What a Difference a Journalist Makes…

What a Difference a Journalist Makes…

Compare the following.  First, Reed Stevenson for Reuters:

Yugoslavia tribunal judges ordered legal counsel for former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and adjourned his trial until March 2010 to give the new defence lawyers time to prepare.

Karadzic has been acting as his own attorney and has been boycotting the trial which charges him with some of Europe’s worst atrocities since World War Two.

Karadzic can continue to represent himself, but will have to work with the appointed lawyer, according to the ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Second, Marlise Simons for the New York Times:

Judges ordered Thursday that a lawyer be imposed on Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader on trial in The Hague for war crimes and genocide, but halted the trial until March 1, to give a lawyer time to get ready.

Their decision effectively gave Mr. Karadzic, who has insisted on representing himself, almost four additional months to prepare his defense, which is more than an appeals court gave him when it ordered the case to begin.


Prosecutors have warned the court that it cannot allow Mr. Karadzic to control the proceedings, and have urged the panel of judges to impose lawyers on him, name a standby counsel or take him to court using physical force.

The tribunal, which deals with war crimes from the conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, has never compelled anyone to come to court by force.

Judges have now called for a standby counsel, who they said would step in if Mr. Karadzic obstructed the process in any way after March 1. Until then, they said, he can continue his defense by filing motions or requests.

I would quibble with Simons’ use of “imposed” in the first sentence, but her article otherwise makes clear that Dr. Karadzic has not lost his right of self-representation, that the Trial Chamber rejected the prosecution’s request for a lawyer to be assigned to him, and that he is under no obligation whatsoever to work with standby counsel. Stevenson, by contrast, has no idea what he is talking about — as the Trial Chamber’s decision makes clear (para. 27), Dr. Karadzic will keep his right of self-representation as long as he participates in the trial in March:

The Trial Chamber states unequivocally that, should the Accused continue to absent himself from the resumed trial proceedings in March, or should he engage in any other conduct that obstructs the proper and expeditious conduct of the trial, he will forfeit his right to selfrepresentation, no longer be entitled to assistance from his assigned defence team, and the appointed counsel will take over as an assigned counsel to represent him. Should he not engage in such conduct, the trial will proceed with the Accused continuing to represent himself and the appointed counsel will attend the proceedings and remain available to step in at any time the Chamber determines it to be necessary.

I have long since abandoned hope that most of the media — i.e., anyone who doesn’t work for the New York Times or the Institute for War & Peace Reporting — will take the time to understand the issues in the case.  But here’s a suggestion for journalists everywhere: if you use expressions like “according to the ruling,” make sure you have actually read it.

ADDENDUM: Setting the bar even lower — typical for the magazine — is the Financial Timesnew headline: “Kardzic Forced to Take Lawyer.”

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Europe, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights Law, Organizations
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The Age Articles interested me when I read it this morning; Lawyer imposed on Karadzic November 6, 2009 – 6:34AM AFP A UN court has imposed a lawyer on Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and postponed to March 1 the genocide trial he has boycotted since it started last week. “The trial chamber hereby determines that the overall interests of justice are best met by the appointment of counsel,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said in a written decision on Thursday. “The trial chamber hereby … orders that the trial will resume on March 1, 2010.” Karadzic, 64, boycotted his trial since it opened on October 26, demanding more time to prepare his defence, which he insists on conducting himself. He stands charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war in which about 100,000 people died and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes. “The accused has indeed substantially and persistently obstructed the proper and expeditious conduct of his trial by refusing to attend the proceedings,” the court’s decision said. “The accused’s conduct has effectively brought the trial to a halt, which is… Read more »