Radovan Karadzic, Ex-Bosnian Serb Leader, Convicted of Genocide
The International Criminal Tribunal found him guilty on 10 of the 11 counts
By Valentina Pop
March 24, 2016

Psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic

Psychiatrist Radovan Karadzic

A United Nations court sentenced former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to 40 years in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during the Bosnian war in the 1990s. He will appeal the ruling.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Thursday found Mr. Karadzic guilty on 10 of the 11 counts, including genocide for the Srebrenica massacre and criminal responsibility for the shelling of Sarajevo, during a nearly four-year siege on the city. He is the highest-ranking official the court has convicted since its creation in 1993.

“These are among the most egregious of crimes in international criminal law and include extermination as a crime against humanity and genocide,” said Judge O-Gon Kwon who read the sentence in The Hague.

Mr. Karadzic was convicted of genocide for his role in the execution of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, in what has been called the worst case of mass murder in Europe since World War II.

“The chamber finds that the accused shared the extended common purpose of killing the Bosnian Muslim males of Srebrenica and that he significantly contributed to it,” Mr. Kwon said.

The 70-year-old former psychiatrist was also found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection to the siege of Sarajevo between May 1992 and October 1995, the longest in modern European history.

Mr. Kwon said Mr. Karadzic was criminally responsible for the operation that deliberately shelled and sniped at civilians in Sarajevo. “The chamber is convinced that the [Serb forces] conducted this to terrorize civilians,” killing and injuring thousands of people, the judge he said. “All civilians experienced extreme fear and great hardship.”

In a statement accompanying the verdict, the tribunal said Mr. Karadzic “was at the forefront of developing the ideology and policies which led to the creation of a largely ethnically homogeneous Bosnian Serb state through the commission of crimes.”

The wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia lasted from 1991 to 2001. More than 100,000 people were killed in the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia alone, according to estimates of the U.N. tribunal.

Mr. Karadzic was found guilty of crimes against humanity—but not of genocide—against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in several other towns and villages. The victims were forcibly deported, had their properties seized, were detained in inhumane conditions, beaten and sometimes killed, the judge said, and some were subjected to rape and sexual violence. Others were used as forced labor or as human shields for Serb forces, he said.

In a further conviction, Mr. Karadzic was found guilty of taking U.N. staff hostage in an attempt to blackmail the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into abstaining from conducting airstrikes on Bosnian Serb targets.

Peter Robinson, a lawyer who helped Mr. Karadzic’s defense, said the former Bosnian Serb leader would appeal the ruling.

“Dr. Karadzic was disappointed at the verdict and astonished at the reasoning of the Trial Chamber,” Mr. Robinson said. The appeal process is estimated to take about three years and Mr. Karadzic would remain in jail in The Hague during that period, he added.

“He will be transferred to a country in Europe after his appeal is concluded if the convictions are not overturned,” Mr. Robinson said. That host country is yet to be determined.

Born in a Montenegrin village, Mr. Karadzic was a psychiatrist in the mostly Muslim city of Sarajevo when he founded the Serb Democratic Party in 1989, as nationalist tensions grew in Yugoslavia.

Spurred by Serbian Prime Minister Slobodan Milosevic and other Serb nationalists, Mr. Karadzic sought to unite the Serbs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in 1992 declared a separate Serb republic there, with himself as president. War quickly ensued, and from his mountain refuge in Pale above Sarajevo, he led a systemic effort to expunge Bosnians and Croats from his declared territory, and directed the brutal siege of the city.

After his indictment in 1995, Mr. Karadzic went into hiding, first in eastern Bosnia and then, beginning in 1999, in suburban Belgrade, where he adopted the persona of Dr. Dragan Dabic, a faith-healer and mystic with a bushy beard and topknot.

Mr. Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after a 12-year manhunt and transferred to The Hague. Mr. Milosevic, his political mentor, died in custody in 2006 before the court could reach a verdict, prompting criticism of the pace of court proceedings.

“Victims and their families have waited for over two decades to see Karadzic’s day of reckoning,” said Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch.

“The Karadzic verdict sends a powerful signal that those who order atrocities cannot simply wait out justice,” Mr. Singh said.

Others criticized the sentence as too lenient. “Karadzic’s sentence of only 40 years for genocide and nine other charges related to war-time atrocities is an abomination and deserves, at minimum, a life sentence in prison,” said U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R., Mo.).

The court has indicted a total of 161 people; 149 of those cases have been concluded, most of them with convictions.

The tribunal still has to rule on Mr. Karadzic’s wartime commander, Ratko Mladic, who is also accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. A ruling is expected late 2017.