The judge at Radovan Karadzic’s genocide trial has accused the former Bosnian Serb leader of obstructing the court process, after he boycotted the first day of hearings.
Karadzic, leader during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war which left at least 100,000 dead, refused to attend court in the Hague, saying he needed more time to prepare.
Neither Karadzic nor any of his legal advisers were present at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) when judge O-Gon Kwon started the hearing which lasted less than 15 minutes.
Noting the absence of the defendant, Kwon adjourned the hearing until Tuesday and issued an appeal, to “again encourage Mr Karadzic to attend the proceedings.”
But he also fired an early warning at Karadzic, who was detained in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
“There are measures that can be taken should he continue to obstruct the progress of the trial,” said the judge, including imposing a defence lawyer on the accused or proceeding in his absence.
Boycott ‘set to continue’
But after meeting Karadzic in his jail cell, his lawyer Marco Sladojevic said he would also shun the court on Tuesday.
“He says that he will not appear tomorrow,” said Sladojevic.
Earlier, Sladojevic had warned that the former leader of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic was unlikely to change his mind.
“I don’t think he can read a million pages in one night,” the lawyer said, echoing Karadzic’s argument that he needed more time to study prosecution evidence and hundreds of witness statements.
Sladojevic also stressed that Karadzic “will never accept any imposed counsel” as demanded by prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff, who argued it was the only way to stop Karadzic’s efforts to “frustrate the proceedings”.
Survivors of the Bosnian war reacted angrily to Monday’s adjournment.
Survivors’ fury at delays
“It feels like they are being killed all over again,” said 62-year-old Munira Subasic, who lost loved ones in the July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica.
Another woman exclaimed after the postponement: “We travelled 2,000 kilometres to be here and waited 15 years and now the trial is delayed!”
The hearing is set to continue at 14.15pm on Tuesday (0015 AEDT, Wednesday) for co-prosecutor Alan Tieger to make his opening statement.
Kwon did not specify whether Tuesday’s session would go ahead in Karadzic’s absence.
Karadzic, 64, faces 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Bosnian war. He denies all charges but risks a life jail sentence if found guilty.
Genocide, war crimes charges
He stands accused of having “participated in an overarching joint criminal enterprise to permanently remove Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat inhabitants from the territories of Bosnia Hercegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory,” according to the charge sheet.
Key among the charges is the Srebrenica massacre, whose victims’ remains are still being dug up from mass graves, and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.
The indictment also lists the killings of hundreds of civilians on Bosnian roads, in their homes and in detention camps in more than a dozen other municipalities.
Karadzic is accused of having committed these crimes in his pursuit of a “Greater Serbia” which was to include 60 per cent of the territory of Bosnia.
He is alleged to have worked with Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who died midway through his own UN genocide trial in March 2006.
Karadzic’s former righ-hand man, Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, is still on the run.