On Thursday, April 8, 2010, the trial of Radovan Karadzic resumed after the International Criminal Court of Yugoslavia rejected Karadzic’s plea stating that “[t]he chamber is not satisfied that there has been any violation of the accused’s right to a fair trial which would justify a stay of the proceedings.”
The trial was initially set to resume after a five-month postponement on March 1, 2010, but the trial was adjourned the very next day, pending a decision by the Appellate Chambers on Karadzic’s appeal of a prior Trial Court decision to reject his plea for postponement. A plea of not guilty was submitted on Karadzic’s behalf to the International Criminal Court of Yugoslavia (ICTY) on March 3, after Karadzic failed to submit one for himself. During the second week of the resumption of the trial, the prosecution will start to present witness testimony for the first time.
The former Bosnian Serb leader is charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict. Karadzic is widely regarded as the architect of some of the worst atrocities since World War II, and is blamed, among other things, for the Sarajevo siege and the attack on Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia. Karadzic has claimed that the Western narrative of these events is biased, and has called the Serb role in conflict “just and holy.”
Arrested and transferred to the ICTY in 2008, and Karadzic’s trial was initially to take place in July of that year. After several postponements, the trial began in November 2009, but was again postponed after Karadzic boycotted the proceedings. In a letter to the Court Karadzic stated that his decision to practice the right to self-representation and the subsequent difficulties accompanied by his decision, should not have a negative impact on the fairness of his trial and his time to fully prepare. Standby counsel was appointed by the Court and afforded five months, till March 1, 2010, to prepare for the trial.
The trial has been anticipated as a means of exposing long hidden truths, among them the inadequate response of UN peacekeepers to the foreknowledge of the Serbian attack on Srebrenica. Known as the Karadzic war, the attack on Srebrenica took the lives of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men. The siege on Sarajevo lasted 44 months, and death toll estimates range as high as 10,000 people, with 56,000 wounded. Others have hailed the trial as a means of lifting the shroud of secrecy that has masked the systematic and brutal killing and mistreatment of Bosnian Muslims in Sarajevo. But, perhaps most important, the trial presents the opportunity for the victims of these atrocities to be heard.
“Everything the Serbs did is being treated as a crime,” Karadzic said during his opening statement before the court in March. Karadzic described attacks by Bosnian Muslims and stated that Bosnian Serbs’ actions were a response to these attacks, and only aimed at military forces. Karadzic further stated that the Sarajevo siege was a myth, “aimed at drawing NATO into the conflict on the side of Bosnian Muslims.” While Karadzic claims to be preparing the truth about Srebrenica and the other allegations, victims of these events have stated that he deserves a “Nobel Prize for lying.” Despite Karadzic’s multiple opportunities to state his side, no witnesses reached the stand at any of the prior hearing. With the re-commencement of the trial, the Court and the public will finally hear their voices. The stories of the war, whether they be that of the victims or that of Karadzic, will finally be heard, and perhaps with the chance for truths to come out, some of the wounds can begin to heal.