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UN delays Karadzic war crimes trial

The trial of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic has been delayed, as judges of a UN court partly upheld his appeal against the October 21 starting date.


“The appeals chamber orders the trial chamber to delay the commencement of the trial,” said a ruling of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The appeals judges asked the trial chamber to start the trial one week after the prosecution files an updated version of the indictment, which it has been ordered to do by October 19.

“The amount of time provided to Karadzic for reviewing the marked-up indictment is exceedingly short and risks rendering the trial unfair,” said the ruling. It rejected all other aspects of the appeal in which Karadzic had asked for extra months to prepare his defence.

The trial chamber will announce a new start date for Karadzic’s trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He stands accused of 11 charges for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, notably for the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead and the July 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the village of Srebrenica.

Karadzic filed an application in September for the start of his trial to be postponed by 10 months, but this was denied.

He says he needs more time to work through a million pages of prosecution documents and interview more than 300 witnesses. He will be presenting his own case in court, with the help of a team of legal advisers.

The tribunal has ordered prosecutors to try and further reduce the charge sheet against him in a bid to speed things up.

Prosecutors initially intended to call 500 witnesses, requiring 490 hours, but have already cut the number of municipalities in which crimes are alleged from 41 to 27, and total court hours needed to 300.

The bitter inter-ethnic war against Bosnia’s Muslim-led government cost an estimated 100,000 lives.

Karadzic is said to have orchestrated the “ethnic cleansing” in which more than a million non-Serbs were driven from their villages where they had lived for generations.

The expulsions were accompanied, according to international observers, by widespread killings and up to 20,000 rapes in a calculated programme of terror that left the international community both shocked and impotent to respond.

He was a close ally of late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, and the pair cooperated militarily and politically to confuse the Serbs’ enemies, not just on the battlefields but also in the halls of diplomacy.

For many Serbs he remains a hero who stood up to age-old enemies and great powers and carved out a separate Serb homeland.

Karadzic was arrested last July after 13 years on the run in Belgrade, where he had been living a second life as a bearded alternative medicine practitioner.

His trial is expected to run until 2012.

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