Much of the, for want of a better term, “news coverage” of the Radovan Karadzic war crimes trial in The Hague has teetered fatuously somewhere between the hysterical and the completely irrational. The coverage often amounts to little more than shrill and often childish name-calling with Karadzic continually referred to as a “butcher”, a “demon”, a “monster” and every other spiteful epitaph our so-called “journalists” can think to hurl at him.
Comparisons to Milosevic Do Not Wash
The media is filled with vacuous comparisons between Radovan Karadzic's trial and Slobodan Milosevic's trial, even though there are major differences in the defense strategies pursued by the two men.
Although both men chose to represent themselves, Milosevic insisted on appearing in the dock alone. Unlike Milosevic, Karadzic wants to be assisted in court by a team of international lawyers who would be physically present in the courtroom to advise him on the conduct of his case and to argue law and other procedural matters on his behalf.
Milosevic had nothing but contempt for the Tribunal. He referred to the Prosecution as “the other side” and never addressed the judges as “your honor”. Karadzic's attitude towards the Tribunal is completely different. Karadzic addresses the Judges as “your excellencies,” and at the end of one pre-trial hearing he engaged in friendly conversation with Judge Bonomy about his patron saint.
Milosevic insisted on examining each and every witness against him, but Karadzic has agreed that the testimony of certain prosecution witnesses can be admitted in written form without the witness having to come to the court and give live testimony.
Karadzic's Demand for More Time is Reasonable
Karadzic has been roundly condemned in the media for seeking an additional nine months to prepare his defense. Certain pundits have accused him of “making a mockery of justice” and “obstructing the trial” because he refuses to participate in the trial until he is given proper time to prepare his defense. They say “he's had fourteen years to prepare a defense,” therefore no additional time is needed.
In reality, Karadzic hasn't had fourteen years. The accusations against him keep changing. The Prosecution has charged Karadzic with a litany of specific crimes in specific towns and villages throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. Obviously he has known for some time that he is accused of major crimes in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, but the indictment also accuses him of numerous crimes in several other towns and villages — and those crimes have been in question.
The Prosecution amended the indictment against him for the third time on February 27, 2009 and even then Karadzic didn't know which crimes in which towns and villages he would ultimately be charged with until the 19th of October when the prosecution filed a “marked-up” version of the indictment. Then, literally one week later, on the 26th of October the Tribunal started the trial against him.
The trial is delayed because the Prosecution waited until one week before the trial started to decide which crimes they were ultimately going to charge the Defendant with. To accuse Karadzic of obstructing the trial because he needs more than a week to get ready is disingenuous and malicious.
Even if he were guilty, Karadzic wouldn't be “cheating justice” by delaying the start of the trial. If he gets the nine months of preparation time that he's asking for, he'll get to spend all nine of those months in prison. He wouldn't be getting away with anything.
It's the Prosecution that's “had fourteen years to get ready” there's no excuse for them not having had their indictment ready to go as soon as Karadzic was taken into custody last year.
The Prosecution is incredibly hypocritical. When they needed time to prepare the Aleksovski case they argued that it wouldn't be unreasonable to keep a Defendant waiting in prison for five years before they started the trial. But when Karadzic asks for nine months to prepare a defense against an indictment that they only issued the week before, they accuse him of being obstructionist. And they use that accusation to argue that he should be barred from leading his own defense and that a lawyer, chosen by the Tribunal, should be imposed on him against his will to lead his defense instead.
Railroading the Defendant and Misrepresenting the Evidence
If Karadzic really were the genocidal madman that he's made out to be, the Tribunal wouldn't need to resort to this kind of chicanery to convict him. In fact, if he's guilty his alleged victims should be the most outraged by the Tribunal's conduct. If the Tribunal doesn't give him a fair trial, the credibility of any verdict convicting him will be severely undermined.
