THE HAGUE, Nov 3 – Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic made his first court appearance Tuesday since the start of his genocide trial more than a week ago, insisting on a further delay.
Wearing a black suit, pink shirt and red tie, Karadzic took his place in the accused dock of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for a procedural hearing to consider options for continuing the trial in the face of his defiance.
He boycotted the opening of the trial last week, claiming he needs more time to prepare his defence, which he is conducting himself.
"I would really be a criminal if I would accept" to stand trial without being adequately prepared, he told the judges Tuesday.
"It is not in the interests of the trial chamber, of the UN — it can’t be in their interests for this trial not to be conducted properly," he said.
Karadzic has refused to leave his jail cell since the trial started on October 26, saying he needs more time to review more than a million pages of prosecution evidence and the statements of hundreds of witnesses.
He is charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war that claimed some 100,000 lives and caused 2.2 million people to flee their homes.
Judge O-Gon Kwon noted on Tuesday Karadzic’s "continued voluntary absence despite repeated requests" to change his position.
"Mr Karadzic cannot be permitted to manipulate the proceedings through his decision not to attend," said prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff.
In a letter to the court on Sunday, Karadzic announced his intention to be present for Tuesday’s procedural hearing, saying: "I hope we will be able to find a solution which will lead not only to an expeditious trial, but a fair one."
In September, Karadzic had asked the court for an additional 10 months’ preparation time, which was denied.
Kwon warned on Monday that should Karadzic maintain his position not to attend the trial "we may proceed in his absence and assign counsel to represent him."
Imposing a lawyer on Karadzic, a step he has vowed to fight, could cause a delay of several months, to give his new legal representative time to acquaint himself with the case.
Karadzic, who denies all the charges against him, could be jailed for life if convicted.
He was arrested on a Belgrade bus last July after 13 years on the run.
Prosecutor Alan Tieger has branded him "the "supreme commander" of an ethnic cleansing campaign of Croats and Muslims during the Bosnian war.
On Monday, Tieger accused Karadzic of having sanctioned "one of humanity’s dark chapters" — the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at the UN-protected Srebrenica enclave in July 1995.
He also stands charged for the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which ended in November 1995 after some 10,000 people, many of them civilians, were killed.
According to the charge sheet, Karadzic participated in a "joint criminal enterprise to permanently remove Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat inhabitants from the territories of Bosnia Hercegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory."
He is alleged to have worked with Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic in pursuit of a "Greater Serbia" which was to include 60 percent of the territory of Bosnia.
Milosevic died midway through his own genocide trial in March 2006, while Karadzic’s former military general, Ratko Mladic, is still on the run.