Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Karadzic Case Ready for Trial

Trial chamber to prosecute ex-Bosnian Serb president in place “very soon”.
By Rory Gallivan
The genocide case against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is now ready to begin, the judge presiding over pre-trial proceedings said this week.

“It’s my opinion that this case is now ready for trial and that is the report I will submit to the president,” Judge Iain Bonomy said in a hearing, referring to tribunal president Patrick Robinson.

It is now up to the new trial chamber, which a court spokesman said would be assembled “very soon”, to decide on a date for the start of the trial. The court spokesman also said there will be at least one pre-trial conference before the trial begins.

Karadzic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in 1995 on charges of genocide relating to crimes against the civilian population of Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 and the attack on the Srebrenica enclave in July 1995.

He is also charged with crimes committed against civilians in Sarajevo during the siege of the Bosnian capital between 1992 and 1995 and with taking United Nations personnel hostage in 1995.

He was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 and promptly transferred to the tribunal.

Judge Bonomy, who was making his last appearance in the case, said this week that the trial would have to begin despite outstanding concerns relating to the volume of evidence to be considered.

“There comes a time when one has to simply decide the preparations for the trial are complete and the trial will proceed on the basis, broadly speaking, of what has been submitted as an indication of that case,” he said.

The court spokesman said he understood that Judge Bonomy was stepping down for personal reasons.

Judge Bonomy, who has previously stated that the scope of the indictment may have to be narrowed to avoid a prolonged trial, mentioned again at the latest hearing the need for the prosecution to reduce the amount of evidence to be presented.

Referring to prosecution plans to examine events that occurred during the war in Croatia in detail, Judge Bonomy said, “We’ll be here ‘til kingdom come if we’re exploring the detail and the history of what happened in Croatia.”

Prosecutors are seeking to have evidence submitted in previous trials by Milan Babic, the former leader of the breakaway Serb state in Croatia, who committed suicide while in detention in The Hague, tendered as evidence in the Karadzic case.

But Judge Bonomy said that the prosecution would have to show how such evidence specifically related to the trial against Karadzic.

Prosecution lawyer Alan Tieger said that his team would need at least four weeks prior to the trial in order to make preparations, such as organising witnesses to appear.

Judge Bonomy asked Karadzic if he had any further matters that needed to be raised ahead of the trial. The accused has complained of problems with the equipment the court has provided for him, including his computer.

He also complained of what he said was the “scattered approach” in which he had been provided with certain information, such as details of Bosnian army, ABiH, soldiers who had been killed.

Karadzic then asked Judge Bonomy to intercede on his behalf to obtain intercepted conversations between former Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic and his associates, arguing that the prosecution had access to such information.

The judge said that he would provide assistance where he could, but that matters concerning evidence would have to be addressed in coordination with the prosecution.

Judge Bonomy acknowledged that Karadzic’s appeal relating to an alleged agreement with the UN diplomat Richard Holbrooke in 1996 could have a bearing on the beginning of the trial.

Karadzic has claimed since he made his first appearance before the court that Holbrooke – who is now the United States envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan – agreed to grant him immunity from prosecution in return for standing down from Bosnian Serb politics.

Holbrooke has denied any such deal, and the court has said that even if such an agreement had been made, it would not be binding because it did not carry international authority.

As well as arguing on the basis of the alleged Holbrooke agreement that the court does not have the right to try to him, Karadzic has been making preparations to challenge the description of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war detailed in the indictment.

He has questioned the number of people asserted to have been killed in the Srebrenica massacre and claimed that mortar attacks that killed civilians in Sarajevo were carried out by the Bosnian army.

He has recently requested information from several foreign governments, including Egypt and Jordan, about alleged shipments of arms to the Bosnian army during the war and about Islamic fundamentalist fighters travelling from those countries to Bosnia to fight on the Bosnian government side.

Rory Gallivan is an IWPR contributor in London.