The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Friday accused the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague of being a “NATO court” bent on killing him.
Appearing on 11 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Karadzic challenged the legitimacy of the court, refused to enter any pleas and insisted on defending himself.
The strategy outlined on Friday indicated that the 63 year-old, arrested in Belgrade last month after 13 years as Europe’s most wanted fugitive, intends to use the tribunal as a stage on which to present himself as a victim of alleged Western treachery.
Karadzic is charged with responsibility for the most horrendous crimes in Europe since the Nazis, including the Serbian slaughter of almost 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in July 1995, the long siege of Sarajevo and the “ethnic cleansing” of northwestern Bosnia in the autumn of 1992, when tens of thousands of non-Serbs were killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.
At Karadzic’s second pre-trial hearing yesterday, Judge Iain Bonomy, the Scottish high court judge who presided over the trial of the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, ordered the defendant to stand, hear the charges and enter a plea.
“Count One, you are charged with genocide,” the judge said.
“I will not plead in line with my standpoint towards this court,” Karadzic replied, appearing more confident than when first brought before the tribunal at the end of last month.
When the judge ordered a plea of not guilty to be entered, Karadzic interrupted him.
“May I hold you to your word?” he asked.
“What word?” the judge asked.
“That I’m not guilty,” Karadzic said.
“We will see,” said Bonomy, who was again interrupted by the Karadzic when he sought to adjourn the hearing after 22 minutes.
Karadzic said he would be assembling a team of “associates and helpers” to assist him in conducting his own defense, a strategy that is certain to create delays in the smooth running of the case.
Some of the most prominent Serb defendants, including Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj, an extreme nationalist leader, have adopted the same tactics.
Since being extradited to The Hague, Karadzic has delivered 10 written submissions complaining about various aspects of the proceedings and claiming that former officials from the Clinton administration in the 1990s want him dead.
Karadzic was the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992 to 1995 Bosnia war. He headed the main Serbian party in Bosnia and was president of the self-proclaimed Serbian republic in half of Bosnia, and was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity in 1995.
“I have stopped using a false name. I think all parties should do the same,” he told the judge, claiming that the tribunal was operating under false pretenses.