What Meeting With Radovan Karadzic Is Like

Opinio Juris’ Kevin Jon Heller offers a fascinating report of his first interview with his client, indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic (Mark rightly praised Kevin’s decision to defend Karadzic here). While the substance of their conversation is, of course, confidential, Kevin does divulge Karadzic’s preferences in soda (grape Fanta plain old Coke) and Monty Python flicks (“Life of Brian”), as well as some interesting commentary on the architecture and location of the UN Detention Unit in The Hague, Netherlands. Here, Kevin expresses his confidence that Karadzic’s trial will not devolve into the counter-productive ranting that marred the trial of his former boss, Slobodan Milosevic (not to mention that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq):


Finally, I came away from our meeting feeling very comfortable with Dr. Karadzic’s decision to represent himself. I would, of course, prefer that he hire [his legal associate, Peter Robinson] as his legal counsel. But nothing he said to me indicates that his behavior in the courtroom will bear any resemblance to Milosevic, much less to Seselj. I don’t know whether he believes that the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia] is legitimate; I didn’t ask him. I do know, though, that he views his trial as an opportunity to challenge the ICTY’s often problematic jurisprudence and to ensure that the Tribunal’s official narrative of the events in the former FRY does not exclude the Serbian view. Moreover, I know that he recognizes his limitations and appreciates the legal advice that he is receiving from Peter, from me, and from the many academics and law students we have brought into the case.

Karadzic, Kevin reports, appears sanguine about his prospects. Bringing him to the appropriate justice will be important for victims of the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the mid-90’s; with Kevin’s legal assistance, the trial has an opportunity not only to ensure accountability, but to boost the legitimacy of the ICTY proceedings and strengthen the concept of fair justice itself.

(image from flickr user Grumbler %-| under a Creative Commons license)