BELGRADE – A UN war crimes tribunal says Radovan Karadzic, the Serbs’ leader in Bosnia during the civil war in the 1990s, is responsible for genocide in Srebrenica as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes. One genocide count was dropped.
Karadzic was indicted for two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of violations of the laws of war in his capacity as President of Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996.
On Thursday, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found him guilty on 10 charges out of 11.
Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail.
The genocide charge that was dropped related to the actions of Bosnian Serb forces in the municipalities of Bosnia.
While presiding judge O-Gon Kwon said many crimes were committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats there, Karadzic “is not held responsible for genocide.”
He does bear responsibility for crimes against humanity, Kwon said. This includes murder, extermination and forcible transfer in the municipalities.
The 44-month siege of Sarajevo also amounts to a war crime, Kwon ruled.
The judge then said Radovan Karadzic ordered the takeover of Srebrenica before the tragic events of July 1995, when, according to Bosnian Muslims and Western governments, Bosnian Serb forces allegedly murdered nearly 7,500 Muslim men and boys.
Kwon said Karadzic agreed to the killings of males in Srebrenica, and concluded he was responsible for the genocide.
Thursday verdict follows an almost five-year trial and Karadzic’s seven-year incarceration in a jail in The Hague.
Karadzic was indicted by the tribunal in 1995 but was only captured 13 years later in Belgrade, where he lived disguised as a faith healer. The Serbian authorities handed him over to international investigators for the trial, which began in 2009.
As the supreme commander of the Bosnian Serb Army at the time, Karadzic is accused of being responsible for numerous sniper and artillery attacks on the population of Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, during its 44-month siege.
Karadzic is also accused of what is known as the Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serb forces allegedly murdered nearly 7,500 Muslim men and boys, according to Bosnian Muslims and Western governments.
In a recent interview with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Karadzic rejected responsibility for the atrocities, insisting that he had led a “permanent fight to preserve the peace, prevent the war and decrease the sufferings of everyone regardless of religion.”
“With Srebrenica, unfortunately, I cannot deny everything that is alleged, but I have to contest the extent and background of what happened,” he wrote to BIRN. “Again, it wasn’t an army unit that was tasked to do the misdeed; rather it was a sort of patchwork, a random collection of guys summoned to do the killings, to their surprise, against their own will and interest, and it was so clandestine that the perpetrators hid it from their most immediate commander.”
His concerns were voiced by his legal advisor, Peter Robinson, who complained about the course of the proceedings, which prevented him from providing a proper defense to Karadzic. “Just rec’d 208 pages of exculpatory material in #Karadzic case from #ICTY prosecution this afternoon. Seriously, prosecutors?” reads a tweet he posted ahead of the trial.
Critics of the tribunal have accused it of conducting a show trial that has denied the accused access to evidence necessary to mount a proper defense. With less than 24 hours left before the verdict is revealed, Karadzic’s legal advisor, Peter Robinson, tweeted: “Just rec’d 208 pages of exculpatory material in #Karadzic case from #ICTY prosecution this afternoon. Seriously, prosecutors?”
Labeled by the Western media as “The Butcher of Bosnia” he still divides opinion, with many Bosnian Serbs hailing him as a hero.
“Radovan Karadzic will always remain … a hero who made an immense contribution to the creation of Republika Srpska and the defense of the Serb people,” said Bozica Zivkovic Rajilic, president of the Bosnian Serb Association of Women Victims of the War.
Despite the decision of former Serbian President Boris Tadić to capture and transfer Karadzic for trial, many Serbs, including Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic, oppose the highly-publicized proceedings.
“I don’t think it [the verdict] will in any way help the reconciliation process which was the primary intention of the tribunal,” he said in an interview to the Serbian public broadcaster RTS.