Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has again asked a UN court for more time to prepare his defence as he appeared before the tribunal for the first time since the start of his trial.
Ending his boycott of the proceedings, Karadzic, 64, told the administrative hearing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague on Tuesday it would be "criminal" if he had "to enter a trial for which I am not prepared."
Karadzic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, including two counts of genocide, for allegedly masterminding atrocities during the Bosnian war, including the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslim males in Srebrenica and the deadly siege of Sarajevo. The trial of the Bosnian Serb leader is considered one of the most significant war crimes cases since the Second World War.
Karadzic boycotted the start of the trial last week, alleging he has not had enough time to prepare his defence despite having been indicted since 1995 and been held in custody for 14 months.
'Bad from the start'
"I do not want to boycott these proceedings, but I cannot take part in something that has been bad from the start and where my fundamental rights have been violated," Karadzic said.
Karadzic previously asked the court for 10 months to prepare for the trial.
Prosecutors have loaded him down with 1.3 million pages of evidence and that he only has been able to work on his defence since May, when he received the documents, Karadzic told the hearing. A resolution must be found to the stalemate, he said.
Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon said Karadzic had already raised his points during pre-trial hearings and motions and that the court is unlikely to grant him more time to prepare. The hearing was adjourned so the judges can decide how to proceed and a written ruling will be issued later in the week.
Kwon has previously warned Karadzic, who is defending himself, that if the boycott continues, the court might appoint a defence attorney for him.
Trying to avoid repeat of Milosevic trial
Karadzic said he does not need a lawyer appointed by the court to represent him.
"I don't need other people, I just need time," he said. "It would be cheapest and easiest, with fewest problems, to give me more time to prepare."
Prosecutors, who made a two-day opening statement last week, have urged the three-judge panel not to allow Karadzic to deliberately hold up the trial, which is expected to take more than two years.
Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff acknowledged that if a new lawyer is appointed to represent Karadzic, the attorney might need months to review evidence and prepare.
Karadzic has refused to enter pleas — although he insists he is innocent. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The court is desperate to avoid Karadzic's trial becoming a carbon copy of the case against his political mentor, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, whose political grandstanding, stalling tactics and ill health dragged his trial out for more than four years.
Milosevic's trial ended without a verdict in 2006 after he died of a heart attack in his UN jail cell. Milosevic also defended himself, and when the court forced a defence lawyer on him in an attempt to speed up proceedings Milosevic refused to co-operate with him.