Radovan Karadzic judged responsible for genocide plan

UN tribunal sentences ex-Bosnian Serb chief to 40 years for war crimes, including genocide

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic sits in the courtroom at the  International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, on Thursday. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic sits in the courtroom at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, on Thursday. Photograph: AFP/Getty

 

A United Nations court has sentenced former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to 40 years in jail for committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during Bosnia’s 1992-5 conflict.

Karadzic was found to be responsible for a plan to commit genocide that resulted in his Bosnian Serb forces killing 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995.

He was also convicted of overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, during which Bosnian Serb troops rained shells onto the surrounded city and peppered its streets with sniper fire, killing more than 10,000 civilians, most of them Muslims.

The former poet and psychiatrist was found guilty on 10 charges and cleared of a second count of genocide allegedly committed early in the war.

“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, presiding judge O-Gon Kwon told the tribunal at The Hague.

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

Addressing the Srebrenica massacre – the worst atrocity in Europe since the second World War – Kwon said Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic intended “that every able-bodied Bosnian Muslim male from Srebrenica be killed”.

The tribunal indicted the two Bosnian Serb leaders in 1995, but for more than a decade they evaded capture.

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 in 2011, and is on trial at the UN court.

“This judgment sends a strong signal to all who are in positions of responsibility that they will be held accountable for their actions and shows that fugitives cannot outrun the international community’s collective resolve to make sure they face justice according to the law,” said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Appeal

Serge Brammertz, chief UN war crimes prosecutor, said “justice has been done” at the end of a trial that lasted more than six years. “Thousands came here to tell their stories and courageously confront their tormentors. Today, with this conviction, that trust has been honoured.”

One of Karadzic’s lawyers, Peter Robinson, said he would appeal against the verdict: “Dr Karadzic is disappointed. He’s astonished. He feels the trial chamber took inference instead of evidence.”

In an interview published on the eve of the verdict, Karadzic insisted that there was “no reasonable court that would convict me”. He told the Balkan Insight news service that he had waged a “permanent fight to preserve the peace, prevent the war and decrease the sufferings of everyone regardless of religion” and deserved “respect rather than persecution”.

Many Serbs, including officials, continue to play down or deny their people’s role in the worst atrocities of the wars that accompanied the collapse of Yugoslavia, and regard the UN court as a biased institution that punishes only Serbs.

Milorad Dodik, leader of Bosnia’s Serb-run region, opened a student hostel last Sunday named after Karadzic, and lauded him as “a man with strength and character” whose trial was “humiliating” for his people.

For some Bosnian Muslims, it brought a little solace. “There is no adequate sentence for him. The fact I have lived to see him condemned brings me some comfort,” said Vasva Smajlovic, whose husband was murdered at Srebrenica. But another widow, Bida Smajlovic, said: “My pain and my loneliness endure and nothing will change that, nothing can reduce my suffering.”