The World from Berlin 'Karadzic Is Playing With the Dignity of His Victims'

Former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic again failed to show up for his trial in The Hague on Tuesday and some fear the proceedings could descend into chaos as happened during the Milosovic trial. German commentators say it's time to rein him in. There is also criticism of France's failure to ban Scientology.
Radovan Karadzic is boycotting his war crimes trial in The Hague.

Radovan Karadzic is boycotting his war crimes trial in The Hague.

Foto: Serge Ligtenberg/ Getty Images

Some have travelled all the way across Europe just to see him stand trial. But so far, alleged war criminal Radovan Karadzic, 64, has refused to show up for proceedings at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

"Again, it is Karadzic who is dictating what happens," Esnaf Moujic, a Bosnian survivor of the civil war that ripped apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s, told the Associated Press. Moujic now lived in Holland, but he was joined by dozens of other survivors, some of whom had made the trek all the way from the Balkans.

Karadzic stands accused of war crimes and genocide relating to the Bosnian-Serb offensive against Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. In testimony on Tuesday, prosecutor Alan Tieger presented an intercepted phone conversation in which Karadzic allegedly said that he would turn Sarajevo into "a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die." The Bosnian-Serb siege of Sarajevo lasted 44 months.

Karadzic, 64, denies all the charges against him. During pre-trial proceedings, he had sought immunity and demanded more time to prepare, which was denied as judges pressed forward with plans to begin the trial.

The former Bosnian-Serb leader, who was arrested in July 2008 after posing for years as an alternative medicine guru in Belgrade, is the court's highest profile defendant since the trial of ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose case ended with his death in 2006. Milosevic also obstructed proceedings to buy time and gain concessions from the court.

Karadzic has failed to appear in court so far and declined to send a lawyer to defend him. Judge O-Gon Kwon warned him to appear in court or risk having counsel assigned to him and being tried in absentia.

German media commentators say Karadzic must not be allowed to wreck the trial the way Milosevic did.

Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

"The Hague Tribunal faces a difficult decision. Despite the weight of the charges against him, Karadzic has the right to a fair trial that meets all the standards of legal process. But the court also has a duty to the victims and their relatives. Karadzic is playing with their dignity in a unscrupulous, unacceptable way. He has evidently lost his conscience."

"It hasn't been forgotten what can happen if the Hague Tribunal allows a defendant to impose the rules of the legal process on it. Slobodan Milosevic, the most powerful of all the masterminds behind the Yugoslavian war, pursued this strategy with some success. His trial was a fiasco -- not least because the defendant died in 2006 after three years and 466 trial days shortly before the guilty verdict."

"Karadzic is repeating some of these legal tricks. He has denounced the tribunal as political justice and as a conspiracy against Serbia. He's trying to portray himself as a martyr fighting alone against the victors with their all-powerful machinery. Human rights organisations believe that Karadzic is getting advice from some 30 lawyers and their staff. And he's playing for time. But the judges have ways of dealing with these dodges. They could for example impose a defense attorney on him. They must do so quickly. "

Left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau writes:

"The court faces a test of nerve. It urgently needs what critics said it lacked in previous important cases: success. The life of the tribunal was extended for the Karadzic case, and additional funds were grudgingly made available. More than 14 years after Srebenica, Europe and the Balkans have been waiting far too long for a conviction. It's not about finally being able to forget the atrocities, but about firmly recording all that is known about the crimes and the perpetrators, for posterity. That is perhaps more important than what is so grandly described as justice."

A French court on Tuesday convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud but did not agree to prosecutors' demands that it be banned. The French arm of Scientology was fined €600,000 ($890,000) and four of its leaders received suspended prison sentences after two former members said they were cajoled into spending €21,000 and €49,500 on personality tests, vitamin cures, sauna sessions and "purification packs."

Prosecutors were thwarted in their attempt to get the group outlawed by a change in the law which, for a few months while the case was under way, made it impossible to dissolve a legal entity due to fraud. The law was changed back this month, but that was too late to affect the Scientology trial.

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"Even though Scientology has been proven to have engaged in criminal activities, the French justice system hasn't taken the appropriate action in response. Scientology will able to pay the fine from its petty cash and carry on with its quasi expropriations. This is not a glorious moment for justice. Congratulations, Scientology!"

David Crossland
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