Karadzic refuses to enter war crimes pleas at UN tribunal
Sunday, 31 August 2008

Radovan KaradzicREUTERS

Radovan Karadzic today accused the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague of being a "Nato court" that intended to "liquidate" him and refused to enter pleas on the 11 charges against him.

The Bosnian Serb genocide suspect - who was arrested last month in the Serbian capital after 13 years as Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive - challenged the legitimacy of the court, and, as expected, refused to enter pleas on any of the 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes he is charged with.
 
He insisted again at today's pre-trial hearing that he would defend himself in the case.
 
Judge Iain Bonomy of Scotland, who previously presided over the trial of the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, entered pleas of not guilty on Karadzic's behalf.
 
Karadzic was ordered to stand to enter a plea by Judge Bonomy who said: "Count one, you are charged with genocide."
 
"I will not plead in line with my standpoint on this court," said the accused.
 
When the judge ordered a plea of not guilty to be entered, Karadzic interrupted him. "May I hold you to your word?" he asked.
 
"What word?"
 
"That I'm not guilty."
 
"We'll see in due course," said the judge, who was again interrupted by the former warlord when he sought to adjourn the hearing after 22 minutes.
 
Karadzic's attitude indicated he will try to turn the tribunal into a stage for performing the role of an innocent victim of western assassination plots, broken promises and treachery.
 
Since first appearing at the tribunal at the beginning of the month, he has already delivered 10 submissions complaining about his treatment, the translation of documents, his alleged fears for his life and how former US officials from the Clinton years allegedly want him dead.
 
The 63-year-old was the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnia war. He headed the main Serbian party in Bosnia and was president of the self-proclaimed Serbian republic in half of Bosnia.
 
He was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity in 1995 because of his command role in the Serbian slaughter of almost 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in July 1995, the long siege of Sarajevo, and the genocide in north-western Bosnia in the autumn of 1992, when tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs uprooted and driven from their homes.
 
Karadzic retired from politics a year after the war ended and vanished until he was arrested on a bus in Belgrade in Serbia last month, disguised as a long-haired alternative medicine aficionado under the alias Dragan Dabic.
 
"I have stopped using a false name. I think all parties should do the same," he told Judge Bonomy today, claiming that the tribunal was operating under false pretences.
 
"I am deeply convinced this is a Nato court," he said. "It's a court of Nato whose aim is to liquidate me."
 
While Judge Bonomy was brisk with the accused, he also voiced exasperation with the US lawyers leading the prosecution in what is the most important case to come before the tribunal in its 15-year history.
 
The prosecution is in the process of revising the charge sheet, which was last amended in 2000 to take account of case law and evidence at the tribunal in the past eight years and also to streamline the case against Karadzic.
 
The prosecutors said they hoped to deliver the amended indictment by the end of September. Judge Bonomy was visibly annoyed, asking why the prosecution had waited eight years until the suspect was in custody before starting to revise the charge sheet.

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