At the hearing on the way in which the trial might proceed if the accused decides to continue his boycott, Radovan Karadzic repeated he had ‘insufficient time to prepare the defense’. Both the Trial Chamber and the Appeals Chamber have already rejected the argument. The prosecution proposed that the Chamber should either appoint ‘a standby counsel’ or ‘impose counsel’ on the accused. According to the prosecution, compelling the accused to attend the trial, ‘by force if necessary’, is also an option

Radovan Karadzic in the courtroom
Radovan Karadzic in the courtroom

Although Radovan Karadzic has claimed he is ‘preparing gladly for the trial’ and that he doesn’t want to boycott the proceedings in any way, today he said he was not yet prepared to mount his defense and therefore could not participate in the trial.

Last week, the Trial Chamber scheduled the hearing on the way in which the trial would proceed if the accused decided to continue his boycott. In preparation for the hearing, it listed a number of issues, asking the parties to present their positions. Karadzic failed to do his homework, repeating two times, in great detail, his reasons for adjourning the trial for ten months. Both the Trial Chamber and the Appeals Chamber have rejected Karadzic’s motion. Presiding judge Kwon noted with regret that the accused was repeating the arguments that had already been rejected, reminding Karadzic that ‘it is the Trial Chamber and not the accused that decides when he will go on trial’.

The prosecution on the other hand prepared detailed answers to the questions put by the Trial Chamber. As for the first question, whether the trial might continue in the absence of the accused and any counsel, the prosecution had not ruled out the option, but doesn’t see it as the best solution. Appointing an amicus curiae would not be the best option either, in the prosecution’s view.

Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff proposed two ways in which the trial might go on. The first is a compromise and requires the accused to cooperate. The accused should say if he could deliver his opening statement in a few days and cross-examine the first three prosecution witnesses. At the same time, the standby counsel would be appointed. As long as Karadzic participates in the proceedings, the stand-by counsel doesn’t have to do anything.

The other proposal is to impose counsel on Karadzic; the counsel would advocate his interests if the accused continues to obstruct the trial. Once the counsel is appointed, Uertz-Retzlaff emphasized, the accused cannot reclaim his right to self-representation, if he changes his mind and promises not to obstruct the process.

The prosecution’s view that the Trial Chamber has the power to compel Karadzic to attend the trial – ‘by force if necessary’ caused quite a stir. When the presiding judge asked the prosecutor to clarify the position further, Uertz-Retzlaff said that forced presence of the accused at the trial was a ‘fundamental rule’ underpinning a number of articles in the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and evidence. For instance, the Rules stipulate that the accused ‘will be brought’ before the judges. ‘To be brought means to be brought, even by force, if necessary’, the prosecutor noted, adding that it ‘happens routinely all over the world’. The prosecutor illustrated this quoting examples from judicial practice in Austria, France, Germany, the United States and Great Britain.

The judges didn’t give their opinions on the prosecution’s suggestions. As the hearing drew to a close, the judges asked Karadzic once again if it was his intention not to attend the trial at all, even if the prosecution’s first proposal were accepted. In that case Karadzic’s opening statement and the examination of the first prosecution witnesses would be postponed for a brief period. When Karadzic confirmed that it was indeed his intention, Judge Kwon concluded the hearing, indicating that the decision on when and how the trial would proceed will be delivered by the end of this week.