War

Karadzic in court as tribunal waits for Mladic

AP News
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Posted: May 31, 2011 8:07 AM
Karadzic in court as tribunal waits for Mladic

The genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic resumed Tuesday after a two-month break as the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal prepared for the arrival of his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic.

Karadzic made no mention of Mladic during his trial Tuesday morning. The two worked hand in glove for much of the war, though their relationship reportedly soured late in the conflict.

As Karadzic sat in the United Nations court in The Hague, a Serbian court in Belgrade rejected an appeal from Mladic's lawyer against the 69-year-old former general's extradition to the tribunal in The Hague, clearing the way for Mladic to be flown to The Hague.

"We are ready to take him whenever he will come," tribunal spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said.

Karadzic and Mladic were indicted together in 1995 as the chief architects of Serb atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War. They both went on the run after their indictments. Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008 and Mladic evaded attempts to arrest him for another three years until he was detained last Thursday.

Both face charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims, the siege of Sarajevo and brutal ethnic cleansing purges early in the war that left some 100,000 dead and forced 1.8 million from their homes. They face maximum sentences of life imprisonment if convicted.

Prosecutor Serge Brammertz has said that ideally he would like to try the two men together, but he has not yet decided if he will apply to judges to combine the cases.

Putting Karadzic and Mladic on trial in the same courtroom would reunite the political and military leaders of the brutal Serb wartime campaigns against Croats and Muslims in Bosnia.

However, it also would further postpone Karadzic's case. Once Mladic arrives in The Hague he will need months to prepare his defense before his trial can start.

Karadzic's trial already has been beset by delays since it began in October 2009.

Judges have repeatedly ordered adjournments to let him review thousands of pages of evidence disclosed to him by prosecutors. Karadzic is defending himself in court and frequently complains about prosecutors handing over evidence late.

But he also has bogged down his trial with lengthy cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. On Tuesday, he closely questioned Radomir Kezunovic, a former municipal official in Sarajevo, about the make up of local government in the lead-up to the Bosnian war.

The minute detail of municipal workings "may not be an area of evidence that is going to be very useful," Judge Howard Morrison said.

Judges have warned that Karadzic's trial could drag on until 2014 _ two years longer than expected _ if it does not speed up.

Shortly after Mladic's arrival at the court's detention unit in a separate wing of a Hague jail, he will undergo a checkup at the unit's medical facility and be shown to the 15-square-meter (yard) cell that will become his home until the end of his trial.

His lawyer attempted to block Mladic's extradition by saying his health has declined so badly that he may not live to see the start of his trial.

Attorney Milos Saljic claimed Mladic is not mentally and physically fit to stand trial. The former Bosnian Serb military chief is said to have suffered at least two strokes during his 16 years as a fugitive from international justice.

The tribunal says the medical regime in the detention wing is so good that many suspects get healthier while they are in custody. However, the court's highest profile prisoner, former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006.

The one-man cells have a single, barred window, a bed, desk, toilet, sink, television and intercom allowing inmates to speak to guards while the cell is locked.

Each wing of the unit has a communal area where detainees can meet, play games like chess and backgammon, cook food and play table football.

They also can pass the long hours between court sittings learning English language and computer skills at the unit's classroom or exercising and playing sports like basketball or tennis in a small indoor gymnasium.