Image: Radovan Karadzic
Anja Niedringhaus  /  EPA file
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic shows journalists an ethnic map of Bosnia-Hercegovina at his headquarters in Pale on Jan. 16, 1993.  Karadzic has been flown from the Serbian capital of Belgrade to the war-crimes tribunal in The Hague on Wednesday. He has been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide relating to the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s.
updated 7/30/2008 4:30:10 PM ET 2008-07-30T20:30:10

The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal has Radovan Karadzic in custody, 13 years after indicting the Bosnian Serb leader on genocide charges.

From video of summary executions to photos of skeletal prisoners, prosecutors have plenty of evidence of atrocities.

But Slobodan Milosevic's tortuous trial demonstrated how tricky it is to prove a political leader masterminded the crimes as part of a genocidal plot to carve out an ethnically pure Serb ministate in Bosnia.

The late Serb despot, however, may have helped prosecutors by blaming Karadzic for Bosnian atrocities. Milosevic had argued that as leader of Serbia, he was not in control of Karadzic and his Bosnian Serb forces, who killed tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

"During the Milosevic trial, it became really clear that Karadzic was the real architect of genocide," said professor Michael Scharf, the director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center at Case Western Reserve University. "The defense made a convincing case that Milosevic was much less culpable than Karadzic."

Milosevic, a one-time mentor to Karadzic, died in his cell in March 2006, bringing his four-year trial to an inconclusive end.

7 convicted in Srebrenica massacre
Ten suspects have been charged with mankind's "crime of crimes" since the U.N. court opened its doors in 1993. Only one, Gen. Radislav Krstic, who commanded Serb forces involved in the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, has been found guilty. An appellate court reduced his original conviction for genocide to aiding and abetting genocide.

On Tuesday, Bosnia's domestic war crimes court convicted seven Bosnian Serbs of genocide in the Srebrenica massacre and handed down prison sentences ranging from 38 to 42 years. Four others were acquitted.

Judges may never find a smoking gun — such as written orders for Muslims and Croats to be wiped out — that would convict Karadzic of genocide, said professor Ton Zwaan of Amsterdam University's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

That makes it difficult to prove a key element in the crime of genocide — that the murders were carried out with the intent of exterminating all or part of a specific national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

"Normally, these decisions are taken verbally only between a few people," Zwaan said. "And for obvious reasons they don't put their thoughts in writing because they know they are acting in a colossal criminal affair."

Karadzic is charged with 11 counts, including genocide and crimes against humanity, for allegedly orchestrating the Srebrenica murders, the deadly 44-month siege of Sarajevo and brutal ethnic cleansing campaigns.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called Karadzic's transfer to The Hague "a very positive development, I think, for Serbia, first and foremost. And also a positive development for justice."

'A complex trial'
Speaking to reporters, prosecutor Serge Brammertz conceded the case would not be easy, but said his team would draw on evidence already presented in other cases since Karadzic's original 1995 indictment. They are expected to update the indictment before the trial begins.

"We will ensure that it reflects the current case law, facts already established by the court and evidence collected over the past eight years," he said.

Brammertz said prosecutors also would present evidence including audio and video tapes and witness statements.

"It will be a complex trial, like other cases before this tribunal," Brammertz said. "In order to prove these serious crimes, the prosecution will have to present a significant amount of evidence, including the testimony of many witnesses."

In the past, images played to judges at the tribunal has included footage of Serb forces gunning down unarmed Muslim men in a field near Srebrenica and photos of malnourished inmates at Serb-run camps.

Trial may drag out
There are fears that, like Milosevic, Karadzic will seek to drag out the trial by bickering with judges and prosecutors and using his defendant's stand as a soap box for his nationalistic views.

Karadzic's Belgrade-based lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, has said the former Bosnian Serb leader plans to conduct his own defense, but will assemble a team of attorneys to help him — a copy of Milosevic's strategy.

Vujacic said Karadzic has been preparing his defense during his years in hiding. Like Milosevic, he is expected to portray Serbs as victims of the Balkan conflict and claim his actions were trying to protect his people.

Karadzic was finally taken into U.N. custody after dawn on July 23, more than a week after he was arrested by Serb security forces while posing as a white-bearded new-age guru.

He was flown from Belgrade in a Serbian government business plane to Rotterdam airport and hustled to the nearby jail — most likely in a Dutch police helicopter that swooped into the tribunal's purpose-built detention unit inside the walls of a Dutch maximum-security prison.

There he will be allowed to mingle — and maybe even play pingpong — with former foes from Croatia who are one trial for atrocities against Serbs in 1995 and with fellow alleged Serb war criminals.

The center, which has 84 cells, has 37 other detainees, all of them alleged Yugoslav war criminals. Each cell, measuring 17 feet by 10 feet, has a shower, toilet, sink and desk.

Cell doors are left open most of the day, except for a brief midday period to allow for a change of the guards. Prisoners may have computers, but are not allowed Internet access. They also receive Dutch, German, Belgian and French TV channels, as well as satellite reception in their own language.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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