Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic has asked for a one month suspension of his trial in The Hague on the grounds that the prosecution’s methods for disclosing evidence are “unreliable and unsafe”.
The February 20 request stems from the late disclosure of information relating to General Aleksandar Vasiljevic, a former officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA.
According to Karadzic, the belatedly disclosed documents are exculpatory, and include parts of a prosecution interview where Vasiljevic describes how he “became aware of Bosnian Muslim paramilitary groups and arming of Muslims in 1991, brought these matters to the attention of President [Alija] Izetbegovic, and how they had committed crimes against the JNA, including murder”.
Karadzic contends that Vasiljevic told prosecutors “his information was favourable to Dr Karadzic”, and that a senior prosecution lawyer was present at the 2009 interview, which took place one month before the disclosure deadline.
The trial suspension is necessary, Karadzic says, so that his defence team can conduct its own searches of the prosecution database.
“It is clear by now that despite the chamber’s stern warnings, and the setting of numerous deadlines, the prosecution has not fully complied with its disclosure obligations, and that unless a meaningful remedy is imposed, the violations will continue,” the accused states.
He goes on to contend that he chose Vasiljevic as a defence witness without knowing about the exculpatory statement, and that it was likely there have been other individuals whom he did not include on his witness list because the prosecution failed to disclose information from them that could be favourable to the defence.
“The trial chamber owes an obligation to the accused, to the appeals chamber, and to the system of international justice to put a stop to these violations once and for all,” Karadzic states in conclusion.
Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of Bosnia's self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which "contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".
He is also accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.
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