AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal rejected former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic’s appeal against the imposition of a court-appointed lawyer on Friday, saying that his legal rights were still being met.
Judges at the Hague war crimes tribunal had appointed London-based barrister Richard Harvey in November after Karadzic boycotted the first three days of his trial, saying he needed more time to prepare his defence.
Karadzic denies all 11 counts of war crimes relating to the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the genocide of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity of the conflict.
The court rejected Karadzic’s objection to the appointment, and he subsequently petitioned the tribunal’s appeals chamber to reverse the decision, saying that Bosnian and Serbian lawyers were excluded from representing him.
The appeals chamber found that Karadzic’s “persistent obstructive behaviour has made it necessary, in the interests of justice, to limit his right to self-representation by assigning counsel to represent his interests.”
Appeals Judge Theodor Meron argued in a 15-page decision that the court was acting to preserve Karadzic’s right to represent himself and also ensure the trial’s smooth proceeding.
The trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has been adjourned until March to give Harvey time to prepare.
The charges against Karadzic include his role in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo beginning in 1992. An estimated 10,000 people died in the siege as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart in the 1990s by Serbs, Croats and Muslims fighting for land.
When the court appointed Harvey as legal counsel, it made clear that Karadzic would be allowed to continue representing himself, but compelled him to work with Harvey as legal counsel.
If Karadzic continues to boycott the trial, he loses his right to represent himself and the appointed lawyer will take over.
Captured in July 2008 after 11 years on the run, Karadzic has fought the judges throughout pre-trial proceedings, claiming immunity from prosecution, which was denied.
A psychiatrist before becoming leader of the self-proclaimed Republica Srpska, Karadzic stepped down from power in 1996 and went into hiding until he was captured in 2008, bearded and disguised as an alternative healer in Belgrade.
Reporting by Reed Stevenson; editing by Michael Roddy