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Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadzic: New Commencement Date

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Thanks to Sunniva Hansson, who prepared this post

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) yesterday upheld Radovan Karadzic’s appeal against the commencement date of his trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Trial Chamber was ordered to delay the start of the trial until one week after the Prosecution had filed a new version of the indictment.

On 8 September Trial Chamber III held that Mr Karadzic’s trial would begin on 19 October. Due to administrative reasons, this was later changed to 21 October. The Trial Chamber reasoned that trial sessions would be held on fewer than the full five days per week, that it expected the scope of the case to be reduced and that Mr Karadzic would have had 14 months to prepare with the assistance of paid and volunteer legal advisers. It also noted the pre-trial judge’s urging of Mr Karadzic to devote his resources to the preparation of his trial, considering the number of motions filed by him.

In its decision, the Appeals Chamber noted that the Trial Chamber was “well aware” of the two main factors affecting pre-trial preparation, namely, the size and scope of the Prosecution case with the resulting issues of disclosure and document review and Mr Karadzic’s decision to represent himself. Continuous steps to reduce the scope of the case had been taken and Mr Karadzic had been afforded a larger than usual number of paid legal assistants. The Appeals Chamber noted that while a Trial Chamber must be particularly attentive in ensuring that self-represented accused receive a fair trial, defendants who decide to represent themselves “relinquish many of the benefits associated with representation by counsel.”

Nonetheless, as the Prosecution had been ordered to file a new version of the indictment by 19 October, the Appeals Chamber held that the risk of rendering the trial unfair by allowing Mr Karadzic only two days to review the indictment, required that the commencement of the trial be delayed.

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