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Karadzic's war crimes trial to go on despite boycott

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Karadzic boycotts trial
  • Court spokeswoman: Radovan Karadzic can watch trial from cell
  • Ex-Bosnian Serb leader on genocide charges at International Criminal Tribunal
  • Prosecutors seek to impose lawyer on Karadzic if he refuses to cooperate
  • Karadzic was arrested last year in Belgrade after more than a decade on the run

The Hague, Netherlands (CNN) -- Prosecutors in the long-awaited war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic said they will push ahead Tuesday, though the Bosnian Serb leader is expected to be a no-show once again.

On Monday -- the opening day of the trial -- the court was forced to adjourn after Karadzic refused to appear, saying he did not have enough time to prepare.

Karadzic, who is accused of masterminding the worst massacre in Europe since World War II, is representing himself.

"Obviously, it is the court's preference for Karadzic to attend," said Nerma Jelacic, spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. "But if he chooses not to attend, then some facility will be provided to him to allow him to watch the court's proceedings from his prison cell."

The court cannot force a defendant to appear. Karadzic, as a "self-representing accused," is the only one who can cross-examine witnesses and speak in court about the substance of the charges against him.

However, judges can impose a lawyer on Karadzic if he continues to refuse to cooperate.

Karadzic faces 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serbian civilians during the brutal and bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Bosnia and Herzegovina were a part of Yugoslavia at the time.

The conflict introduced the phrase "ethnic cleansing" into the lexicon describing war crimes, as different factions in multi-ethnic Yugoslavia sought to kill or drive out other groups.

Karadzic was arrested last year after more than a decade on the run and was found to have been living in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and practicing alternative medicine in disguise.

In a letter dated Wednesday and made public Thursday, Karadzic complained to the International Criminal Tribunal that he had not received the relevant case material on time. He also said there was too much material to go through, even had he received it promptly.

"I ask Your Excellencies -- why and how is it possible that the prosecution is allowed to literally bury me under a million of pages, only to start disclosing relevant material many months after my arrest?" he wrote.

"Why and how is it possible that the prosecution is allowed to file its final indictment against me on the eve of the planned trial date?"

He promised to continue his preparations in "the most intensive way" and inform the court when he is ready.

The genocide charges against Karadzic stem partly from killings in Srebrenica, the most notorious massacre of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Memories of the massacre remain raw. Watch the video Video

Prosecutors at the U.N. war crimes tribunal accuse Karadzic of responsibility.

"On 8 March 1995, Karadzic instructed Bosnian Serb forces under his command to create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival for the inhabitants of Srebrenica, amongst other places," the tribunal said in a statement this month.

The Hague indictment also said Karadzic committed genocide when forces under his command killed non-Serbs during and after attacks in more than a dozen Bosnian municipalities early in the war.

Karadzic, who faces life in prison if he is convicted, denies the charges. The court cannot impose the death penalty.

The 1992-95 Bosnian war was the longest of the wars spawned by the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Backed by the government of then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian Serb forces seized control of more than half the country and launched a campaign against the Muslim and Croat populations.

Karadzic was removed from power in 1995, when the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian war barred anyone accused of war crimes from holding office.

Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial at The Hague.