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Karadzic Trial Faces Six Week Suspension

Judges rule that defendant needs time to review large amount of new material.
By Rachel Irwin

The proceedings against Radovan Karadzic will be suspended for six weeks beginning in early March, judges ruled this week.

Karadzic had originally requested a three-month break to review a large volume of material – totaling some 32,000 pages – which the prosecution disclosed to him at the end of January.

Prosecutors opposed any suspension of longer than one week, arguing that the accused “failed to provide valid reasons justifying the exceptional measure of adjournment”.

They also contended that “the accused cannot choose to allocate all of his substantial resources to witness preparation and then use that choice as a justification for adjournment of proceedings”.

The judges disagreed. In an oral decision delivered in court on February 10, presiding judge O-Gon Kwon noted that an adjournment was an “exceptional measure” but said that Karadzic would need time to review the material and to determine how it would be used in the trial.

The judge said that Karadzic – who continues to represent himself – could not be expected to complete this task while the trial is ongoing.

“It’s regrettable that this is necessary,” Judge Kwon said, adding that the “pattern of [prosecution] disclosure violations has continued since the last [trial] suspension”.

The judge also remarked that the prosecution response to Karadzic’s request failed to give “adequate weight” to the issue at hand.

The trial will halt for six weeks starting on March 3, Judge Kwon concluded.

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 court has been hearing evidence on the sniping and shelling of Sarajevo since witness testimony got underway last April. This latest suspension means that the second component of the prosecution’s case – which focuses on crimes carried out in Bosnian municipalities – will not begin until April of this year, at the earliest.

Karadzic, the president of Bosnia's self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is accused of planning and overseeing the massacre of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, as well as the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead.

The indictment - which lists 11 counts in total - alleges that he was 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". Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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