THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The U.N. chief war crimes prosecutor pledged on Wednesday to conduct the genocide trial of Radovan Karadzic efficiently, learning from the unfinished trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.
Karadzic, Bosnian Serb leader during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, arrived at a U.N. detention cell in The Hague on Wednesday, after his extradition overnight from Serbia, and will face judges on Thursday when he has the option of entering a plea.
“The arrest of Radovan Karadzic … clearly demonstrates that there is no alternative to the arrest of war criminals and there can be no safe haven for fugitives,” prosecutor Serge Brammertz told a news conference.
“He is indicted for the most serious crimes under international law,” Brammertz said, adding his team were now reviewing Karadzic’s indictment and updating it to reflect present case law and facts relating to the Balkans wars already established by tribunal judges.
Karadzic faces charges relating to the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.
“Of course it will take some months before the prosecution and defence will be ready to start… it will be a complex trial but we are fully aware of the importance of being efficient.”
The four-year war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic ended just months before a verdict was due, when the former Serbian leader was found dead in his cell in 2006, a blow to Brammertz’s predecessor who described it as a “total defeat”.
Brammertz, who has been in the job since the start of 2008, said his team would do everything in their power to make the prosecution of Karadzic successful. In the past prosecutors have struggled to prove charges of responsibility for genocide.
Brammertz praised Karadzic’s surprise arrest after 11 years on the run as a major sign of Serbia’s co-operation with the tribunal. The European Union has long insisted that Belgrade can only establish closer ties with Brussels if it fully cooperates with the Hague court.
“I hope Serbia’s cooperation will lead to the arrest of the two remaining fugitives. Without these arrests we cannot fulfill our mandate,” Brammertz said.
He added he would not present the EU with a new assessment of Serbia’s cooperation until December, but would visit Belgrade in September.
Ratko Mladic, military leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the war and also indicted on genocide charges, is still a fugitive, as is Goran Hadzic, a Croatian Serb local official indicted for murder.
Brammertz said combining the cases against Karadzic and Mladic, were he to be captured, was a “serious option.”