Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared at the UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal for the first time yesterday to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Shorn of the long white hair and bushy beard that disguised him as a new age guru during at least part of his 13 years as a fugitive, Karadzic wore a dark suit and tie for the hearing to enter pleas in the 11 counts against him.
He told the court he would represent himself in the case.
“I have an invisible adviser but I have decided to represent myself,” he calmly told presiding judge Alphons Orie.
Karadzic listened intently as Orie read a summary of the indictment in which prosecutors allege Karadzic masterminded atrocities, including the Srebrenica massacre and siege of Sarajevo during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.
Karadzic then identified himself by stating his name, date and place of birth. He also gave his most recent address as his family home in Pale, Bosnia, but also gave the address of the apartment in Belgrade where he was living under an assumed name before his address.
When Orie asked if his family knew where he was being held, Karadzic replied, “I do not believe there is anyone who does not know that I am in the detention unit.”
He appeared gaunt as he sat alone, with a guard on either side of him. He occasionally wiped his brow and spoke in Serbian.
Karadzic faces two charges of genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
Offered a chance to have the indictment read to him, Karadzic said: “I am not interested in having someone else read me the indictment.”
He said he wanted to see the new indictment prosecutors are preparing and asked to study it before entering a plea.
He appeared at the court after spending his first night in a cell at the UN war crimes tribunal detention center in The Hague. He was flown to the Netherlands on Wednesday morning.
The behavior of Karadzic — a flamboyant figure when Bosnian Serb leader — will offer an indication as to how he will conduct himself during his eventual trial, and whether judges can expect a repeat of the forceful display by the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic in the same courtroom.
Milosevic died in detention in 2006 before his trial ended.
Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said he would conduct the trial efficiently, learning from the Milosevic case, adding: “Of course it will take some months before the prosecution and defense will be ready to start.