THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared in court on Tuesday for the first time since his trial for genocide started but said he would take no further part unless he had more time to prepare his defence.
Karadzic, acting as his own attorney, boycotted the start of proceedings last week before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where he faces 11 war crimes charges, including two of genocide during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
Karadzic, who has denied all charges, was the leader of the Serb Republic that sought to carve its own state from Bosnia during the break up of Yugoslavia in Europe’s worst conflict since World War Two.
He said he needs 10 more months to prepare, arguing he has been “snowed under” by 1.3 million pages of documents.
“I don’t want to boycott these proceedings but I cannot take part in something that has been bad from the start,” Karadzic said when asked by Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon if he would continue his boycott.
The three-judge panel adjourned and said it would decide later this week on how to proceed. Planned prosecution witness testimony on Wednesday was cancelled pending the decision.
Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff said options included appointing a standby counsel who could step in if Karadzic refused to participate, or stripping him of his right to represent himself. Imposing counsel could delay proceedings by a few months but that would be a “reasonable price” to pay to end his obstruction of the trial, the prosecutor added.
“If necessary, force can be used to secure his presence in the courtroom,” Uertz-Retzlaff said.
Karadzic’s legal adviser Marko Sladojevic said prosecutors were being “unreasonable.”
“Give us more time, and we will be ready and we will put up a proper defence which is a condition for a fair trial,” Sladojevic said. “They will probably either impose counsel or a standby counsel, in which case Karadzic will refuse to cooperate with this person and the crisis will be even bigger.”
Prosecutors said in opening statements that Karadzic orchestrated one of “humanity’s darkest chapters” and is responsible for the killings of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the village of Srebrenica in July 1995.
The charges also relate to the 43-month siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb forces which began in 1992. An estimated 10,000 people were killed in the siege as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart in fighting between Serbs, Croats and Muslims.
Karadzic was the Bosnian Serb supreme commander pursing a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” during the war, prosecutors say.
On Tuesday, war crimes researchers in Bosnia unveiled an ‘atlas of war crimes’ maps website at www.idc.org.ba, saying it should help people better understand the past. The site allows readers to find sites of mass executions and mass graves across Bosnia, along with the names of the victims, as well as available court documentation.
A psychiatrist before becoming president of the self-proclaimed Republica Srpska, Karadzic stepped down from power in 1996 and went into hiding until he was captured in July 2008, bearded and disguised as an alternative healer in Belgrade.
Appearing in court, Karadzic, 64, was clean-shaven and his shock of tousled white hair looked as it did when he was a familiar face in media across the globe during the war. He spoke in Serb, with his comments translated by a court interpreter.
“I don’t need a new lawyer. I just need time,” Karadzic said, adding that preparing a “valid” defence would normally take a trial lawyer up to two years.
Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block and Yvonne Bell, writing by Ben Berkowitz; editing by Angus MacSwan