By Rachel Irwin
Wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic requested a new trial at the Hague tribunal on August 13, claiming that the prosecution had committed “numerous” violations of the rules of disclosure, thus rendering the current proceedings unfair.
Since his trial began in October 2009, Karadzic, who has opted to represent himself, has filed more than 70 motions contending that the prosecution disclosed items either late or improperly. On several occasions, judges have temporarily halted the trial to allow him to review documents that were not disclosed on time.
The prosecution, which is obliged to hand over its evidence to the accused, rested its case in May 2012. The defence phase of the trial is due to begin in October.
In his request, Karadzic said the disclosure violations had created a “prejudice…that has polluted the fairness of his trial”, and only a brand new trial could rectify this.
“Starting the trial over, and getting it right this time, is the only remedy which can ensure that the trial of Dr Karadzic is a fair one,” the accused stated in his request.
He also asserted that the violations were unprecedented in the history of international criminal justice.
Karadzic accused the prosecution of failing to disclose 406 witness statements and pieces of testimony on time, in addition to “hundreds of thousands” of documents which he said were disclosed late and could potentially exonerate him.
He said he should have been entitled to review those documents before the trial began, and had a right to “know the prosecution’s case from the beginning”, rather than learning it as he went along.
Karadzic concluded by accusing the prosecution of failing in its obligations to the chamber and to the defence.
“The trial chamber, as the guardian of the right of the accused to a fair trial, should not simply look the other way in embarrassment,” he said. “When disclosure is a failure, the trial is a failure. The trial chamber should order a new, fair trial.”
The prosecution has not yet issued a formal response.
Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of Bosnia’s self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory.”
He is also accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995.
Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.