Karadzic appears at World Court

August 01, 2008|By New York Times News Service

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Thirteen years after his indictment as a war criminal, the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, shorn of the long hair and bushy beard that disguised him during his years as a fugitive, finally appeared before an international court yesterday to answer charges of genocide.

Karadzic, 63, who was transferred early Wednesday from Serbia to a jail cell near here, was gaunt and unsmiling, in contrast to his years as the swaggering leader of the Bosnian Serbs, one of the men most closely associated with the horrors of the Yugoslav conflict. He has been charged with the massacre of about 7,000 Muslim boys and men at Srebrenica in 1995.

His temper broke through in a testy exchange with the judge as he said that, prior to being handed over to the authorities on July 21, he had been kidnapped and illegally held for three days in Belgrade, the Serbian capital.

He also raised an old accusation, saying he had gone into hiding in 1995 in a deal arranged with the U.S. negotiator at the time, Richard C. Holbrooke.

Holbrooke has denied making any such deal. Asked about such claims in an interview published on July 26 in Germany's Spiegel magazine, Holbrooke said, "Those are lies I do not comment on any longer."

Holbrooke brokered the agreements in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the war in Bosnia. Karadzic said the arrangement put his life in danger.

"At that time, I was in danger of being liquidated because I had made a deal," Karadzic said. "There was an intention to liquidate me."

He said he remained concerned about his safety in the court, and offered a somewhat bizarre accusation. "He still wants my death," he said of Holbrooke, wondering aloud if his "arm is long enough to reach me here."

Asked by the judge if he were indeed Radovan Karadzic, he answered in Serbian, "I am."

Clean shaven and his white hair cut short and combed back neatly, Karadzic, wearing earphones to listen to the Serbian translation of the court proceedings, confirmed that he intended to represent himself in the international tribunal.

But the judge - perhaps mindful of the drawn-out proceedings in the case of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president, who died in his cell in The Hague in 2006 while still awaiting a verdict - quickly cautioned Karadzic that his right to self-representation was not absolute.

Asked by the judge about his health, Karadzic said, "My health is perfect."

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