The judges and prosecution have labeled Radovan Karadzic’s failure to appear at the start of his own trial for genocide and other crimes in BH as ‘essential and persistent obstruction of proper and expeditious trial’; this is one of the grounds for denying or restricting the right of the accused to self-representation. The prosecution will present its opening statement tomorrow

Radovan Karadzic today did not come to the courtroomRadovan Karadzic today did not come to the courtroom

Since Radovan Karadzic failed to appear in court at the start of his trial for genocide and other war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995, the Trial Chamber adjourned the trial after less than 20 minutes, until tomorrow afternoon; the prosecution will then deliver its opening statement. The decision to adjourn the trial has caused bitter discontent among the representatives of the victims’ associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The protests spilled from the public gallery to the area in front of the Tribunal building.

After noting that the accused was not present in court, presiding judge O-Gon Kwon informed the public about the correspondence with Karadzic that followed his announcement on 21 October that he was ‘not ready to proceed to trial’ and that he would consequently not appear in court for the scheduled start. The next day the judges sent Karadzic a letter in which they note that the Chamber must ensure a fair and expeditious trial and warned the accused that under certain circumstances he may be tried in his absence and that the Chamber may assign counsel to him if there is ‘essential and persistent obstruction of proper and expeditious trial’ on the part of an accused who has decided to represent himself.

[IMAGE]4385[/IMAGE]On 23 October, Karadzic answered the judges’ letter, reaffirming his position. Claiming that he ‘would and will never boycott the trial’, Karadzic told the judges, ‘if I am not prepared… this will not be a trial at all’.

Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz Retzlaff qualified Karadzic’s absence from court as ‘essential and persistent obstruction of trial’; the only way to resolve it would be to assign counsel to the accused, she said. Bringing the judges’ attention to the Appeals Chamber’s decision in the Seselj case, the prosecutor urged the judges to send to the accused a very clear warning that counsel will be assigned to him if he persists with obstructing the trial.

The Chamber did not rule on the motion by the accused; the presiding judge merely repeated for the record - which will be delivered to the accused and his legal advisers - that ‘there are measures that may be applied if he continues obstructing the trial’. The effect of the warning, if any, will be seen tomorrow afternoon, when the prosecution will present its opening statement, regardless of Karadzic’s presence or absence. And the judges will have to prove that they, and not the accused, run the courtroom.