Karadzic Defies Court, Refuses To Enter Plea
Saturday, August 30, 2008
LONDON, Aug. 29 -- Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic declined to enter a plea Friday in a courtroom in The Hague, refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the U.N. war crimes tribunal bringing genocide and other charges against him.
"This court is representing itself falsely as a court of the international community, whereas it is in fact a court of NATO, whose aim is to liquidate me," said Karadzic, who faces charges relating to the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica and other crimes during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.
Referring to the decade he spent in hiding before his arrest in Belgrade last month, during which time he grew a Santa Claus white beard and created a new life for himself as an alternative-health guru under an alias, he said, "I have stopped using a false name, so I think all parties should do the same."
Judge Iain Bonomy, facing Karadzic in scarlet robes, told Karadzic that Friday's hearing was not about the court's jurisdiction, but simply on how he planned to plead. Karadzic, 63, faces 11 charges, including genocide counts relating to the siege of Sarajevo, in which thousands of people were killed in shelling and sniper fire, and the Srebrenica massacre, the deadliest atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.
Bonomy asked Karadzic to stand, which he did, flanked by two security guards. The judge asked him how he would plead to the first genocide count.
"I will not plead, in line with my standpoint as regards this court," Karadzic said in Serbian, his words rendered in English by a court interpreter.
Bonomy asked if Karadzic planned to take the same position regarding all 11 counts.
"Absolutely," Karadzic said in English.
Bonomy entered not guilty pleas for Karadzic on all counts, as required by the procedures of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Karadzic's courtroom behavior was widely seen as further evidence that he intends to emulate the grandstanding of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who also acted as his own attorney before the tribunal. Milosevic repeatedly disrupted his war crimes trial and aired his political grievances in a trial that lasted from 2002 until Milosevic's death in custody in 2006.
Karadzic has argued in submissions to the court that the proceedings against him are illegal because he was offered immunity from prosecution by former U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke. Karadzic suggested that Holbrooke, who negotiated the Dayton peace agreement ending the Bosnian war, promised that Karadzic would not be sent to The Hague if he did not subvert the Dayton deal.
Holbrooke has denied any such arrangement, calling it "completely untrue" and "an old story by one of the worst mass murderers in the world."
Prosecutors told the court that even if such a deal existed, it would have no legal standing at the tribunal. Bonomy told Karadzic that the court was still reviewing his arguments. He set Sept. 17 for Karadzic's next appearance.
After entering pleas for Karadzic, Bonomy told the defendant he could be seated.
"May I hold you to your word?" Karadzic said as he sat.
"Which word?" Bonomy asked.
"That I am not guilty," Karadzic said, a grin spreading across his face.
"We shall see in due course, Mr. Karadzic," the judge said.