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Q&A: The trial of Radovan Karadzic

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Karadzic boycotts trial
  • Karadzic says he has not had sufficient time to prepare his defense
  • Court cannot compel Karadzic to attend bur could put video link in cell
  • Court has simplified case against Karadzic to avoid repeat of Milosevic trial
  • Still, trial will last at least two -- and possibly three -- years

The Hague, Netherlands (CNN) -- After Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic's failure to appear at the start of his trial on genocide and war crimes charges CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson explains what happens next.

Q: How does the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) differ from the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

A: The ICTY was set up by the United Nations in 1993 specifically to try people for crimes committed during the break up of the former Yugoslavia. The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to prosecute the most serious crimes of concern to the global community including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Q: Why did Karadzic fail to show up in court on Monday?

A: Karadzic failed to show up because he wrote to the court several weeks ago telling judges he had not had sufficient time to prepare his defense. He is a "self-representing accused," meaning he is defending himself. But he is backed by a large number of lawyers supported by a bevy of interns from U.S. law schools.

Despite all this legal support, Karadzic says there has been too much evidence for him to go through. Prosecutors say they have 490 hours of evidence to present. The judge wrote back to Karadzic last week telling him he doesn't need to present his defense yet, he can do it after the prosecution. But Karadzic still refused to show.

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The court cannot compel him to come even though he is held in a detention facility about seven minutes drive from the court run exclusively for those awaiting or on trial at the tribunal. The detention facility is a lot more comfortable than a conventional jail. Karadzic will be able to watch TV when he wants, he has access to books and can mix with other defendants. Indeed, detention facility staff report that members of all three ethnic groups -- Serbs, Croats and Bosnians -- mingle freely, even playing games together.

Q: Can the trial proceed without a defendant in the dock?

A: The trial can go ahead without Karadzic present because there is no legal reason that says he needs to be there, even though he is defending himself. But the court is bound to give him a fair trial so if the prosecution begins without him the judges may give Karadzic a video feed so he can watch proceedings unfold.

Q: How long is the trial expected to last?

A: The trial could last at least two years and possibly three. The court allows at least one year for the prosecution and one year for the defense as a minimum.

Q: What measures have been put in place to prevent a repeat of the delays and obfuscation seen during the trial of the former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic?

A: Milosovic's trial dragged on because he defended himself, refused to accept the legitimacy of court and because of the complexity of the case and lengthy charge list -- 66 counts -- against him.

Karadzic's case is less complex and this is one of the lessons prosecutors have learned from the Milosevic trial: make cases simpler and only go for those that can be readily proved. But with Karadzic defending himself and refusing to accept the court's legitimacy, the judges are still struggling to figure out how to deal with tactics designed to delay the trial. They are likely to be less lenient than they were with Milosevic.