Genocide trial begins; Karadzic fails to show

Despite warning, boycotts a 2d day

REPRESENTING HIMSELF Radovan Karadzic faces 11 war crimes charges. He has refused to enter any pleas, but insists that he is innocent. REPRESENTING HIMSELF
Radovan Karadzic faces 11 war crimes charges. He has refused to enter any pleas, but insists that he is innocent.
By Mike Corder
Associated Press / October 28, 2009

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Radovan Karadzic’s words urging the destruction of Bosnia’s non-Serbs rang out in a courtroom yesterday from speeches and intercepted phone calls as United Nations prosecutors opened their genocide and war crimes case against him.

The former Bosnian Serb leader boycotted his trial for the second day, despite warnings from the war crimes tribunal’s presiding judge that he could be stripped of his right to defend himself. The trial promises to be the judicial climax of the Balkan wars of the early 1990s that left more than 100,000 people dead, most of them victims of Bosnian Serb attacks.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Alan Tieger called Karadzic the “undisputed leader’’ and “supreme commander’’ of the Serbs responsible for atrocities throughout Bosnia’s brutal four-year war.

Karadzic “harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred, and fear to pursue his vision of an ethnically segregated Bosnia,’’ Tieger said.

Prosecutors allege Karadzic was the driving force behind atrocities beginning with the ethnic cleansing of towns and villages to create an ethnically pure Serb state in 1992 and culminating in Europe’s worst massacre since World War II: the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces.

Karadzic, who has submitted more than 250 motions to the court since he decided to represent himself, claims he has not had enough time to prepare for his defense, even though he was arrested more than 15 months ago and first indicted in 1995.

Judge O-Gon Kwon said he will consider imposing a lawyer to represent Karadzic if he continues to boycott proceedings.

Karadzic faces 11 charges - two genocide counts and nine other war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has refused to enter any pleas, but insists he is innocent.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Tieger played video of a notorious Karadzic speech before war broke out in which the Bosnian Serb leader predicted that Muslims would disappear from Bosnia.

“By the disappearance of the Muslim people, Karadzic meant that they would be physically annihilated,’’ Tieger said.

He showed judges footage of skeletal Muslim prisoners behind the wire fence of a Serb-run detention camp and read from transcripts of intercepted phone conversations. He quoted Karadzic as saying that Serb forces would turn the ethnically mixed Bosnian capital of Sarajevo into “a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die.’’