Amsterdam: Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal judges ordered the appointment of legal counsel for Radovan Karadzic on Thursday because the former Bosnian Serb leader had refused to attend his trial since it started last week.
Proceedings in the war crimes trial, where Karadzic was acting as his own attorney, have been adjourned until March 2010 to give the new defence lawyers time to prepare, Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon said in a court order.
"The overall interests of justice are best met by the appointment of counsel," the South Korean judge said.
"The Trial Chamber encourages the Accused to discuss his defence and cooperate fully with the appointed counsel, so that he or she can make the most effective use of time available for preparation."
Karadzic, who has denied his 11 war crimes charges from the 1992-95 Bosnian war, had argued for more time but judges had warned they would appoint legal counsel to represent him if he persisted in refusing to attend the trial.
The charges include two of genocide, one for the death of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the village of Srebrenica in July 1995 and another for broader atrocities.
Karadzic, 64, led the Serbs who tried to carve their own state, the Serb Republic, out of Bosnia during the break-up of Yugoslavia in Europe`s worst conflict since World War Two.
Captured in July 2008 after 11 years on the run, Karadzic fought the judges throughout pre-trial proceedings, claiming immunity from prosecution and asking for 10 extra months to prepare for trial, both of which were denied.
The court said that if Karadzic continued to boycott the trial after March, appointed counsel would take over and become assigned counsel, which would effectively turn proceedings into a trial in absentia.
The charges against Karadzic relate to the 1992-95 Bosnian war and include the 43-month siege of Sarajevo that began in 1992. An estimated 10,000 people died in the siege as the former Yugoslavia was torn apart in the 1990s by Serbs, Croats and Muslims fighting for land.
A psychiatrist before becoming president of the self-proclaimed Republica Srpska, Karadzic stepped down from power in 1996 and went into hiding until he was captured last year, bearded and disguised as an alternative healer in Belgrade.