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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Karadzic appears at UN court, says fears for life

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appears before a UN war crimes judge for the first time to answer genocide charges.

world Updated: Aug 01, 2008 08:25 IST


Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared before a UN war crimes judge for the first time on Thursday to answer genocide charges and said he had been kidnapped and feared for his life.

Karadzic, arrested last week after 11 years on the run, wore a dark suit and tie. He appeared gaunt, his shock of hair whiter and shorter than when he was last seen in public out of disguise more than a decade ago.

Sitting in the seat once occupied by former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, 63-year-old Karadzic began in composed mood, giving one-word answers and occasionally cracking a joke.

Asked whether his family knew of his whereabouts Karadzic said: "I do not believe there is anyone who doesn't know that I am in detention."

He became animated and defiant during proceedings that lasted just over an hour, forcing Judge Alphons Orie to interrupt him, indicating he may put up a forceful display in his trial.

Karadzic faces two charges of genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

He is also charged with the persecution and deportation of thousands of non-Serbs, in a wave of ethnic cleansing, and setting up camps where, according to the indictment, "detainees subsisted in an atmosphere of constant terror."

Karadzic, who spoke in Serbian, said he would enter a plea after studying the charges and a revised indictment prosecutors are preparing. The case is due to resume on August 29.

The leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnia war is the most prominent Balkan war crimes suspect arrested since Milosevic, who died in detention in 2006 while on trial.

Like Milosevic, he said he wanted to handle his own defense rather than use a lawyer, a move that could extend the trial.

Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz pledged on Wednesday the proceedings would be efficient, and Karadzic said that comment worried him. "Speed matters in a showdown between gunslingers but it is out of place in a court," he said.