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Karadzic To Face Judge After First Night In The Hague

  • RFE/RL

Radovan Karadzic after his arrest in Belgrade

Radovan Karadzic after his arrest in Belgrade

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

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic spent his first night in detention at The Hague following his extradition from Serbia to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to his role in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

"He will be asked by the judge of this tribunal about the conditions of detention in which he is being kept, about his ability to understand the proceedings that lay ahead of him, and about the rules and the procedures of this tribunal that were explained to him yesterday [July 30] during his first day in the detention unit of the UN tribunal," tribunal spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic told reporters.

Karadzic, who 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, will be asked to enter pleas on 11 counts, including genocide and crimes against humanity.

"He will at the end also have an opportunity to enter a plea to the indictment raised against him by the prosecution," Jelacic said. "He may choose to delay this by 30 days, and the judge will then call for a new session at the end of next month."

The public will get its first live look at Karadzic since he went on the run 13 years ago. Images released after his capture on July 21 showed him disguised in a bushy beard and long hair as he tried to pass himself off as an alternative-medicine healer.

A photograph published in the Serbian tabloid "Blic", reportedly taken during his detention in Belgrade, revealed a freshly shaven and shorn Karadzic.

Karadzic To Prepare Defense

The former Bosnian Serb leader is expected to represent himself during his trial at The Hague, although he will be assisted by a team of lawyers:

"During today's hearing we can also expect that Radovan Karadzic will say a few more words about what he plans to do with his defense, whether he is ready and willing to ask for himself to defend himself, or is willing to appoint one of the lawyers to defend himself," Jelacic added.

Geoffrey Nice, the lead prosecutor in the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague, tells RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service 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's 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.