The hands of Radovan Karadzic were steeped in blood

The world community sends a hugely important signal to dictators and those who engage in genocide that impunity is a thing of the past

 

It was not a matter of remote command responsibility. Of theoretical responsibility. Not a case of holding to account a commander whose minions had got out of control, but for whose actions he must be held responsible because the buck stops here.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was yesterday sentenced to 40 years in jail by UN judges, was not merely someone in command who had the power to save lives but did not do so, said judge O-Gon Kwon.

“Far from that,” he said, “the accused ordered Bosnian male detainees to be transferred elsewhere to be killed. With full knowledge of the ongoing killing, Karadzic declared a state of war in Srebrenica.” The hands of Karadzic were steeped in blood.

The court said he had intended to eliminate the Bosnian Muslim males in Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims died in Europe’s worst war crime since World War Two. He was held responsible too for the three-year Sarajevo siege, during which the city was shelled and sniped at by besieging Bosnian Serb forces.

Yesterday’s verdicts by the the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague – guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and of nine other war crimes charges – are a hugely important signal sent to dictators and genocidaires by the world community that they too may consider impunity a thing of the past.

The long hand of the international courts will reach them eventually, however slowly, however imperfectly, and perhaps with an unfair element of winner’s justice. Unfair, that is, not on the Karadzics of this world but the Croats’ Franjo Tudjmans and Bosnians’ Alija Izetbegovics who should also be there.

Karadzic, who defended himself through his 497-day trial and called 248 witnesses, is the “Yugoslav” court’s most senior Balkan leader to face judgment, and may well be among the last it will deliver.

Since its establishment in 1993, it has indicted 161 suspects, 80 were convicted and sentenced, 18 acquitted, 13 sent back to local courts, and 36 had the indictments withdrawn or, like Slobodan Milosevic, died.

And closure for Bosnian victims of this monster. Not yet. Probably never. But a it is a step in the direction of justice.

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