Karadzic refuses to enter plea at UN war crimes tribunal

The Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic made a defiant stand before a UN court yesterday when he refused to enter pleas to genocide charges brought against him following atrocities in the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

Judge Iain Bonomy entered not guilty pleas on Mr Karadzic's behalf on all 11 charges allowing pretrial proceedings to go ahead, despite his rejection of the court's legitimacy.

Mr Karadzic, 63, is charged with genocide, including masterminding the slaughter of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995 and overseeing the deadly siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1996.

He blended measured belligerence with sarcasm at his second appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal, declining to respond to an indictment that accused him of orchestrating Serb atrocities throughout the war. "This court is representing itself falsely as a court of the international community, whereas it is in fact a court of Nato whose aim is to liquidate me," he said.

Bosnian Serbs count Nato as an enemy after the alliance launched a bombing campaign in August 1995, ultimately forcing the Serbs to negotiate an end to the war with the Dayton peace agreement.

Mr Karadzic confirmed he intended to represent himself with a team of advisers, despite Judge Bonomy's warning that the issues ahead would be complex and nuanced. When the Scottish judge said the rules required him to plead not guilty on the defendant's behalf if MrKaradzic refused, Mr Karadzic responded, "I would rather hear you say that at the end of the trial rather than the beginning."

It was Mr Karadzic's first encounter with Judge Bonomy, who also sat on the panel of judges during the latter half of the genocide trial of Slobodan Milosevic. The former Yugoslav president, who was once Mr Karadzic's mentor, died of a heart attack in 2006 before his case concluded.

When the judge formally entered the not guilty pleas, Mr Karadzic said: "May I hold you to your word... that I am not guilty?" The judge replied dryly, "We shall see in due course."

The 25-minute hearing was a crucial step in Mr Karadzic's case. He is accused of masterminding the worst atrocities perpetrated by Serb forces in the Bosnian war, which claimed the lives of 100,000 people.