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

Prosecutors Ask Judges to Reconsider Karadzic Indictment

They call on trial chamber to reinstate certain charges dropped from amended version.
By Simon Jennings
Preparations for the trial of the ex-Bosnian Serb president, Radovan Karadzic, stalled again this week when the defendant was not asked to enter a plea on a revised set of charges because of a blunder by prosecutors.

Judges at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, confirmed a streamlined list of charges against Karadzic on February 16, nearly seven months after he was transferred to The Hague.

However, during a scheduled appearance in court on February 20, Karadzic was not asked to plead after prosecutors asked the trial chamber to reconsider its revision of the indictment.

In the confirmed indictment, judges had dropped charges related to three crime sites due to a lack of evidence.

But the prosecution has asked them to reconsider their decision relating to one of the incidents – the alleged killing of up to 140 detainees at the Susica prison camp in Vlasenica in the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska – claiming it has the required evidence but due to a “clerical mistake” it failed to hand it to the judges.

“It is in the interest of justice for the court to receive the actual supporting materials and to order the restoration of the scheduled incident… to the indictment,” said prosecutor Alan Tieger in court, explaining it was an important incident with a significant number of victims.

Although prosecutors originally filed the revised indictment in September 2008, no decision had been reached until this week due to the bulk of material that had to be translated.

Tieger said the prosecution’s request was only related to this incident and not the two others omitted from the charges.

In the indictment confirmed by judges, Karadzic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including two separate counts of genocide.

One genocide charge pertains to acts committed in ten Bosnian municipalities – Visegrad, Prijedor, Bratunac, Foca, Brcko, Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Zvornik – while the second covers the massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995.

The revised charges cover just 27 of the 41 crime sites originally charged by prosecutors.

Judge Iain Bonomy noted that Karadzic had previously not taken issue with the details of the charges against him, only emphasising their wide scope and the need for an expeditious and fair trial.

However, the defendant said he could not immediately say if he would oppose the prosecution’s request to reinstate the charges related to Susica prompting Judge Bonomy to show his frustration.

“This is too much of a major issue for me to state my position without consulting my legal advisers,” said Karadzic.

Judge Bonomy described Karadzic’s position as “very unhelpful” and questioned his ability to run his own trial without employing a professional lawyer in court.

“What you are saying is you are conducting this case but you are incapable of conducting it. That is an unsatisfactory situation for the court to be in,” he said.

“I expect you to have a position on the various issues that need to be addressed by the [judges],” he told Karadzic, who has repeatedly stated that he will not be employing a lawyer to represent him in the trial.

The judge has frequently warned Karadzic of the burden that conducting his own defence will entail, but Karadzic was again unmoved.

“I am capable of dealing with [my defence] and I will use my rights to respond to you,” he replied.

Judge Bonomy gave Karadzic five days, until February 25, rather than the customary two weeks, to respond to the prosecution’s request for the judges to reconsider the revised indictment.

Karadzic did not hide his displeasure.

“I have to express my dissatisfaction that this deadline is to be shortened for such a major question,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, every question is a serious question.”

The judge said there would “possibly” be another status conference in two weeks, but due to the tribunal’s congested trial schedule he could not set a firm date.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.