20 Feb 2009

Karadzic in court – but why the delay?

ICTYWell, the silver-quiffed Mr Karadzic did indeed appear as scheduled in Courtroom No 1 today – and here’s the evidence.

But it’s questions over evidence of the legal variety that have messed up proceedings today: the former Bosnian Serb wartime leader wasn’t given the chance to plead because of what the prosecution admitted was “a clerical mistake” on their part.

Even though they’d twice amended and streamlined the original charge sheet, the prosecution wanted to add another murder charge. It concerns what they refer to as “an important scheduled killing.” The prosecution appears convinced that failure to include this charge would result in “injustice”.

The incident in question took place at a notorious Bosnian Serb prison camp in a converted ceramics factory at Susica in Eastern Bosnia. The camp commander was sentenced six years ago to 23 years for brutal mass-rapes, torture and murder.

On 13 September 1992, 140 detainees at Susica were crammed into a small room and machine-gunned to death.

“This mass killing”, the prosecution said today, “was carried out hours after the accused delivered a speech at a funeral in Vlasenica before an ‘embittered’ and ‘emotional’ crowd”. Their implication is that Karadzic whipped up the crowd and incited the killing.

The trouble is, the judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had already refused to grant the amendment to include this extra charge.  The reason, they said, was that it was “not adequately supported by evidence.”

The prosecution, which I tried unsuccessfully to reach for comment on this today, suddenly realised that they had “inadvertently” presented the judges with, um, the wrong document. Today, they attached the correct document, confidential testimony attached to this application to the judge to reconsider

Oops. The accused, Mr Radovan Karadzic, has been given until Wednesday to respond to this new document and only after that will the judges meet to reconsider.

So why is the prosecution so insistent on adding this incident to the charge sheet when there are already other murder charges included in the indictment?

I suspect it’s because they feel that in all conscience they cannot leave off the long list of crimes of which Karadzic is accused the alleged execution of 140 Bosnian Muslims in one day – which the prosecution claims he provoked. 

Seventeen years on, there remain many thousands of Bosnians still seeking justice – so they can lay the past to rest. Ask the mothers or fathers or children of those killed at Susica whether they’d be happy to have that murder charge dropped in the interests of accelerating conviction. I suspect not.

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