Karadzic to appear at Hague tribunal for plea hearing

Other News Materials 28 August 2008 00:06 (UTC +04:00)

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic faces the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for the second time on Friday, where he will be asked to enter a plea for charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Karadzic, 63, was caught last month in Belgrade after more than a decade on the run and living in disguise.

If he refuses to enter a plea, as he did in his first hearing, a not guilty plea will be entered on his behalf to the rules of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

He has already made clear his intent to represent himself and has been busy filing numerous motions over the past month contesting the appointment of judges, demanding former U.S. peace mediator Richard Holbrooke and ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appear at the tribunal, and challenging the legality of the case against him.

Arrested in Belgrade with a flowing beard and long hair that disguised him while he worked as an alternative healer, Karadzic faces 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including two of genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.

At his first pre-trial hearing a month ago after being transferred to the Hague, Karadzic argued that under a secret deal forged more than a decade ago Holbrooke offered him immunity from prosecution if he disappeared after the war.

Having earlier said Holbrooke wanted him dead, Karadzic wrote in a submission to the court last week the looming legal proceedings amounted to a "judicial liquidation" as there was no chance of a fair trial.

"The presumption of innocence has been derogated and reduced to a joke, while my rights have been irrevocably prejudiced," the former Bosnia Serb leader wrote.

Karadzic's filings show that he may be seeking to delay the start of the trial, expected next year, similar to attempts by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic after he was brought to the Hague in 2001 to face charges, said Andre de Hoogh, an international law lecturer at Groningen University.

"He will initially try the same tactics that Milosevic and Seselj tried to swamp the tribunal with motions to delay the start of the trial," De Hoogh said, referring to Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj.

Karadzic argues that his trial is illegal because he was offered immunity by Holbrook, who represented the United States during peace talks.

Holbrooke has repeatedly denied Karadzic's claims.

Experts say U.N. prosecutors and judges are likely to seek a speedy trial to avoid a lengthy proceeding like the Milosevic trial that lasted four years and had nearly 300 witnesses before the former Yugoslav leader died in jail in 2006 before the trial could end, Reuters reported.