Related topics

Karadzic’s Lawyers Say No Fair Deal, No Surrender

July 16, 1996

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Lawyers for the world’s most wanted war crimes suspect say their client hasn’t gotten a fair deal from the U.N. tribunal _ and won’t surrender until he does.

The Los Angeles lawyers claim that by spotlighting allegations against Radovan Karadzic, the war crimes tribunal has already convicted the fugitive Bosnian Serb kingpin in the court of international public opinion.

The strategy of attorneys Edward Medvene and Tom Hanley has been to challenge the rules of the U.N. court in motions that were disallowed this month _ along with the lawyers, who were told to sit with the spectators.

The Hague-based court says the defense has no official role until the suspect surrenders, and his lawyers say he won’t do that until the rules change to provide a ``level playing field.″

Medvene and Hanley represent the most notorious war crimes suspect since former Nazi bigwig Adolph Eichmann sat in a Jerusalem court in 1961.

Both Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, have been indicted twice for genocide and crimes against humanity.

``You have this fever that has been created, this great antipathy towards Dr. Karadzic ... but where’s the proof that he had anything to do with it?″ Medvene asked at a recent press conference in the Hague.

Tribunal prosecutors say they have proof aplenty.

The U.N. court’s prosecutors have accused Karadzic and Mladic of designing and conducting a campaign of atrocities during the 3 1/2-year conflict, ranging from the shelling of Sarajevo to mass murders after the Serbs overran the U.N. ``safe area″ of Srebrenica.

This month, the court publicized some of its evidence at a public hearing in hopes of spurring a reluctant international community to arrest Karadzic and Mladic, who move freely in Serb-held Bosnian territory.

At the hearing, American prosecutor Mark Harmon said Karadzic and Mladic ``instigated, planned and ordered the genocide and the `ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina.″

The prosecution played a videotape showing Karadzic with a Russian guest standing on a hilltop overlooking Sarajevo. Karadzic invited his guest to fire a high-powered gun into the besieged city. The guest obliged.

Karadzic’s lawyers say the evidentiary hearing was prejudicial, and that it set up a situation in which if there ever is a trial, they will have to prove his innocence.

``Now when you hear the name Karadzic, you think of atrocities,″ Hanley said.

As far as strategy, the defense has kept it to questioning the fairness of a court they say does not provide the due process protection afforded by the nations who set up the tribunal.

They accuse the court of allowing hearsay into evidence and filing politically motivated charges. And they maintain that the doctrines of collective guilt and command responsibility, under which Karadzic is charged, are contrary to international law.

``It’s unfair for rules to be set up ... that stack the deck,″ said Medvene, of the firm Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp.

In separate telephone interviews from Los Angeles, neither of the lawyers would say what strategy they plan to use if Karadzic ever makes it to court.

Hanley, a real estate lawyer with the firm Berger, Kahn, Safton, Moss, Figler, Simon and Gladstone, says he hooked up with Karadzic during a chance social encounter in June 1994 with a Serbian-American plastic surgeon, Borko Djordjevic.

Djordjevic introduced the two, and Hanley became Karadzic’s representative that year in cease-fire negotiations led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Those talks led to a four-month Bosnian cease-fire.

Hanley said Karadzic recently asked him to set up a defense team, and he enlisted Medvene.

Hanley declined to comment on any meetings with Karadzic, but the Los Angeles Times reported that Medvene met with Karadzic in Bosnia for two days in early July before the hearing in the Hague.

Medvene is no stranger to controversial cases.

His law firm is representing Fred Goldman in a civil lawsuit against O.J. Simpson for the wrongful death of his son Ronald Goldman, slain alongside Nicole Brown Simpson in June 1994.

Medvene is handling all matters dealing with the crime scene and the coroner.

The former federal prosecutor once defended a Mexican businessman convicted for taking part in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. drug agent Enrique Camarena.

Asked what it’s like to represent Karadzic, Hanley said it’s a conversation stopper.

``People would ask, `You’re doing what?‴

Update hourly