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Karadzic to be asked to plead to genocide, war crimes

world Updated: Mar 02, 2009 09:26 IST
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Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic will be asked to plead on Tuesday to a new version of the indictment he faces, including for genocide, before the UN's Yugoslav war crimes court.

Judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have approved the prosecution's third, amended indictment and scheduled an appearance for Tuesday "so that he may have the opportunity to enter a plea", according to a decision published last week.

Karadzic, arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008, 13 years after he was first indicted by the ICTY, faces two counts of genocide and nine of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

The main allegations against the 63-year-old relate to the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 dead, and the July 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

The initial indictment had listed only one count of genocide among the 11 charges.

The prosecution indicated shortly after Karadzic's arrest that it would amend and update the indictment.

Karadzic refused to plead to the indictment last year, saying he would await the filing of the final document. This resulted in an automatic not-guilty plea being entered on his behalf.

In a new document, filed last month, two counts were removed from the initial charge sheet -- those of complicity to genocide and breaches of the Geneva Convention.

Two genocide charges were listed, relating to "the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1992 and the second to the July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica."

It also charged Karadzic with criminal conduct in relation to 27 municipalities instead of the initial 41.

The indictment then required a final amendment to correct the erroneous omission of a number of killings, including the deaths of 140 detainees at Susica camp in September 1992.

This version was approved by the judges last week.

Among other things, the prosecution has charged Karadzic with having sought to "permanently remove" Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territory, and to "eliminate" Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.

He also stands accused of spreading terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo through a sniping and shelling campaign from April 1992 to November 1995, and of taking hostage UN personnel to prevent air strikes against Bosnian Serb military targets.

Genocide is considered the gravest of crimes under international law, but also the most difficult to prove because of the requirement to show intent.

The ICTY has so far handed down one genocide-related conviction, when it found former Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic guilty in April 2004 of aiding and abetting genocide.

Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic had also been accused of genocide before the ICTY, but died in his cell in March 2006 before judgment could be passed.