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Karadzic trial set to open

THE HAGUE, Oct 26 – The long-awaited genocide trial of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic is set to open in The Hague on Monday amid much uncertainty as to the impact of his intended boycott.

Judges O-Gon Kwon of South Korea, Howard Morrison of Britain and Melville Baird of Trinidad and Tobago are scheduled to start the proceedings in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at 9:00 am (0800 GMT) — 14 years after the end of the Bosnian war.

But 64-year-old Karadzic, who is conducting his own defence, announced last Wednesday that he would boycott the opening as he had not been given enough time to prepare for the case, set to continue until 2012.

Karadzic is charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war that claimed about 100,000 lives and forced some 2.2 million people from their homes.

He denies all the charges, and faces life in jail.

The prosecution alleges that Karadzic bears responsibility for a joint criminal enterprise to "permanently remove" Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territories in Bosnia Hercegovina.

Charges against him include the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995 — the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

He is also charged for the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.

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The judges will have to decide Monday whether to continue the trial in Karadzic’s absence, bring him to court by force, impose a defence lawyer on him, or give in to his demand for more time.

Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July last year, posing as a bearded alternative healer, after 13 years on the run.

He is the most high-profile suspect to enter the dock of the tribunal since his erstwhile ally Slobodan Milosevic, who died in March 2006 mid-way through his own genocide trial.

Karadzic’s former right-hand man, Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, is still on the run.

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