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Karadzic Makes First Appearance At Hague Tribunal

  • RFE/RL

Radovan Karadzic in court

Radovan Karadzic in court

The man once known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" faced a judge for the first time at the UN court dealing with Yugoslav war crimes.

Making his first public appearance after more than a decade on the run, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic confirmed his identity and calmly informed court Judge Alphons Orie that he would represent himself throughout his trial:

"I have an invisible legal adviser, but I have decided to defend myself on my own," Karadzic said.

Wearing a suit and tie and once again sporting his trademark haircut, Karadzic's appearance at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was in stark contrast to that in images released after his capture last week in Belgrade. He had been disguised in a bushy beard and long hair as he tried to pass himself off as an alternative-medicine healer.

In the course of the hearing, Karadzic informed the judge that the court had been misinformed of the date of his capture. Serbian authorities have named July 21 as the date of his capture, while a lawyer who was representing Karadzic earlier this week said his client was arrested three days earlier.

Karadzic also claimed "numerous irregularities concerning my relation to this institution and my appearance here," along with "procedural irregularities in my arrival here."

Karadzic was informed of his rights and given the opportunity to enter pleas on 11 counts, including genocide and crimes against humanity, relating to his role in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

He is believed to be the mastermind behind the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left more than 12,000 dead and 50,000 wounded.

Karadzic decided against entering pleas, and declined the judge's offer to read out the charges.

"I am not interested in having someone else read the indictment to me," he said. "I would rather receive the new indictment that has been announced and have sufficient time to study it and then have my initial appearance for that and enter my plea."

Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor for the court, informed the judge that an amendment to Karadzic's indictment was being prepared, but gave no information relating to the nature of the changes or when they would be ready.

Karadzic has 30 days to enter his pleas, and Judge Orie scheduled a court date of August 29 to hear them.

Geoffrey Nice, the lead prosecutor in the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service on July 30 that he expects Karadzic's trial to be a lengthy one.

"It is obviously not going to be very short, but I suspect that the evidence against Karadzic, which is more focused, geographically and [time-wise] than the evidence on Milosevic and that may include evidence that is, in a sense, stronger than the evidence that was available for the Milosevic case," Nice said.

"It shouldn't be anything like as long as the Milosevic trial. The difficulty, of course, may be in the judge's managing of Karadzic if he chooses, as was said on his behalf, to represent himself."

Milosevic trial ended without a verdict with his March 2006 death after nearly five years of imprisonment at The Hague.

Nice says Karadzic's trial may mirror that of Milosevic's in the defense's seeking "to prolong the trial by spending time on irrelevant matters. It may also be the case that the judges will now be well-equipped to deal with that and to shut him down and to keep the trial to strictly legal issues."

The former prosecutor says that he expects the trial to begin at the beginning of next year, as Karadzic will have to be given ample time to prepare his defense.
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