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Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic told Hague tribunal judges this week that he will file a motion to postpone the resumption of his trial, currently set for March 1.
Karadzic said that he still needed more time to prepare his defence in the trial, which has been adjourned since October.
“Things have become worse during this break which was no break at all for the defence,” Karadzic told the judges.
Karadzic, a founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, of Bosnia and Hercegovina, is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Hague tribunal, including the genocide at Srebrenica, where nearly 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were massacred after the town was taken over by Serb forces in July 1995.
According to the indictment, Karadzic participated in “several related joint criminal enterprises”, with the objective to “permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory”in Bosnia through deportation, forcible transfer, genocide, persecution, extermination and murder.
The indictment alleges that Karadzic, president of Bosnia’s Republic Srpska from 1992 to 1996, was responsible for planning and overseeing the sniping and shelling of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 persons dead during a 44-month siege.
Karadzic evaded authorities for 13 years, before being arrested in Belgrade on July 21, 2008 and brought to The Hague.
This week Judge O-Gon Kwon asked Karadzic to file a motion in writing for delaying the trial as soon as possible.
Karadzic, who appeared without counsel, told the judges that he could not yet file the motion in writing due to the “minor misunderstandings” that had impeded the defence’s preparation, saying that the Office of Legal Aid and Detention Matters, OLAD, initially restricted funds for the defence.
“OLAD believes it doesn’t have to pay anything for these three months because they believe it is a break,” Karadzic said, adding that the defence had received almost 3,000 pages from the Office of the Prosecution since November. “It is not a break for the defence.”
In December, the tribunal selected Richard Harvey, a British lawyer, to act as standby counsel for Karadzic after the defendant failed to attend hearings held to hear the prosecution’s opening statement on October 26 and 27 and on November 2.
Due to Karadzic’s appeal of the judgement to assign counsel, Judge Kwon said that Harvey was reluctant to appear in court for the status conference. Harvey followed the proceedings from the public gallery.
“I will defend myself, by myself, until the end of these proceedings,” Karadzic told judges on January 28.
Judge Kwon addressed several “pending civil binding order motions” brought by Karadzic during August and September that requested documents from several states on a voluntary basis, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Iran, Bosnia, Croatia and Pakistan.
Although some progress had been made with the requests, the judge said, there remained several pending motions that will be addressed at a motions hearing on February 15, where the relevant states will be invited to the court.
An order filed against the government of Germany on August 13 by Karadzic was disputed by the German authorities on the grounds that the requested documents were not relevant to the proceedings.
“Resolution of the matter is not expected through negotiations on voluntary basis,” Judge Kwon said, and added that Germany would be included on the invite list for the February motions hearing.
In addition, Karadzic said that there were several outstanding documents that had yet to be filed by the French government addressing the “massive” presence of French military in the Balkans during the relevant period.
“I’m convinced France can help us a great deal,” Karadzic said. “It is one of the most important countries in this conflict… their military officers rendered a major contribution.”
The Croatian, Bosnian and Dutch governments had responded to Karadzic’s requests for documents, Karadzic said. But he repeated his requests in a memorandum on January 7 and 8, after having only received a fraction of the documents he required, Karadzic added.
When Judge Kwon asked whether Karadzic anticipated filing any further binding motions, the defendant told the judges that it would depend on whether he received additional documentation from Bosnia.
“They have a vast amount of material related to investigations of their own military police,” Karadzic said. “We have objections to their conduct, [as] relevant in respect to conduct of our own armed forces, both police and civilian.”
Karadzic added that he would most likely request documents from the United States, Turkey, the European Union and the United Nations, but that he did not want his trial to be transformed into a “paper trial”.
“Every effort is being made to reduce to a minimum the appearance of witnesses here,” Karadzic told the judges. “How [are we] going to establish the truth here? Not only about my involvement in the events but the events themselves?”
Karadzic said the tribunal had a “one-sided investigation” system, wherein his associates could not “find their way” in the absence of proper investigation. But they would do everything in their power to interview all of the witnesses, he said.
“This is the last chance for us to make improvements,” Karadzic said.
Judge Kwon closed by asking how much time Karadzic would require for the defence’s opening statement when the trial resumed.
Karadzic told the judges that he would require six hours over two days for cross-examination. However, he stressed the defence would ultimately need more time than the prosecution in the trial due to the large number of “adjudicated facts and material” and witnesses, as well as the need for additional investigations in the field.
“I hope the trial chamber will see how necessary this is for the defence, provided that we use time rationally and efficiently,” Karadzic said. “Time will be the greatest enemy for the defence.”
The trial will continue on March 1, when Judge Kwon said the court would sit for three-day week sessions for the duration of the month.
Julia Hawes is an IWPR contributor.
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