|Karadzic the lawyer and his advisor Robinson|
|Написао by Jesse Wieten / Justicetribune.com|
|субота, 28 мај 2016 17:28|
26 May 2016 by Jesse Wieten in The Hague (The Netherlands)
The trial of former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic is one of the most important proceedings before the ICTY, he was the court's most wanted fugitive for over a decade and highest-ranking Bosnian Serb ever on trial for war crimes and genocide. Even though Karadzic liked to present himself as a lone defendant, acting against the ICTY prosecution machinery, he was closely advised and guided by attorney Peter Robinson. The US counsel reflects on the case that will live on in the legacy of tribunal because of Karadzic's central role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war but also for the marathon effort he made pleading his case as his own lawyer.
When Karadzic was convicted to forty years in prison for leading an organised campaign of ethnic cleansing, overseeing the 44-month Sarajevo siege and his role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide [IJT-191] in March this year, the first thing he did was turn to Robinson.
Robinson, veteran counsel at the ICTY as well as its sister court for Rwanda, the ICTR, has worked almost daily with Karadzic during the case and formed a close bond. Their cooperation will continue as Robinson was also allowed to represent the Bosnian Serb wartime leader on appeal which will be handled by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) as the ICTY is due to close its doors next year. But this time around Robinson will be full-fledged legal counsel.
“Karadzic decided not to represent himself on appeal because he understands that the proceedings are legal in nature and conducted in writing, and therefore his knowledge of the facts is not as essential as they were during the trial,” Robinson explained in an e-mail interview with IJT. “In addition, legal aid funds for self-represented accused on appeal are minimal.” A verdict on appeal is expected sometime in 2019.
From the start of the trial in October 2009 Karadzic was determined to defend himself. Instead of working together with the court-appointed counsel. Karadzic preferred to work with a defence team of his own choice and approached Robinson to be his main legal adviser.
“I was very excited at the prospect of working on such a high profile case with such an interesting client,” Robinson said. “But I was also concerned that he might ask me to act unprofessionally or unethically and would want to use his trial as some kind of political protest,” the lawyer added. The ICTY has had ample experience with accused using self-representation as a way to protest, mostly with Serbian politician Vojislav Seselj [IJT-191] and to a lesser extent in the case of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic [IJT-56]
“Those concerns disappeared during our first meeting, when he told me that his goal for the trial was to tell his side, and the Serbs' side, of the story. I said I would be happy to help him as long as he was willing to play by the rules. He assured me that he wanted to do that. So off we went,” Robinson recalled.
Karadzic now has more courtroom experience than many lawyers
Karadzic, who had no training as a lawyer, threw himself into trial surprising friend and foe with the professional job he was doing. By the end of the trial he had navigated through 497 trial days at the ICTY.
“At the beginning, he didn't know the technique of cross examination. He sometimes made comments when he should have asked questions, and sometimes elicited more damaging information from the witnesses than the prosecutor had. However, he was a quick study and he learned from those mistakes,” Robinson said. Even chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz showed respect for the way the Bosnian Serb leader defended himself in court. “He would probably have been one of the better defence counsels from a professional aspect,” Brammertz said at a meeting with journalists ahead of the judgment. “There have been professional lawyers that have done a less convincing job than he has.”
Throughout the trial the Bosnian Serb leader was quick to remind the parties that he was not a trained lawyer even apologising for his “amateurism” during his closing arguments. “But my thirst for the truth is much stronger than my legal knowledge,” he added. By that time though, Karadzic had cross examined 198 prosecution witnesses and questioned 238 defense witnesses. “He has more trial experience than most lawyers get in their entire careers,” Robinson said.
Despite Karadzic's efforts, he was convicted to 40 years. According to Robinson the former Bosnian Serb president was “disappointed and astonished” by sentence. The attorney said his client had already packed his belongings before the judgment, because he was confident he would be acquitted.
“Karadzic is a very optimistic, positive person by nature,” Robinson explained. “He is so convinced that he did all he could to avoid crimes and suffering during the war that he could not understand how the judges could come to any other conclusion.”
Over the past years Karadzic and Robinson have forged a close cooperation. During the trial they were together all day and often worked together in the evenings and weekends preparing for the next day in court. The two forged a professional connection, but also a personal one.
“We met every day for five years during his trial so I got to know him very well both professionally and personally,” Robinson stated. “I like his personality very much.”
Plans on appeal
During the most recent status conference in April Karadzic expressed his distress over the judgement, the conditions of his detention and claimed his health had declined in the past years.
Robinson has filed a motion for provisional release, allowing Karadzic to live in Bosnia's Republika Srpska for the duration of the appeal. He also requested more time for filing the notice of appeal, citing the length of the judgement and a lack of resources. “I am still reading through the 2,600 pages of the judgement”, Robinson told IJT.
Still Robinson says he is ready for the challenge: “It is my professional duty to do whatever is in (Karadzic's) interest. Everything I can accomplish through the legal system, I will try to do.”
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