Hayes on Karadžić Trial

ICTYVia Kevin Heller at the wonderful Opinio Juris comes a post alerting us to the guest contribution of Niamh Hayes, PhD Candidate in the Irish Centre for Human Rights, to the International Criminal Law Bureau blog on the progress of the Karadžić trial and particularly on the Tribunal’s options in relation to the claim of insufficient time to prepare a defence. Niamh is currently interning with the Karadžić defence team in the ICTY. Her detailed and very well reasoned post is worth reading in full. Here is a taste:

The Tribunal’s decisions in this regard and whether they amount to penalising Dr. Karadžić for having the unmitigated temerity to insist on exercising his acknowledged right to self-representation have been discussed elsewhere and could easily form the subject of an entire post. What is worth noting is that, despite the almost uniform characterisation by the media of Dr. Karadžić’s absence this week as intentionally disruptive, politically motivated or equivalent to the obstructive tactics employed by Slobodan Milošević or Vojislav Šešelj, up to this point he has shown exemplary and consistent co-operation with the Tribunal. Perhaps a better comparison would be with Charles Taylor, who famously refused to attend court and fired his defence team on the opening day of his trial in June 2007, after many months of failed motions to be granted adequate time or facilities for his defence. Taylor also submitted a letter to the Court which explained his decision not to attend the trial, and outlined fair trial concerns quite similar to those highlighted by Dr. Karadžić last week. The letter famously concluded “I choose not to be the figleaf of legitimacy for this process.”


The options now facing the Trial Chamber are not particularly enticing. However, it is to be hoped that its decision will be reached with the highest regard for the fairness of the trial and the rights of the accused, rather than penalising supposed ‘obstructionism’ or satisfying the stringent time pressures imposed by the Completion Strategy. The Tribunal has endured some deeply disrespectful and disruptive behaviour from other defendants who availed of the right to self-representation for negative reasons. If the current impasse can be negotiated, the Karadžić trial may provide a positive example, similar to that of Charles Taylor, where addressing concerns which are raised through necessarily dramatic means ultimately facilitates a fair, prepared, courteous and co-operative defence.

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