More than 14 years after being charged with war crimes, Radovan Karadzic is expected to stand trial on Monday in The Hague. The former Bosnian Serb leader faces 11 counts of war crimes, including genocide, for leading the Bosnian war that is estimated to have left more than 100,000 people dead during the early-to-mid-1990s and saw Europe's only genocide since the Holocaust.
Radovan Karadzic says he will not attend the opening day of his trial because he needs more time to prepare his defense. Karadzic has chosen to represent himself and claims to have about one million pages of evidence to sort through.
But that is not expected to stop prosecutors from outlining their most important case since former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. He died in custody here three years ago before a verdict could be reached.
The Tribunal's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz said that after 15 months in custody and with a team of legal advisors to help him, Karadzic should be ready for trial. "If you have time to prepare more than 250 motions [in your defense], you also have time to read the quite voluminous dossier. So we think that the rights of the defendant have been respected," he said.
The 64-year-old former politician, psychiatrist, poet and new age guru is charged with two counts of genocide - one for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the other for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats from parts of Bosnia. Karadzic is also charged with persecution, extermination and murder as well as taking U.N. peacekeepers hostage and the 44-month long siege of Sarajevo. Prosecutors say thousands were killed and wounded during the siege.
Amsterdam-based filmmaker Lydia Zelovic left Sarajevo in 1992, shortly after the first shots were fired. "I think it's brilliant; it's brilliant he's on trial. And it is absolutely timely. It's is such an unsettled situation in Bosnia at the moment that you need something to settle it down. And if Karadzic's trial is going to do that, let's do it as soon as possible," she said.
Karadzic says he is innocent. He is seeking evidence from several nations to prove he was defending his own country. He says he even made a deal with U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke after the war which granted him immunity from prosecution if he left public life. Holbrooke says there was never such an agreement. Tribunal judges have ruled that even if there were such a deal, it would have no bearing on the Karadzic's trial.
Prosecutor Brammertz says Karadzic's lack of cooperation with the court will make the case more difficult. But he said his team will remain focused. "It's not about arms trafficking; it's not about numbers. It's about a plan and the execution of a plan to have tens-of-thousands of people removed from an areas by killing them, by putting them in camps, by rapes. This is the essence of this case. We will try to remind all the time that this is the issue, this is the topic. And we want the victims to be at the center of the presentation of this case," he said.
Dozens of those victims have traveled from Bosnia to attend the trial's opening. But one of the men they hold responsible for their suffering remains at large -- Karadzic's military leader, General Ratko Mladic. But as a group of Srebrenica survivors told journalists, they are here to show the world that they are searching for truth and are awaiting justice. They say they hope that process gains new momentum on Monday.