Radovan Karadžić, the war-time President of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today.
Karadžić, the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’, was charged with responsibility for atrocities including the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in the Srebrenica enclave.
The Yugoslav Court, sitting in The Hague, found Karadžić guilty in 10 of 11 counts, including genocide, crimes against humanity (in the form of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and inhumane acts) and violations of the laws and customs of war (including murder, terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and taking of hostages).
Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon found that Karadžić had been responsible for genocide in Srebrenica, where close to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered in 1995, on the basis of his membership in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE), but not in other Bosnian municipalities. He was further convicted of persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer and murder in connection with a campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages claimed by Serb forces during the country’s 1992-1995 civil war.
Karadžić, currently 70 years, was sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment, while receiving credit for the time already spent in detention (8 years).
Radovan Karadžić was a founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was President of the party from July 1990 to July 1996. He acted as Chairman of the National Security Council of the so-called Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (later Republika Srpska). He was President of the three-member Presidency of Republika Srpska from its creation in May 1992 until December 1992, and thereafter sole President of Republika Srpska and Supreme Commander of its armed forces until July 1996.
The verdict has been labelled as the most important moment in the 23-year existence of the ICTY. Ilawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux called the process exemplary in that it has demonstrated the ability of the international community to prosecute crimes of such magnitude while guaranteeing the fundamental rights of the accused.
The chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said it embodied the tribunal’s achievement in ending impunity for crimes on a mass scale. “This judgment demonstrates that justice for the most horrific atrocities is possible,” Brammertz told the Guardian. “Thirty years ago, men such as Karadžić would have remained in power or enjoyed a comfortable exile. Today, they have to stand before a court of justice and their victims and be judged for what they have done.”
In 1995 the ICTY announced the first indictment against Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. After having been on the run for almost 13 years Karadžić was arrested by Serbian authorities in Belgrade, Serbia in July 2008. Following Karadzic’s failure to plea, a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf on 3 March 2009. The trial lasted five years, closing arguments were made on 7 October 2014, and the tribunal has taken another 18 months to reach a verdict and sentence. 337 Prosecution witnesses were called, 248 Defence witnesses, and the Chamber called 1 witness.
In a defiant interview before his trial verdict, Karadžić said he expected to be acquitted as ‘no reasonable court’ would convict him of genocide and war crimes. He said his wartime actions were intended to protect Serbs. Peter Robinson, Karadžić’s legal adviser, said that he expected the ICTY to find Karadžić guilty of war crimes and was planning to launch an appeal.
A summary of the judgment can be found here.