Karadzic to make first court appearance Thursday

Karadzic's delivery to The Hague was key to Serbia securing closer ties with the European Union and his arrest was seen as a pro-Western signal by the new government sworn in this month.

Karadzic to make first court appearance Thursday

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was taken to a prison cell in The Hague on Wednesday to face trial at a U.N war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide during the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

He will appear before the tribunal for the first time at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Thursday, and will be asked to enter a plea to the charges against him, the court said.

"His arrest is a major achievement of Serbia's cooperation with the U.N. security council," Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told reporters at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The trial was likely to begin in a few months, he added.

The only higher ranking official to be brought before the tribunal for crimes during the Balkan wars was Karadzic's former ally, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 at the detention centre months before a verdict was due at his trial.

Brammertz said he was confident Karadzic's trial would be efficient and successful, but noted two fugitives were still on the run after the Balkan wars of the 1990s. They include the Bosnian Serb wartime commander, General Ratko Mladic.

Karadzic's delivery to The Hague was key to Serbia securing closer ties with the European Union and his arrest was seen as a pro-Western signal by the new government sworn in this month.

His arrival at The Hague is expected by the Serbian government to defuse tension in Belgrade over his arrest and unlock EU trade benefits.

"The arrest by the Serbian authorities of Mr. Karadzic, then his transfer, mark an important step in the process of reconciliation in the western Balkans and in the rapprochement between Serbia and Europe," the EU Presidency, France, said in a statement, and called on Serbia to "continue on this path" and capture the last two remaining fugitives.

Karadzic's family allowed to travel to see him

Bosnia's top peace envoy Miroslav Lajcak lifted a travel ban for the family of Karadzic.

The travel documents of Karadzic's wife, son, daughter and son-in-law were seized in January as part of an effort to choke off Karadzic's support network.

Lajcak originally refused to return the documents to them after Karadzic's arrest in Belgrade last week, fearing their visit could jeopardise his prosecution or the arrest of the remaining suspects.

But his office now said he "concluded that the reasons for the seizure of the travel documents ... no longer apply".

"They will be entitled to have their travel documents, including identity cards, returned to them. This decision shall have immediate effect. Restrictions against other persons remain in effect," Lajcak's office said in a statement.

Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic are indicted for genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims. Mladic and one other war crimes suspect are still at-large.

The Interior Ministry of the Serb Republic said it has already ordered its office in Pale, near Sarajevo, to return travel documents to the Karadzic family. A ministry official said they do not have passports.

Reuters

Last Mod: 30 Temmuz 2008, 16:31
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