replied Judge Bonomy. “You were here on July 30 and we are now at the stage of considering the indictment… we’ve gone virtually nowhere.”



Karadzic had in fact asked for the status conference to be postponed, saying it clashed with a planned meeting with his family – which would have been the first in ten years.



He also said he needed to prepare his testimony for the appeal of his former political ally Momcilo Krajisnik against a 27-year prison sentence. Karadzic will give supplementary evidence on November 5 at the appeal hearing of the former speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament, who was sentenced in September 2006 for his part in the murder, persecution and forced transfer of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats.



Judge Bonomy rejected Karadzic’s request to delay the hearing to allow him to prepare for the Krajisnik appeal, citing “issues which need[ed] to be resolved” in the accused’s own case.



But although the hearing went ahead, little progress was made.



Karadzic explained that due to a lack of time, he had not had a chance to review the proposed amendments to the indictment.



“I have had… other matters to attend to, so I have nothing to offer up for today’s status conference because, quite simply, I am not prepared for this conference,” he told Judge Bonomy.



Judge Bonomy warned Karadzic that he had chosen to represent himself, and as a result, would have to bear the burden which this entailed.



“I’m afraid [self-representation] carries particular problems which you have been told about repeatedly and you are willing to take on your own shoulders,” he said.



The presiding judge then informed the parties that the next status conference was likely to be held on January 20, with written confirmation to follow.



Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
Support our journalists