Unfortunately, speed appears to be the priority in this trial because the judges and the prosecutor all know that their job is to railroad and convict the Defendant. The less time the Defense has to prepare itself, the less able it will be to rebut the Prosecution's evidence or challenge the Prosecution's interpretation of the evidence.
During the Milosevic trial the Prosecution frequently misrepresented its evidence, and judging by their opening statement, the Prosecution intends to do the same thing in this trial.
An excellent example of this malicious type of prosecution comes in the form of an intercepted telephone conversation that the Prosecution quoted from in their opening statement where Karadzic said, “There are 20,000 armed Serbs around Sarajevo … it will be a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die. They will disappear. That people will disappear from the face of the earth.” In its reporting, the London Times said the recordings were “a clear indicator of genocidal intent they leave no room for doubt” and that was how Prosecution sought to portray the evidence in court.
However, if you look at Karadzic's remarks in their proper context, things look radically different than the way they were presented by the Prosecution and the media. I happen to have the transcript of that telephone conversation, from when it was admitted as evidence in Milosevic's trial, and what Karadzic said was: “They [the Bosnian-Muslims] are preparing for war … they will try to wage war here [in Sarajevo] … they're totally crazy … they will disappear, that people will disappear from the face of the earth if they start [a war] now … they have to know that there are 20,000 armed Serbs around Sarajevo, that's insane, they will disappear, Sarajevo will be a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die, they're not right in the head.”
Karadzic didn't say he wanted to kill the Muslims in Sarajevo. He said that if the Muslims were crazy enough to start a war in Sarajevo that a lot of them would die. There is a world of difference between what he really said, and what the Prosecution and the media have tried to make it look like he said.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if he were truly guilty the Prosecution wouldn't have to lie about their evidence in order to convict him. No rational person could interpret the things Karadzic said on that tape as an expression of genocidal intent, but that's how things were represented in court by the Prosecutor and how it was subsequently reported by the press.
These people know they're lying; Karadzic is on that tape expressing sympathy for the Muslim population saying, “they don't understand that they'd be up to their necks in blood and that the Muslim people would disappear, the poor Muslims would disappear who don't know where he [the Bosnian-Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic] is taking them, where he is taking the Muslims.”
Karadzic makes it clear that his grievance is with the political leaders of the Bosnian-Muslims, not with the Muslim people themselves. How's this for genocidal intent? He says: “There are ordinary [Muslim] people out there, and I think they should be welcomed with open arms. But the leadership, there will be no hesitation, they must know that, that if they want to secede [from Yugoslavia] they will have to start a war against us and to hit us, to fight us, and then they will get our response.”
Karadzic didn't say any of that for the benefit of public consumption. He said all of this in a private telephone conversation that had been tapped and recorded without his knowledge. He wasn't even talking to anybody important, he was talking to a personal friend, a poet named Gojko Djoko, who called him one night while he was at home watching movies with his wife.
Even though the tape isn't incriminating, if this were an American court the tape wouldn't be admissible at all because nobody knows whose custody it was in during the war, and whether it could have been doctored in the years before it was turned-over to the Tribunal. But, then again, the Tribunal doesn't have as high of evidential standards as we're accustomed to in America.
The Tribunal's willingness to admit questionable evidence and the Prosecution's propensity to lie about the evidence highlight Karadzic's need to prepare a robust defense.
If the Tribunal imposes a lawyer on him against his will, it won't be because he was being unreasonable and trying to obstruct the trial — although that's certainly how they'll try to spin it. The preparation period that he's asking for is more than reasonable in light of the fact that the indictment was finalized just seven days before the trial was scheduled to start.
If the Tribunal imposes a lawyer on Radovan Karadzic against his will, it will be because they don't want him to present a defense that would rebut the accusations against him and the Serbian people. It will be because they've already written the verdict convicting him and they don't want him screwing it up by presenting evidence to the contrary or exposing the fallacy of their reasoning. They want a defense lawyer who will play along while they railroad the defendant — welcome to “international justice” in the new world order.Tweet
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