Wartime leader of Bosnian Serbs found guilty of 10 of 11 charges at international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The key verdict from a United Nations tribunal in The Hague was delivered 18 months after a five-year trial of Karadžić, accused of being one of the chief architects of atrocities during the 1992-95 Balkans war.
The 70-year-old, who insisted his actions were aimed at protecting Serbs during the Bosnian conflict, was found guilty of 10 out of the 11 charges he faced at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Prosecutors said that Karadžić, as political leader and commander-in-chief of Serb forces in Bosnia, was responsible for some the worst acts of brutality during the war, including the 44-month deadly siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in the Srebrenica enclave.
Speaking after the verdicts, Serge Brammertz, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor, said: “Moments like this should also remind us that in innumerable conflicts around the world today, millions of victims are now waiting for their own justice. This judgement shows that it is possible to deliver it.”
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić is deemed ‘criminally responsible’ for the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, and sentenced to 40 years in jail. The key verdict from a United Nations tribunal in The Hague on Thursday was delivered 18 months after a five-year trial of Karadžić, who was accused of being one of the chief architects of atrocities during the 1992-95 Balkans war
The presiding ICTY judge delivering the ruling, O-Gon Kwon, cleared Karadžić of one charge: responsibility for genocide in attacks on other towns and villages where Croats and Bosnians were driven out.
On Srebrenica, Kwon said: “On the basis of the totality of the evidence, the [ICTY] finds that the accused shared the expanded common purpose of killing the Bosnian Muslim males of Srebrenica and that he significantly contributed to it.”
Karadžić was the only person with the power to intervene and protect those being killed, Kwon said. “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, Karadžić declared a state of war in Srebrenica.”
Karadžić’s other convictions were for five counts of crimes against humanity and four of war crimes, including taking UN peacekeepers hostage, deporting civilians, murder and attacks on combatants.
During the 100-minute verdict and sentencing, Karadžić sat impassively, not in the dock but on the defence bench, as he opted throughout the five-year trial to act as his own lead counsel.
He smiled and nodded to one or two familiar faces from the Serb press in the gallery, but hardly glanced at the public gallery, which was packed with survivors and victims’ family members, mostly women grieving lost sons and husbands. They obeyed the tribunal instructions to stay quiet throughout the proceedings, though there was a quiet grunt of disappointment when Karadžić was acquitted of one of the genocide charges.
The only time Karadžić appeared nervous was when he stood to receive sentence, his arms stiff by his side. His lawyer said he would appeal.
Outside the tribunal, there was anger that Karadžić did not receive a life sentence. “Is the tribunal not ashamed? Do the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats not have a right to justice? He got 40 years. That’s not enough,” said Kada Hotic, one of the bereaved mothers from Srebrenica.
The verdicts are the most significant moment in the 23-year existence of the ICTY, and among the last it will deliver. Set up in 1993, the court has so far indicted 161 suspects. Of those, 80 were convicted and sentenced, 18 acquitted, 13 sent back to local courts and 36 had the indictments withdrawn or died.
The former psychiatrist and charismatic politician, still with his characteristic bouffant hairstyle, is the most senior Balkans leader to face judgment at the ICTY. The former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević died in his cell in The Hague in 2006 before judges could deliver their verdicts on his trial.
Apart from Karadžić, three suspects remain on trial, including his military chief, Ratko Mladić and Serb ultranationalist Vojislav Šešelj. Eight cases are being appealed and two defendants are to face retrials. The judgment in Šešelj’s case is scheduled for next Thursday.
Karadžić was indicted along with Mladić in 1995 but evaded arrest until he was captured in Belgrade, Serbia, in 2008. At the time he was posing as New Age healer Dr Dragan Dabic, and was disguised by a thick beard and shaggy hair.
More than 20 years after the guns fell silent in Bosnia, Karadžić is still considered a hero in Serb-controlled parts of the country, and the verdict is unlikely to help reconcile the enduring deep divisions in Bosnia and the region.