Radovan Karadžić, the most senior figure to face a court verdict for crimes committed during the 1990s conflicts of the former Yugoslavia, was today found guilty of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
He was found not guilty on another count of genocide relating to events in 1992. Karadžić (pictured) was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison.
Some 300 observers attended court today as verdicts on Karadžić’s 11 indictments were delivered at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) following an eight-year trial. Karadžić, who represented himself with legal assistance, was present, and introduced his supporting team at the start of the session.
At the outset, the one-time president of Republika Srpska heard that he was not guilty of genocide in seven municipalities in 1992. The guilty verdict for the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica came more than an hour later. The judge identified a ‘clear intention’ to kill every able-bodied male Muslim in Srebrenica.
Karadžić, the judge said, is guilty of charges relating to persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer and two counts of murder; unlawful attacks on civilians and taking hostages.
Karadžić was a founder member of the Serbian Democratic Party, and from December 1992 until July 1996 sole president and supreme commander of the republic’s armed forces.
On all counts, the prosecution had relied on proving Karadžić’s individual criminal responsibility through his participation in joint criminal enterprises (JCE).
The result is therefore a near-total vindication for the use of JCE, although the principle clearly could not stand the stretch to both charges of genocide.
It succeeded on other indictments. Significantly, delivering his verdict the judge said the priority given to the capture of Sarajevo by the governing Serbian Democratic Party’s leadership had led to unlawful attacks on civilians, and said the party’s leadership was responsible for ‘terror’ that went beyond the normal conduct of war.
Karadžić now returns to the Scheveningen detention centre where he will await transfer to serve his sentence in one of 17 European countries which have agreed to accept ICTY prisoners.
During the conflict 100,000 people died in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in events that involved the largest and most shocking incidents of mass murder seen in Europe since the Second World War.
Central to the Karadžić case was the systematic killing of 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995, and the conduct of the siege of Sarajevo – which, the judge noted, Karadžić regarded as his home town.
For defendants who maintained a personal distance from events, logistics of the prosecution case often turned on language and nuances of translation which were sometimes of central importance.
As prosecutor Ed Jeremy told the Gazette last year: ‘The word “čišćenje”, for example, refers to something like “mopping up the terrain of enemy soldiers”. But it could also be used euphemistically, to refer to ethnic cleansing. The meaning is of critical importance.’
The judgment does not set a precedent, but will have been noted by other tribunals and subjects who they have indicted.
Bosnian-Serb army commander Ratko Mladić faces the same charges, but his defence is ongoing.