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Karadzic refuses to enter pleas

August 30, 2008|From the Associated Press

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS — Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic made a defiant stand before a U.N. court preparing to try him on genocide charges, refusing to enter pleas Friday and branding the tribunal a NATO proxy out to "liquidate" him.

Judge Iain Bonomy entered not guilty pleas on Karadzic's behalf on 11 counts, which also include charges of crimes against humanity, allowing pretrial proceedings to proceed even though he rejects the court's legitimacy.

Karadzic is charged with genocide for allegedly masterminding atrocities, including the slaughter of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men in Srebrenica in July 1995 and the deadly siege of Sarajevo, when he was president of the breakaway Bosnian Serb republic.

He blended measured belligerence with sarcasm at his second appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, declining to respond to an indictment that accused him of orchestrating Serb atrocities during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

"This court is representing itself falsely as a court of the international community, whereas it is in fact a court of NATO whose aim is to liquidate me," Karadzic said. "I will not plead."

Bosnian Serbs count NATO as an enemy after the alliance launched a bombing campaign in August 1995, ultimately forcing the Serbs to negotiate an end to the war with the Dayton peace agreement.

Karadzic confirmed that he intended to represent himself with a team of legal advisors, despite Bonomy's warning that the issues ahead would be complex and nuanced.

When Bonomy, from Scotland, said the rules required him to plead not guilty on the defendant's behalf if Karadzic refused, Karadzic responded, "I would rather hear you say that at the end of the trial rather than the beginning."

The 25-minute hearing was a crucial step in Karadzic's case.

He is accused of masterminding the worst atrocities perpetrated by Serb forces in the Bosnian war, which claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 people, and of orchestrating the savage ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and Croats to clear the way for a Bosnian Serb ministate.

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