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

New Twist in Karadzic Trial Drama

Defendant reportedly says he won’t cooperate with new standby counsel and may appeal the appointment.
By Simon Jennings
A British lawyer has been selected to act as standby counsel for Radovan Karadzic after the former Bosnian Serb president failed to attend the beginning of his Hague war crimes trial last month - but the appointment may be challenged by the defendant.

Karadzic retains his right to represent himself during his trial however Richard Harvey will prepare the defence case and be on hand to step in if Karadzic boycotts proceedings again when the trial resumes on March 1, 2010.

The trial was suspended on November 5 when judges decided to appoint a standby counsel to Karadzic’s case. They ruled that a lawyer would need until March 1 to prepare for trial.

Karadzic did not attend the hearings held to hear the prosecution’s opening statement on October 26 and 27 and on November 2. He insists he has not had enough time to prepare his defence case and that he will not attend his trial until he has had time to do so.

In the run-up to the start of the trial, both trial judges and appeals judges rejected his request to be given an additional ten months to prepare.

Karadzic has been in custody in The Hague for 15 months since he was arrested aboard a bus in Belgrade on July 21, 2008.

According to one of Karadzic’s legal advisers, Marko Sladojevic, Harvey has spoken to Karadzic and also expressed concern over having enough time to prepare for March 1.

“Mr Harvey spoke to Karadzic twice and he himself said he couldn’t be ready by March 1 which is just over 13 weeks [away],” Sladojevic told IWPR.

Following the appointment of Harvey on November 19, Sladojevic also said that Karadzic will not cooperate with the standby lawyer and may challenge the appointment over the procedure taken by the court to appoint him.

According to Sladojevic, Karadzic should have been provided with a full list of lawyers working for the court and then been able to select his own standby counsel. Sladojevic says that the court selected Harvey having allowed Karadzic to meet “four or five people”. Karadzic had also not informed the court which lawyer he wanted.

The court’s decision appointing Harvey as standby lawyer explained that court representatives met with Karadzic.

“In carrying out the trial chamber's decision on the appointment of counsel to represent the interests of Radovan Karadzic, the registrar provided the accused with a list of defence counsel all of whom meet the qualification requirements under [tribunal rules] and were available for appointment under the terms and conditions of the trial chamber's decision,” the court’s spokeswoman, Nerma Jelacic told IWPR.

“Moreover, the registry facilitated meetings between the accused and those counsel. The accused refused to select counsel from that list, and the registrar proceeded to make a selection.”

Sladojevic says that according to case law from a previous decision by appeals judges in the case of another self-represented defendant, Vojislav Seselj, Karadzic was entitled to select a lawyer from all the defence lawyers registered with the tribunal, not just from a limited selection.

“Mr Karadzic should have received a list of all practicing lawyers so that he can choose a lawyer as a standby counsel, not the registrar,” Sladojevic told IWPR.

According to that decision on December 8, 2006 Seselj was entitled to be provided with a list of all available Hague tribunal defence lawyers to act as standby counsel and to “be permitted to select standby counsel from that list”.

“This is why [Karadzic] will not cooperate with this lawyer until he receives a whole list [of lawyers] and until he can choose himself a lawyer from the list. We will probably challenge this decision during the course of next week,” Sladojevic added.

Karadzic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including the massacre of almost 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995.

Prosecutors also accuse him of orchestrating the 44-month campaign of sniping and shelling of the city of Sarajevo, which resulted in nearly 12,000 civilian deaths.

The indictment alleges that Karadzic is responsible for crimes of 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”.

Harvey is experienced in international law and has represented defendants from Kosovo at the Hague tribunal. His clients include Lahi Brahimaj who faced trial alongside former prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj. The final judgement in that case is currently pending before the appeals chamber.

Harvey’s appointment comes ahead of a decision by trial judges on whether to allow Karadzic to appeal the decision to appoint him a standby lawyer. Karadzic asked to appeal the November 5 decision on November 11.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.