The war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan
Karadzic has again put the spotlight on the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Karadzic has appeared before the
court in the Hague twice since he was arrested in Belgrade last July. In this report from Washington, Senior Correspondent André de Nesnera
says experts believe the court's credibility is at stake in this
Radovan Karadzic faces 11 counts of
genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes stemming from the
1992-95 war in Bosnia. He and Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko
Mladic, who is still at large, are accused of ordering what is
considered to be the worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World
War: the massacre of an estimated 8,000 Muslim men and boys in
the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.
before the court late last month, Karadzic refused to plead to the
charges against him. The presiding judge Iain Bonomy entered a not
guilty plea for him on all 11 counts. The court then adjourned and is
expected to resume its proceedings against Karadzic later this month.
highest profile case to date was that of former Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic, also accused of genocide. Milosevic died in
detention in March 2006, just months before a verdict was due.
Radovan Karadzic has decided he does not need a lawyer and will represent himself.
such as Paul Williams, former legal adviser to the Bosnian government,
say that was a tactic used by Slobodan Milosevic.
look at the tribunal as a legal mechanism, President Milosevic and
Radovan Karadzic look at it as a political platform," he said.
"Karadzic has no desire to receive a fair trial, or to have his day in
court. He sees that this is his last show."
"And he wants to
use the tribunal as a political platform to make his case for his
innocence. And I don't mean legal innocence here, I think he believes
that he'll be found guilty and sent to prison. He also wants to 'tell
his story'. Karadzic sees that he will have a year or so before the
tribunal to 'tell his story'. He's been hiding for the last 12 years
and now is his chance to say his peace, to say his story," he added.
say Karadzic must not be allowed to make a mockery of the trial -
something Milosevic was able to do very effectively.
Williams and others say Karadzic's trial will be crucial for the
credibility of the international court. "The tribunal has a very mixed
record. Justice Goldstone [Richard Goldstone: chief prosecutor from
1994-96] was phenomenal in that he came out very early and very
aggressively and indicted Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic," he said.
then there was a change of regime at the tribunal. Goldstone left and
new prosecutors came in and the tribunal became timid and tardy," he said. "It was
slow to indict Milosevic, it was slow to exercise its jurisdiction in
Kosovo and by many accounts was a failure. It then failed in the
Milosevic trial. Now is the time for the tribunal to re-establish its
credibility by having an effective and a fair prosecution of Karadzic
and to re-establish its role in the peace process."
such as Charles Kupchan with the Council on Foreign Relations, say
bringing to justice indicted war criminals such as Radovan Karadzic, is
the first step in the process of reconciliation and healing among the
various ethnic groups in the region.
"If you take a somewhat
longer time horizon and you say what kind of events are important to
communal healing, to collective healing, these apprehensions, these
trials, these prosecutions do play an important role even on a personal
basis, because there is a sense that justice is being served, there is
a sense that those responsible for crimes against humanity are being
held accountable," he said.
Kupchan and other experts say the
Karadzic trial also sends a powerful message to other leaders indicted
for alleged war crimes, that it may take time, but ultimately they will
be arrested and face justice for their crimes.