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Radovan Karadzic Refuses to Answer to War Crimes Charges

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has appeared before the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal for the second time, and once again refused to plead to the charges against him. The judge entered a not guilty plea for him on all 11 counts, including genocide. Lauren Comiteau was in court and files this report for VOA from The Hague.

Calm and confident, even making jokes, Radovan Karadzic told Judge Iain Bonomy that, given his feelings about the court, he refuses to enter a plea.

"I'm deeply convinced this court is representing itself falsely as a court of the international community when it is in fact a court of NATO, whose aim is to liquidate me. It is therefore very hard for me to express my standpoint on anything before this is cleared up. I have stopped using a false name and I think all parties should do the same," he said.

When Karadzic was apprehended in the Serbian capital Belgrade in July, he had been living there openly under a new identity as a traditional healer named Dragan Dabic. He was transferred to The Hague to face charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, arising from his role in attacks on civilians during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of eight-thousand Muslim men and boys.

During Friday's court appearance, Karadzic refused to plead to the first count of genocide, so Judge Bonomy, bound by the rules of the court, took matters into his own hands.

Bonomy: "I shall therefore enter on your behalf a plea of not guilty. Is that the position you are going to take in relation to each of the other ten charges on the indictment."

Karadzic: "Absolutely."

Judge: "I shall therefore enter pleas of not guilty in respect of each of the other charges on the indictment. In other words, your plea is one of not guilty to the indictment as a whole. The registry will set a date for your trial in due course. Please be seated."

Karadzic: "May I hold you to your word?"

Judge: "Which word?

Karadzic: "That I'm not guilty."

Judge: "We shall see in due course, Mr. Karadzic."

Prosecutors say they will have a new indictment ready at the end of next month. This displeased Judge Bonomy, who told prosecutors they have had eight years to amend their last indictment.

Karadzic, who is representing himself, says he will have a legal team in place by then, and would answer to the new charges. All parties will be back in court next month.