Prosecutors Resist Calls to Streamline Karadzic Case

Yugoslav war crimes tribunal prosecutors are resisting calls by the U.N. court's judges to further streamline their case against Radovan Karadzic, saying it could mean dropping key charges against the former Bosnian Serb leader.

In written submissions released by the tribunal Tuesday, prosecutors say further cutting down their 11-count indictment against Karadzic to squeeze it into a year would prevent them presenting evidence encompassing all his alleged crimes.

"The prosecution cannot ... complete its case within a calendar year without sacrificing a core component of its case," prosecutors warned.

Karadzic has pleaded innocent to charges including genocide and crimes against humanity alleging he masterminded atrocities by Bosnian Serb forces throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war. His trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 19, although Karadzic is appealing for more time to prepare.

Judges can now either accept prosecutors' arguments or order them to cut parts of the indictment — a move likely to enrage survivors of Bosnia's 1992-95 conflict.

Last week, angry demonstrators in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, torched pictures of tribunal judges to protest their efforts to shorten the indictment.

Earlier this month, the judge steering Karadzic's case toward trial urged prosecutors to trim the indictment so they can present all their evidence in a year.

Judge O-Gon Kwon said the trial should last three years at the most once Karadzic had called defense witnesses and judges have considered verdicts.

Judges are under pressure from the United Nations to finish all trials as soon as possible and close down the court, which the Security Council set up in 1993.

But a logjam of cases in its three courtrooms means that Karadzic's trial will likely sit for only three half days each week. There are 23 suspects on trial in eight different cases as well as six cases featuring 14 suspects at appeal.

Prosecutors said cutting their case "to offset scheduling constraints" would rein in their ability to present all three key elements of their case — the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats from scores of towns and villages, the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 murder of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica — Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

"The only way the prosecution could effect such a dramatic reduction of its already streamlined case would be to allow critical allegations against Karadzic to remain unadjudicated," they said.

Prosecutors already have trimmed back the number of crime sites included in the indictment, but said they still need more than 250 hours to present all their evidence and witnesses.

As well as having to juggle trials to fit them into courtrooms, judges also are keen to avoid a repeat of the marathon trial of Karadzic's former political mentor, ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died of a heart attack in his U.N. jail cell four years into his trial.

His death aborted his trial before a verdict could be reached and led to fierce criticism of the court and prosecutors for sending him to trial on a sprawling indictment spanning nearly a decade from the opening shots of the Balkan conflicts to 1999 fighting in Kosovo.

Like Milosevic, Karadzic has vowed to defend himself in court.

In a separate motion filed Tuesday, Karadzic asked the tribunal to take 69-year-old Trinidad and Tobago judge Melville Baird off the three-judge panel that will hear his case. Karadzic argued he that Baird is too old to be appointed a judge at his own country's highest court and therefore is ineligible to serve at the UN court.

Karadzic urged Baird not to take his motion personally.

"Dr. Karadzic himself is 64 years old," he wrote. "He knows that people in their 60s are vital and useful members of society. But the law is the law."