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Karadzic boycott throws war trial start into doubt
Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:11am EDT
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By Aaron Gray-Block and Harro ten Wolde
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal judges tried on Thursday to wrest back control over the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, saying the case will start as planned despite Karadzic's threat to boycott it.
Charged with 11 counts, including genocide, over the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Karadzic on Wednesday filed a submission informing the tribunal in The Hague that he would not appear in court for the scheduled start of his trial next Monday.
"This process is not ready to start, simply because the defense was not granted sufficient time and resources to prepare," Karadzic said in a letter to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
But the tribunal said the trial -- the biggest it has handled since the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic -- would go ahead as planned.
Spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said the case was scheduled to start at 0900 CET (0700 GMT) on Monday and judges had reiterated that schedule on Thursday. This sets up the possibility of the case starting without Karadzic in attendance.
"The control of court proceedings is entirely in the hands of the tribunal's judges," Jelacic said in an earlier statement.
Karadzic has consistently argued he is being given insufficient time to prepare for the case and last week tried unsuccessfully to have the trial delayed for 10 months.
Alexander Knoops, international criminal law professor at Utrecht University, said the court now had several options to deal with the looming boycott, including delaying the case or appointing counsel to represent Karadzic.
A decision could also be made on Monday to suspend the case if Karadzic fails to appear, he added.
"But it is not to be excluded that the court -- facing this dilemma -- has no other alternative but to seek a compromise ... and maybe they have to propose a one- or two-month delay," said Knoops, who also serves as defense counsel at the ICTY.
JUDGES TO DECIDE
There are no specific rules in ICTY statutes to deal with such situations. In April 2008, Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic refused to attend his trial, citing health concerns, and the appeals chamber in May of that year adjourned the case for a minimum of three months.
However, in October this year the tribunal ordered the trial to proceed in his absence, ruling that the defense counsel had not shown the accused was too unwell to attend the hearings.
Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said on Tuesday that Karadzic, who has filed almost 270 motions over various issues since his transfer to the tribunal's detention center, had had 15 months to prepare and his rights had been respected.
"It will be up to the judges to decide what to do, but as indicated earlier the prosecution is ready to proceed with the trial and it will take place. If it is not on Monday it will be at a later date," prosecution spokeswoman Olga Kavran said. Continued...
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