THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Radovan Karadzic's words urging the destruction of Bosnia's non-Serbs rang out in a courtroom Tuesday from speeches and intercepted phone calls as U.N. prosecutors opened their genocide and war crimes case against him.
The former Bosnian Serb leader boycotted his trial for the second day, despite warnings from the war crimes tribunal's presiding judge that he could be stripped of his right to defend himself.
The trial promises to be the judicial climax of the Balkan wars of the early 1990s that left more than 100,000 people dead, most of them victims of Bosnian Serb attacks.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Alan Tieger called Karadzic the "undisputed leader" and "supreme commander" of the Serbs responsible for atrocities throughout Bosnia's brutal four-year war.
"(Karadzic) harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to pursue his vision of an ethnically segregated Bosnia," Tieger said.
Prosecutors allege Karadzic was the driving force behind atrocities beginning with the ethnic cleansing of towns and villages to create an ethnically pure Serb state in 1992 and culminating in Europe's worst massacre since World War II, the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces.
Karadzic faces 11 charges — two genocide counts and nine other war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has refused to enter any pleas, but insists he is innocent. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Tieger quoted Karadzic as saying that Serb forces would turn the ethnically mixed Bosnian capital of Sarajevo into "a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die."
He said Karadzic and other high-ranking Bosnian Serbs engaged in a campaign to vilify Bosnia's Muslims and drive them out of towns and villages as war erupted in 1992. Non-Serbs in Bosnia were rounded up and incarcerated in a series of camps controlled by Karadzic's police and army, Tieger told the tribunal's judges.
"In the best of circumstances, detainees existed in dehumanizing conditions," Tieger said. "In the worst, all too frequently, detainees were subjected to beatings, rape, terror and death."
Karadzic was arrested last year in Belgrade after 13 years on the run. When he was captured he was posing as New Age healer Dragan Dabic, disguised behind thick glasses, a bushy beard and straggly gray hair.
Meanwhile, Biljana Plavsic, the former Bosnian Serb president sentenced in 2003 by a U.N. war crimes tribunal to 11 years in prison, returned to her home in Belgrade on Tuesday after an early release from a Swedish jail. Plavsic, 79, is the only woman among the 161 people indicted by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia.