The Hague: Radovan Karadzic boycotted the start of his UN genocide trial on Monday, forcing an adjournment as the judge accused the Bosnian Serb wartime leader of obstructing the event.
Karadzic, the political leader during Bosnia's 1992-95 war which left at least 100,000 dead and became notorious in history because of the Srebenica massacre and siege of Sarajevo, refused to attend because he says he needs more time to prepare.
Neither Karadzic nor any of his legal advisors were present at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) when judge O-Gon Kwon started the hearing which lasted less than 15 minutes.
Noting the absence, Kwon adjourned the hearing until Tuesday and issued an appeal, to "again encourage Mr Karadzic to attend the proceedings”.
But he also launched an early warning at Karadzic, who was detained in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
"There are measures that can be taken should he continue to obstruct the progress of the trial," said the judge -- including imposing a defence lawyer on the accused or proceeding in his absence.
Survivors of the Bosnian war reacted angrily to Monday's adjournment of the case.
"It's a circus," Munira Subasic, who lost loved ones in the Srebrenica massacre, told reporters outside the courtroom.
"It feels like they are being killed all over again," said the 62-year-old.
Another woman exclaimed after the postponement: "We travelled 2,000 kilometres to be here and waited 15 years and now the trial is delayed!"
The trial is set to continue at 14:15 pm (1315 GMT) on Tuesday for prosecutor Alan Tieger to make his opening statement. It was not immediately clear what would happen if Karadzic continues to boycott the hearing.
Co-prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff urged the judges on Monday to impose counsel on Karadzic saying he "wants to dictate the commencement of the trial".
"The chamber is faced with two options: either allowing the accused to continue to represent himself and thus frustrate the proceedings, or to assign counsel," she argued, saying Karadzic must not be allowed to "substantially and persistently obstruct the proper and expeditious conduct of trial".
Karadzic, 64, faces 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Bosnian war. He denies all charges but risks a life jail sentence if found guilty.
He stands accused of having "participated in an overarching joint criminal enterprise to permanently remove Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat inhabitants from the territories of Bosnia Hercegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory," according to the charge sheet.
Key among the charges is the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, as well as the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that ended in November 1995. The remains of Srebrenica victims are still being dug out of mass graves in Bosnia.
The indictment also lists the killings of hundreds of civilians on Bosnian roads, in their homes and in detention camps in more than a dozen other municipalities.
The former president of the self-proclaimed Serb Republic in Bosnia, Karadzic is accused of having committed these crimes in his pursuit of a "Greater Serbia" which was to include 60 percent of the territory of Bosnia.
He is alleged to have worked with Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who died midway through his own UN genocide trial in March 2006.
First Published: Monday, October 26, 2009, 17:42