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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.

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Mark Ellis, director of the International Bar Association, says this is the most important case for the court. "When you went to Sarajevo and to the refugee camps during the war, the name you heard most often on people's lips was 'Karadzic,'" says Ellis. "The Milosevic case fell short, didn't bring closure, and this is an opportunity for the ICTY to make amends."

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Ellis argues that a perception of a fair trial for Karadzic is essential and he suggests that a "friend of the court" could be appointed for the accused – something short of imposing council on Karadzic – if he continues to boycott.

Tieger described a conflict in which Serbs not only had military superiority, but in the early days attacked largely weaponless villages with multiple forces, including paramilitaries controlled by Željko Ražnatović (better known as Arkan), Vojislav Šešelj and the official Yugoslav army. Muslims in large areas were killed or driven from their homes, though in some cases Karadzic allowed them to stay provided they converted to Orthodox Christianity "on the spot," charged Tieger.

Karadzic's legal filings suggest he wants to put Pakistani intelligence chiefs on the stand regarding arms shipments to Bosnians during the course of the war. Karadzic told AFP in a written interview last week that he "never planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted any of the crimes charged," stating that the four-year conflict was part of a plot by the "great powers…to achieve imperial goals."

Legal competence

An indicator of Karadzic's legal competency, Ellis argues, was a pre-trial motion to have a judge removed who had found one of Karadzic's closest friends guilty of organized criminal activity – suggesting he had pre-judged Karadzic in the verdict. Karadzic has filed "many competent pre-trial briefs," Ellis says.

The two sides are under orders to each complete their part of the trial in 300 hours or about a year each. This has greatly reduced the scope of the case against Karadzic to 11 crimes, including the shelling of Sarajevo, holding UN peacekeepers hostage, and Srebrenica; Milosevic faced more than 60 counts.

A partial list compiled by the online Balkan Insight of crimes allegedly committed by Karadzic includes the murder of tens of civilians in the municipalities of Bosanski Novi, Brcko, Kotor Varos, Rogatica and Ilijas, near Sarajevo, during 1992; 70 civilians burned in a house in Pionirska Street in Visegrad in June 1992; the murder of civilians at Visegrad Bridge; the killing of men taken from the Barutni Magacin detention camp in Kalinovik and killed in a barn in the village of Ratine in August 1992; prison killings in Banja Luka and in fire and police stations in Bosanski Novi and in Bosanska Kostajnica. But he will not be tried for these and a number of other alleged crimes from the war.


While a staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor, reporter David Rohde – who recently wrote a five-part series for the New York Times on his seven-month captivity with the Taliban in Pakistan – was the first to publish evidence of mass graves in Srebrenica. Here is a selection of his reporting from the Monitor's archives:

Graves Found That Confirm Bosnia Massacre
Nov. 16, 1995

What the US Knows and Won't Reveal
Nov. 16, 1995

Bosnia Muslims Were Killed by The Truckload
Oct. 2, 1995

Eyewitnesses Confirm Massacres in Bosnia
Oct. 5, 1995