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Radovan Karadzic trial becomes a battle over timing

By Dominic Hughes
Europe reporter, BBC News

Radovan Karadzic at The Hague on 3 November 2009
The court entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Mr Karadzic

Perhaps not surprisingly Radovan Karadzic has been a reluctant participant in this trial.

The former leader of the Bosnian Serbs has appeared just a few times, regularly boycotting the process.

But at his most recent appearance last November he complained bitterly about the workload he faced.

Conducting his own defence, Mr Karadzic said he had had to deal with more than a million pages of legal documents sent to him by the prosecution.

He demanded more time to prepare his case - a request the judges agreed to.

But prosecutors believe he is adopting the tactics of his old mentor Slobodan Milosevic, who managed to string his trial out for four years.

In the end, of course, Milosevic was found dead in his cell in March 2006.

His campaign of delay and postponement frustrated prosecutors and undermined the credibility of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Speeding up hearings

As well as conducting his own defence and then complaining he has not had the resources to prepare, Mr Karadzic refused to enter a plea to the charges he faced - the court entered a "not guilty" one for him. He has refused to attend sessions.

Bosnian Muslim survivors of the Srebrenica massacre search for names of their relatives (file image)
More than 100,000 people were killed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war

But prosecutors want the court to get tough. They have called on the judges to force Mr Karadzic to attend, even if that means bringing him to the court room in handcuffs.

It seems a battle for control of the trial is under way, with Mr Karadzic in one corner, prosecutors in the other.

Mr Karadzic faces some of the most serious charges the ICTY has heard - not least genocide, particularly the killing in Srebrenica of more than 7,000 men and boys.

Other alleged crimes include his alleged role in the siege of Sarajevo, persecution, deportation, crimes of terror and the taking of hostages.

It is a grim charge sheet that includes the deliberate targeting of civilians including women and children, the "ethnic cleansing" of thousands of Bosnian Muslims from areas under the control of Bosnian Serb forces, murder, extermination, rape and torture.

Prosecutors have recently narrowed down the range of charges and specific instances in an effort to speed up the process.

Frustration

Mr Karadzic spent years on the run. He was eventually tracked down in July 2008 - working in Belgrade as an alternative therapist and living under the assumed name of Dragan Dabic.

His disguise was no more than a long, flowing white beard and a sort of New Age ponytail topknot.

The beard and unkempt hair have gone and he is once again the familiar figure who led the Bosnian Serbs through the long years of war.

But just because Mr Karadzic is now on trial at the ICTY, that has not meant an end to the frustration felt by the families of those who died in the Bosnian war. They want to see justice done.

Mr Karadzic is meant to begin a two-day defence statement this week. But delays and prevarication, boycotts and legal challenges are the weapons being used by him.

He is in no hurry to see this legal process move forward.



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