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3rd Dec 2022

Karadzic found guilty of genocide in Bosnia

  • The mastermind of the killings in Bosnia, Karadzic awaits his sentencing in The Hague (Photo: ICTY)

The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is to spend the rest of his life behind bars after a UN tribunal found him guilty of genocide for the murder of over 8,000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica in 1995.

The tribunal, in The Hague, on Thursday (24 March) sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

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It also found Karadzic, 70, guilty of war crimes for the "indiscriminate and disproportionate" shelling and sniping of Sarajevo in a 44-month siege in which thousands died.

Presiding judge O-Gon Kwon said it could not have happened without Karadzic's support. He said the siege of Sarajevo, the longest in modern European history, had no military objective.

"The attacks purposely targeted civilians," he said during the almost two-hour long sentencing.

Karadzic headed the Bosnian Serb Republic at the time and was supreme commander of its armed forces.

The judge said the deliberate nature of the Srebrenica genocide meant Karadzic must have known about it.

Bosnian Serb forces under the command of Ratko Mladic, who is also on trial in The Hague, in July 1995 entered Srebrenica, a town in Bosnia, rounded up the boys and men, then killed them.

The judge said Karadzic shared the intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslim population and did not intervene to stop the "systematic and highly-organised" killing.

“Far from that, the accused [also] ordered Bosnian male detainees to be transferred elsewhere to be killed,” O-Gon Kwon said.

'The most egregious crimes'

The UN court listed other Karadzic offences.

It said he played a lead role in developing the ideology of ethnic hostility in Bosnia.

It said the Bosnian Serb leadership was guilty of forced deportations, murder, and persecutions.

It also said Karadizic was responsible for taking hostage 200 UN personnel during the war. It found him guilty in 10 out of 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"These are the most egregious crimes in international criminal law and include extermination as a crime against humanity and genocide," the judge said.

Karadzic is the most senior figure to be convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in its 23 year history.

He was acquitted of one count of genocide committed in other villages in Bosnia.

His 40-year sentence will be reduced by seven years for time already spent in detention.

"Justice has been done,” Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor said in a statement after the verdict.

“The truth established by this judgment will stand against continuing attempts at denying the suffering of thousands and the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia."

Karadzic to appeal

Peter Robinson, Karadzic’s legal aide, has said he will appeal. The process could take up to three years.

He told EUobserver in a statement: "President Karadzic was disappointed with the judgement and astonished at the reasoning the Trial Chamber used to convict him."

Karadzic himself told Balkan Insight in an interview ahead of the verdict that he is innocent.

"My permanent fight to preserve the peace, prevent the war and decrease the sufferings of everyone regardless of religion were an exemplary effort deserving respect rather than persecution," he said.

Karadzic is a trained psychiatrist and self-styled poet. He was indicted by the ICTY in 1996. But he was not arrested until 2008 in Belgrade, where he had been living under the name Dragan Dabic disguised as a New Age mystic.

The trial lasted six-years and took up 497 courtroom days. The court heard from more than 500 witnesses and examined 115,000 pages of documents.

The Bosnian War, between 1992 and 1995, claimed some 100,000 lives.

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