29 Oct An (Unbiased) Perspective on Giving Dr. Karadzic More Time
Having been pilloried from all sides about my insistence that Dr. Karadzic should be given more time to prepare for trial, it’s important to note that I am not the only one who thinks that. Bogdan Ivanisevic, who works for the International Center for Transitional Justice — a group that can hardly be accused of being soft on Dr. Karadzic — also believes that the Tribunal should give him more time:
If the trial chamber now decides Karadzic’s claims have some weight, they will feel justified in giving Karadzic more time to extend time for Karadzic’s preparation and will not assign a counsel.
They would be wise meanwhile to simultaneously name a “stand-by counsel” who can take over from the accused if his right to self-representation is terminated eventually.
This scenario would require some creativity on the part of the judges in terms of explaining why they had ignored Karadzic’s claims a few weeks earlier.
Any time extension should be modest, so as to satisfy the requirement that the trial should be expeditious. A limited time frame would also make it a less of all all-out propaganda victory for Karadzic, assuming this was one of his goals.
At the same time, the allocated time frame should be generous enough to assure reasonable observers that the accused was given sufficient time to prepare.
If Karadzic does not appear in the courtroom after this additional time, the court should change the status of the stand-by counsel into that of a court assigned counsel and let him represent the defence.
What if Karadzic and his witnesses then boycott the trial in protest against the assigned counsel? Milosevic and Seselj did that, in similar situations during their trials.
This is where the perception of the fairness comes in again. Following an extension to the time limit for Karadzic’s preparation, few observers would take his claims of unfair treatment seriously.
Importantly, the example of self-representation in the Milosevic and Seselj trials may now turn against the accused. Most observers feel the tribunal was too magnanimous in handling those cases – to its own detriment and that of the victims.
Few would sympathise with Karadzic if he took the same path as Milosevic and Seselj, and if he decided after being given more time for preparation, to boycott the trial altogether.
I don’t agree that the Tribunal should appoint stand-by counsel, given that Dr. Karadzic was nothing but professional and cooperative with the Tribunal until the Appeals Chamber set a trial date that was determined by the Completion Strategy, not by the requirements of a fair trial. But I agree that giving Dr. Karadzic the opportunity to prove that he is genuinely concerned about being adequately prepared, not simply grandstanding, would do wonders for the trial’s ultimate legitimacy.
Unfortunately, the Trial Chamber seems completely unwilling to even sit down with Dr. Karadzic to see if a compromise can be reached. That doesn’t make sense, given that any decent appointed counsel will ask for at least six months to prepare for trial. The only explanation I can see is that the Trial Chamber thinks it can find a barrister who — motivated by the desire for publicity, not concern for Dr. Karadzic’s rights — will be willing to begin the trial without being adequately prepared for it. So the upshot will be a trial with an uncooperative defendant and an unprepared attorney. That is an unseemly possibility, to say the least.