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

Karadzic Requests Trial Suspension

Former Bosnian Serb president says he needs time to consider new material.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Radovan Karadzic at the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
    Radovan Karadzic at the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

Radovan Karadzic this week requested that his trial at the Hague tribunal be suspended for three months due to a large volume of material the prosecution recently disclosed to him.

This material – about 32,000 pages - mainly concerns events in various Bosnian municipalities, which is the next component of the prosecution’s case. Currently, the trial is still focused on the sniping and shelling of Sarajevo, as it has been since last April.

Karadzic is requesting that the proceedings be suspended from February 15 until May 15, save for a few witnesses with dates already fixed.

He claims that since most of the new material is in the Serbian language, only a few members of his legal team have the ability to review it. According to the submission, the time off from trial preparation “will ensure that the accused is not required to start defending events in the municipalities until he has received all of the disclosure he was entitled to receive before the trial commenced” including additional material that is expected in early April.

The judges have previously granted Karadzic’s requests for a trial suspension on three occasions—for a month last November, one week last September and two weeks last August. Each of those times Karadzic had just received a trove of material from the prosecution.

The prosecution has not yet responded to Karadzic’s request, and the judges will not make a decision on the matter until that response is filed.

In other recent developments, Karadzic has also requested that his phone calls no longer be monitored by court officials, as is standard practice regarding all detainees.

He bases his January 28 request on a leaked Wikileaks cable from Clifford Johnson of the United States embassy in The Hague which details statements made by Timothy McFadden, the former commanding officer of the United Nations Detention Unit, UNDU.

In the cable – which Karadzic attached to his request – McFadden is said to have described in great detail phone calls between Milosevic and his wife Mirjana Markovic.

“Milosevic could manipulate a nation, [McFadden] said, but struggled to maintain his wife who, on the contrary, seemed to exert just such a pull on him,” the cable states.

The cables also describe Milosevic’s taste in music, including Frank Sinatra, and “pot boiler thrillers”, it read.

Karadzic claims that the way McFadden disclosed this information is “shocking and disturbing.

“It is unknown to what extent, if any, officials of the United Nations detention unit or registrar have discussed with third parties information obtained in whole or in part through the monitoring or recording of Dr Karadzic’s conversations,” he states.

Karadzic further requests that the registrar obtain a statement under oath from the current commander of the detention unit, and all commanders since July 2008, “setting forth all instances in which they discussed Dr Karadzic’s case with persons outside of the registry and in the information revealed in those discussions”.

The president of the tribunal, Judge Patrick Robinson, has yet to respond to Karadzic’s request.

At a press conference on January 26, chief of the registrar’s office Martin Petrov told journalists that “at this point, the tribunal is unable to confirm the authenticity of the report but the matter is being looked into.

“A preliminary analysis of the alleged cable indicates that many of the issues raised in it were already in the public domain.”

For example, he said that “details about the daily routine of ICTY detainees have been available to the public for years”.

Petrov stressed “that the tribunal has clear confidentiality rules, which apply to all, including and especially to ICTY staff members. Alleged breaches of confidentiality are always investigated and appropriate action taken”.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

More IWPR's Global Voices