Radovan Karadzic tells UN court 'US tried to kill me'

Radovan Karadzic has accused the US of trying to kill him as he appeared before a UN court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. ( Telegraph )

The former Bosnian Serb leader, who was appearing at a UN tribunal at the Hague for the first time, claimed that the former United States Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke had granted him immunity from war crimes on the condition of his withdrawal from public life as part of a wider Bosnia peace deal agreed in 1995.

But he then went on to accuse Mr Holbrooke of trying to kill him as part of a conspiracy to silence any revelations he might make during the trial.

"It is a matter of life and death. Mr Holbrooke wants my death and regrets there is no death sentence here. I wonder if his arm is long enough to reach here."

Karadzic, who has shaved off the beard, the long hair and faith healer persona that hid his identity during over a decade on the run, asked to read out a four page document protesting at his treatment.

"You were misinformed about the date of my arrest," he said. "There were numerous irregularities concerning my relation to this institution and my appearance here."

The request by UN Prisoner 38, who appeared gaunt and tired, was refused by Dutch UN Judge Alphons Orie, who gave Karadzic two minutes in Court Number One to make his case.

Thin but self-assured, Karadzic began by quietly answering "Da" to questions concerning his knowledge of his legal rights and decision to conduct his own defence.

"I have an invisible adviser but I have decided to represent myself," he said.

He then sat stony faced and occasionally sneering the judge read out a chilling list of atrocities contained in a lengthy 25 page indictment of war crimes.

Then, amid some confusion over prosecution plans to revise the charges, Karadzic announced that he would not enter any guilty or not guilty pleas until a final indictment was issued against him.

He accused the UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz of trying to rush the case and to push for speedy conviction. The next hearing has been scheduled on Aug 29.

During the one hour and ten minute hearing, Karadzic, for the first time to his face, the chilling list of atrocities he is charged with committing during the bitter 1992-95 war in Bosnia when 100,000 people were killed.

UN prosecutors have indicted Karadzic on 11 counts of offences including: genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, extermination, violation of the customs of war, murder and the taking of hostages.

The accusations of genocide will focus on Karadzic's key role in the Bosnian Serb leadership which orchestrated the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 mainly Muslim Bosniaks and the "death or forced departure" of non-Serbs from over 40 Bosnian towns.

"The acts and omissions charged as genocide were intended to destroy in whole, or in part, the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat groups," said Judge Orie.

"You knew or had reasons that Bosnian Serb forces under you committed these crimes."

There are also serious war crimes charges relating to the shelling of Sarajevo, where 12,000 civilians were killed during the 44-month siege and the taking of UN peacekeepers hostage.

"It is alleged that many thousands of civilians were killed including children and elderly," said Judge Orie.

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