Ex-Bosnian Serb leader claims genocide conviction based on ‘myths’

Radovan Karadzic asks UN judges to quash 40-year sentence on 50 grounds of appeal

Radovan Karadzic: was found responsible for crimes including the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, which claimed about 10,000 lives. Photograph: Yves Herman/AP

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has urged United Nations judges to quash his convictions for genocide and war crimes, claiming they were based on "jokes and rumours" and "myths" about the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia.

Karadzic lodged 50 grounds of appeal on Monday against his 2016 conviction, when he was found responsible for crimes including the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, which claimed about 10,000 lives.

“Certain statements were misused, rights were neglected, facts were distorted and motives were concealed,” Karadzic (72) told judges at The Hague.

“The consequences of this entire conduct were then portrayed as sheer madness.”


The one-time psychiatrist claimed that his Serb forces only defended Serb communities from Bosnian Muslim and Croat attack, that they did not take areas inhabited by other ethnic groups by force, and that Bosnian Muslims repeatedly shelled their own soldiers and civilians.

He also insisted that his wartime statements were misinterpreted “to blacken me and portray me as a person only concerned with my own people”.

Defence lawyer Peter Robinson said Karadzic had not received a fair hearing at a seven-year "out-of-control mega-trial" that ended with his client being jailed for 40 years.

Watching from the gallery in the courtroom on Monday, Munira Subasic of the Mothers of Srebrenica group said: "I was sitting in front of a monster."

‘A liar’

“He is a liar, lying is his line of defence,” she told the AFP news agency.

When delivering his verdict on Karadzic in March 2016, presiding judge O-Gon Kwon said “there was intention to commit murder, extermination and persecution” of non-Serbs during a war that killed 100,000 people and drove more than two million from their homes.

“The killings were committed as part of a highly organised plan, and the accused made a significant contribution to the crimes,” he added.

Referring to the massacre at Srebrenica – the worst atrocity in Europe since the second World War – he said Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic intended "that every able-bodied Bosnian Muslim male from Srebrenica be killed".

Karadzic was arrested in 2008 on a bus in Belgrade, where he was living under a false name as a new-age healer; Mladic was caught at a relative’s house in 2011, and sentenced to life imprisonment last November for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Mladic verdict

The Mladic verdict was the last trial judgment to be handed down by the UN court at The Hague before it closed at the end of last year, and Karadzic’s appeal and others are being heard by the so-called Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.

Prosecutors in the Karadzic case are also appealing against his sentence and his acquittal on a second count of genocide, relating to crimes allegedly committed in towns across Bosnia during the war.

They will ask judges to deliver another guilty verdict and a life sentence when they present their case on Tuesday. A final ruling on the appeals is expected by the end of the year.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe