Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Court rejects Karadzic 'immunity'

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in The Hague. File photo
Radovan Karadzic says he was offered immunity from prosecution in 1996

Immunity allegedly offered to suspected war criminal Radovan Karadzic is not valid and will not prevent his trial, the UN war crimes court has ruled.

The ex-Bosnian Serb leader faces 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

His claim that he was offered immunity by US peace envoy Richard Holbrooke in 1996 in exchange for giving up his leadership is denied by Mr Holbrooke.

The UN said any deal "would be invalid under international law".

Mr Karadzic was caught in July after 13 years on the run and faces trial at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague.

It was not clear if he would appeal against the ruling. He is defending himself against the crimes allegedly committed during the Bosnian war of 1992-95.

Document handover

Prosecution spokeswoman Olga Kavran said the judges' ruling "confirms our position" that an immunity deal would not stand up in court.

However, the judges did rule in favour of Mr Karadzic by ordering prosecutors to turn over any copies of agreements, notes or recordings they may have acquired from meetings Mr Holbrooke held with Serb leaders in Belgrade on 18 and 19 July, 1996.

Mr Karadzic claims the immunity deal was made at the meetings.

Speculation about an immunity deal has been around for many years.

In 2007, Richard Holbrooke's office described the allegation of a deal as an "outrageous lie" and said he was "astonished that people would believe a war criminal over the word of the United States or people who brought peace to the Balkans".

Mr Karadzic's alleged crimes include involvement in an attempt to destroy in whole or in part the Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) and Bosnian Croat ethnic groups.

That included the killings at Srebrenica and the shelling of Sarajevo, killing and terrorising the city's civilians.

The indictment says Mr Karadzic knew about the crimes that were being committed by Bosnian Serb forces, but failed to take action to prevent them.

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