News 24 Mar 16

Radovan Karadzic Convicted of Genocide

The UN war crimes court in The Hague convicted former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
The Hague
Radovan Karadzic in court. Photo: ICTY.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found former Bosnian Serb President Karadzic guilty on Thursday of some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II and jailed him for 40 years.

He was convicted of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, terrorising the population of Sarajevo, the persecution and extermination of Bosniaks and Croats in 20 municipalities across the country, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

But he was cleared of committing genocide in seven Bosnian municipalities in 1992.

Finding Karadzic guilty of the Srebrenica genocide, judge O-Gon Kwon said that after Bosnian Serb forces attacked and seized the UN-protected enclave in July 1995, a “plan to destroy the Muslim population” was implemented in an organised way.

The judge said Karadzic talked in code with his adviser for Srebrenica, Miroslav Deronjic, and said that the prisoners were “goods” to be detained.

“A day later, Deronjic spoke about killings of the men, which shows that by that time a decision had already been made. This pattern proves that Karadzic was in agreement with the plan of the killings,” he said.

Karadzic was also found guilty of being part of a joint criminal enterprise to terrorise the civilian population of Sarajevo during the siege of the city by Bosnian Serb forces from 1992-95.

As supreme commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, Karadzic approved military actions that prolonged the siege and the campaign of artillery and sniper attacks which resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, said the judge.

“All civilians suffered fear and hardship,” he said.

“Karadzic intensified the campaign when the Bosnian side refused to make peace deal under his terms,” he added.

The court found that Bosniak forces sometimes opened fire on UN peacekeepers to blame the Serbs, but said such incidents were rare and did not undermine the fact that Bosnian Serb forces committed crimes against humanity in Sarajevo.

Karadzic was also found guilty of crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war in 20 Bosnian municipalities during the conflict.

The Bosnian Serb political leader was indifferent to the possibility that crimes could take place, O-Gon Kwon said.

“The chamber finds that murder, extermination and persecution were forseeable to Karadzic,” the judge said.

He was convicted of persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer and two counts of murder in the 20 municipalities.

But the court cleared him of genocide against Bosniaks and Croats in the municipalities of Bratunac, Foca, Kljuc, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Zvornik in 1992.

“Serb forces killed Bosnian Muslims and Croats during and after taking over. They were killed in mass executions, shot in detention, or taken from facilities and killed by Serb forces; in other cases, they died after severe beatings by Serb forces, or as a result of inhumane conditions,” the judge said.

But he said the court could not conclude that Karadzic had “genocidal intent to destroy a group” in the seven municipalities.

He was however found guilty of extermination in the municipalities.

He was also found guilty of taking UN peacekeepers hostage during the conflict.

The judge said that Karadzic was a “driving force behind the hostage-taking” of the peacekeepers, putting the captives in strategic places in order to deter NATO air strikes.

In deciding on the 40-year sentence, the judge said the court took into account the fact that these were some of the most heinous crimes, but accepted as mitigating circumstances the fact that Karadzic removed himself from public life after the war in 1996.

The 70-year old former Bosnian Serb political chief had insisted he was innocent of responsibility for all the crimes in the indictment, arguing that he never ordered any of them.

His legal adviser Peter Robinson said that the defence will appeal against every point of the verdict.

“We have 30 days to do this work and it seems that there is a basis to appeal every point,” Robinson told media after the verdict.

Karadzic was arrested in 2008 in Belgrade while disguised as a spiritual healer, after spending 12 years on the run.

His trial started in October 2009 and more than 500 witness testimonies were heard during the marathon proceedings.

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Background

Karadzic: War Criminal or Poet?

To the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, was a true sensation, and one to be exploited day after day.  

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

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