(AFP) – Aug 29, 2008
THE HAGUE (AFP) — Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic refused to enter a plea Friday before the UN war crimes tribunal, which he dismissed as "a court of NATO".
Karadzic, 63, was making his second appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague since his arrest six weeks ago in Belgrade, and 13 years after his indictment.
He is charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, notably in connection with the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of several thousand Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995.
"This court is representing itself falsely as a court of the international community where it is in fact a court of NATO," Karadzic told the court, adding that the transatlantic alliance was out "to liquidate me".
When Karadzic refused to enter a plea, the presiding judge Iain Bonomy -- following the tribunal's procedural rules -- automatically entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
To which Karadzic quipped: "I would rather hear you say that (not guilty) at the end of the trial than at the beginning."
Karadzic, who is also accused in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats from Serb areas during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, opted at his first ICTY appearance on July 31 to delay entering a plea.
He had no lawyers present on his behalf Friday, explaining to the judges that he would put together "a team of associates" to assist him by the time the prosecution amends the indictment against him, likely next month.
One of the world's most wanted fugitives, Karadzic was arrested on July 21 in the Serbian capital where he had disguised himself as a bearded alternative health guru.
His military chief Ratko Mladic, who faces similar charges, remains at large.
Karadzic's trial is not due to start for several months.
NATO air raids were instrumental in halting the conflict in Bosnia -- the worst in Europe since World War II with more than 100,000 lives lost -- and in bringing rival sides to the negotiating table.
It went on to lead a multinational peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslav republic.
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