Karadzic trial to begin today

Former Bosnian Serb warlord is accused of genocide and war crimes

Karadzic trial to begin today



Poet and psychiatrist, convicted embezzler and new age guru, Karadzic is allegedly responsible for mass murder and the most barbaric behaviour in Europe since the Nazis. He is threatening to boycott the trial’s opening at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Barring the arrest of his fugitive colleague, General Ratko Mladic, the Karadzic trial could mark the end of 15 years of the tribunal’s work, a mixed record of achievements and failings in what has been a pioneering attempt to expand international justice to encompass crimes against humanity.
The trial is likely to open with a test of strength that will show who is calling the shots — the man accused of overseeing the attempt to wipe out the Muslims of eastern Bosnia or the panel of three judges hearing the case.

Karadzic insists on defending himself and, after 15 months in detention, maintains he is not ready, having had to plough through around one million pages of prosecution evidence. If the judges blink first, they will be repeating fateful mistakes, according to experienced observers, that handicapped previous big trials, awarding an early psychological victory to the man in the dock.

“Karadzic has learnt the lessons of earlier trials and may suspect a lack of confidence on the part of the judges to deal with obstructive tactics,” said Sir Geoffrey Nice, the British QC who led the prosecution of the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, the first head of state to be tried for war crimes. “The judges let Milosevic defend himself. This allowed him to manipulate the system to slow the trial.”

Mirko Klarin, who has been chronicling the workings of the court for more than a decade as director of the Sense news agency, believes that the judges have learnt their lessons from past fiascos, and that they may impose defence counsel on Karadzic to try to avoid the trial degenerating into a political circus.
“You had a disaster in the Milosevic case, and now you have a looming disaster in the Karadzic case,” he said. “The biggest single mistake was letting the accused defend themselves.”

For Emir Suljagic, a Muslim from eastern Bosnia who escaped the slaughter of more than 7,000 males by Karadzic’s executioners in Srebrenica in July 1995, justice is coming very late, if at all, and leaves a bitter taste. He vested great hopes in the tribunal and is disillusioned.

“I am resigned to the fact that it has failed to provide justice. But that’s hardly a surprise when it was created by the very organisation (the United Nations) that stood aside while genocide was carried out.”
Karadzic may be finally on trial. But his creation, Republika Srpska, the Serbian Republic, is still entrenched in half of Bosnia, the product of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

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