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Prominent guests of the court in The Hague

By | April 3rd 2011

By Lillian Aluanga

Kenya makes its entry into the International Criminal Court as six suspects alleged to bear the greatest responsibility over the 2007 post-poll chaos attend confirmation hearings at The Hague this week.

While Kenya is still months away from having trial dates set at The Hague, if any of the cases are admitted, other international ad hoc tribunals such as the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone have had long standing trials of suspects on various charges.

Below are some of the suspects who have appeared before these courts.

Slobodan Milosevic

Arguably one of the most dramatic and high profile suspects to appear before the ICTY.

Milosevic was arrested in 2001 following a standoff at his Belgrade villa. The former Yugoslav president is said to have been in a distraught state of mind during his arrest and had threatened to kill himself and his family rather than be taken into custody.

Milosevic’s trial at The Hague where he was charged with war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and genocide in Bosnia ended prematurely in 2006 after he was found dead in his cell. This followed earlier claims by the former president that he was being poisoned, although toxicology results proved otherwise.

During the trial, where Milosevic defended himself, the former leader made known his disdain for the court, which he termed a ‘fake tribunal’ and refused to take a plea, prompting judges to enter a ‘not guilty’ plea on his behalf.

Radovan Karadzic

Radovan Karadzic is a Serbian war crimes suspect who had been on the run for 13 years before his arrest in 2008, in Belgrade where he had been posing as a doctor of alternative medicine.

To conceal his identity, Karadzic wore glasses, grew a long white beard and hair and was known as Dragan Dabic to residents of a neighbourhood in Vracar.

Karadzic, who was among the world’s most wanted men, was accused of perpetrating some of the worst acts of brutality since World War Two during the Balkan conflict.

In his testimony against Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb politician-Miroslav Deronjic – who pleaded guilty to war crimes – said Kardzic had told him, just days before the infamous 1999 Srebrenica massacre, that all the Muslim men and boys that had been captured ‘needed to be killed’.

His trial is still going on.

Radislav Kristic

The former Bosnian Serb General was arrested in December 1998 even though he had been secretly indicted by the ICTY two months earlier. Kristic was seized in northeast Bosnia, while still an active member of the military. He was accused of masterminding the execution of more than 7,000 prisoners at Srebrenica in 1995, charges, which earned him a 46-year jail sentence and the distinction of being the first person to be convicted of genocide in former Yugoslavia’s civil war.

Charles Taylor

The former Liberian president was arrested in Nigeria as he attempted to escape from custody in 2006 and quickly transferred to the special war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. Taylor had been living in exile in Nigeria since 2003 and was accused of involvement in Sierra Leone’s civil war where he allegedly backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front.

His luck ran out when Nigeria said Liberia was free to arrest the former president prompting his attempted dash to freedom. His detention in Freetown elicited concerns over regional stability that saw him moved to the special detention unit at The Hague.

Taylor had been indicted while still a Head of State on charges of unlawful killings, sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on UN staff in Sierra Leone.

His ongoing trial has not been free off incident with the former president initially refusing to attend court in 2007 after dismissing his legal team and arguing he was not assured of an impartial trial.

Jean Pierre Bemba

Belgian police near Brussels arrested the former Congolese warlord, quietly charged with rape and torture, in 2008, just a year after he fled to Europe.

His arrest came just hours after issuance of an arrest warrant that saw him taken to the ICC to answer charges of crimes against humanity committed during the 2002-2003 conflict in Central African Republic. Despite having been released from custody in 2009 to attend his father’s funeral, the former VP and presidential aspirant was deemed a flight risk and ordered detained until the start of his trial in November, last year.

Thomas Lubanga

The death of Bangladeshi UN Peacekeepers in Congo’s remote Ituri region in 2005, continuous insecurity in the area and enlisting of child soldier would be the bane of the former warlord arrested by Congolese authorities.

A year later Lubanga was handed over to the ICC. His trial, the first for the ICC was initially halted in 2008 following controversies related to his right to a fair trial.

Germaine Katanga and Mathieu Chui

The two Congolese remain in custody at the ICC for duration of their trial, which began in 2009. Chui, a former commander is charged with crimes against humanity which include sexual slavery and at least six other counts of war crimes which include use of child soldiers, intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population and pillaging. Katanga (Simba), a former rebel leader in Ituri was handed over to the ICC by Congolese authorities in 2007 and is facing crimes against humanity charges.

Jean Baptiste Gatete

The former mayor is suspected of leading a campaign to eliminate Tutsis from his home area in Murambi and neighbouring regions of Kibungo in Rwanda.

He was captured in Congo in 2002 and transferred to the ICTR in Arusha, where he received a life sentence last week for his role in the Rwandan genocide.

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