Karadzic a no-show as his trial on ethnic-cleansing charges begins
The trial of former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic on ethnic-cleansing charges began Thursday in the Hague with Karadzic staying away, saying he needs more time to prepare his defense.
The Bosnia genocide case against Radovan Karadzic opened Tuesday in what may be the most important remaining case tried by the 13-year old special tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, according to many jurists.Skip to next paragraph
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More than 6,000 days after Serb snipers opened fire April 5, 1992 from atop the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo on a peace march, killing a medical student from Dubrovnik – the first casualty of Bosnia's war – prosecutors accused the former Bosnian Serb president of ordering the shot that helped set the Balkans alight in the 1990s.
Speaking quietly but clearly prosecutor Alan Tieger relentlessly outlined a series of actions that he says show Mr. Karadzic was the "supreme commander" and "preeminent" authority among Bosnian Serbs between 1991 and 1996, when the behavior of their armed forces placed a new phrase in the world's political lexicon: "Ethnic cleansing."
Karadzic pursued "a pure Serbian state on what he considered historically Serbian territory," Tieger told the court, requiring elimination of "enemies within." He said his case will demonstrate that Karadzic sought to "ethnically cleanse Bosnia…for Bosnian Serb living space."
The "Greater Serbia" project required "many persons," Tieger said, but argued that the "undisputed leader of the Bosnian Serbs throughout was Radovan Karadzic."
US-born Tieger, whose parents survived the Nazi death camps, quoted Karadzic phone intercepts, tapes of political speeches, publicly available writings, interviews, and direct military orders. That sort of evidence was largely absent from the trial of Karadzic's principal sponsor in the project, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who kept himself shielded from direct culpability. Tieger cited a litany of statements by the Serb leader implying direct command.
Tieger opened with the minutes of a closed Bosnian Serb council a month after the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, in which Karadzic says he "signed Directive No. 7" to send the military into UN safe areas such as Srebrenica, Zepa, and Gorazde. In a phone intercept, Karadzic vowed that if the government of Alia Izetbegovic in Sarajevo did not surrender it would be turned into a "black cauldron …300,000 Muslims will die." Karadzic added that the Muslim Slavs "will disappear, that people will disappear from the face of the earth."
Karadzic a no-show
The trial opened without Karadzic, who says he needs more time to prepare. Chief judge O-gon Kwon said that since Karadzic's absence was by choice and against the court's "warning" he may appoint a lawyer for the defendant next week. Karadzic has a "fundamental right" not to attend, Kwon added, "but this right is not absolute."
Despite a public impression that Karadzic is consulting amateurs and legal cranks, court registry officials say he has assembled a competent legal team of more than 30 scholars and lawyers from Germany, France, Great Britain, and the US.
The Montenegrin-born Karadzic is likely to attempt to recreate in court the basic nationalist rationale behind the Serbian effort. Filings by his legal team suggest he will insist Serbs fought to keep Bosnian Muslims from creating "an Islamic state in the heart of Europe" and that the killing fields of Srebrenica took fewer lives than the 8,000 missing Muslim men and boys suggests.