Karadzic insists he sought ‘peace’ in Balkans war

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is appealing a 40-year jail term for war crimes committed during Bosnia’s bloody 1990s conflict. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2018
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Karadzic insists he sought ‘peace’ in Balkans war

  • The once-feared Bosnian Serb leader is urging the judges to throw out his 2016 conviction for war crimes and genocide.
  • He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II.

THE HAGUE: Convicted criminal Radovan Karadzic on Tuesday accused Bosnian Muslims of “declaring war” on Serbs, insisting at his appeal before a UN tribunal that he had worked for peace in the Balkans.
The prosecution’s case against him was “upside down, the wrong way up,” Karadzic insisted, on the second and final day of his appeal in The Hague.
The once-feared Bosnian Serb leader is urging the judges to throw out his 2016 conviction for war crimes and genocide, and either acquit him or order a new trial.
“Nothing in these proceedings that was alleged is true,” he said in an animated personal address to the judges, saying it meant “that the conflict between us will persist.”
In March 2016, Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail for his role in the bloodshed during the Bosnian war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million others homeless, amid the ethnic conflict which tore the former Yugoslavia apart.
He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II, when some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were separated from their families, shot and killed, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Karadzic was also convicted of orchestrating the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died under relentless sniping and shelling.
But Karadzic, 72, insisted the city had been a stronghold of the Bosnian Muslim army “whose aim was to take over all of the city” and expel the Bosnian Serbs.
“We were the ones on whom war was declared, defense is legitimate,” he added.
“We never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion,” he said, adding: “Serbs, Muslims, Croats, we are one people, we have one identity.”
“Our main wish was for the Muslims to remain with us in Yugoslavia,” he said, adding it was the Bosnian Muslims who wanted to secede.
“How is it possible not to see that Serbs in Sarajevo and in Bosnia-Hercegovina were in favor of peace? They made desperate concessions,” he said.
The former strongman has lodged 50 grounds of appeal after he was convicted by trial judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
But prosecutors insist Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of innocent civilians,” and urged the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) — which has taken over from the ICTY — to impose “the highest possible sentence, a life sentence.”
The prosecution is also urging judges to reverse his acquittal on a second charge of genocide in Bosnian municipalities and find him guilty instead.
“Karadzic and his associates knew they would need to spill rivers of blood to carve out the ethnically homogenous territory and they sought and they embraced this bloody path,” said prosecutor Katrina Gustafson.
He “threatened non-Serbs with extinction and annihilation ... and incited inter-ethnic fear and hatred,” she said.
“He set the stage for a criminal campaign of a genocidal nature, aimed at destroying the targeted community,” Gustafson added. Once it got underway, “Karadzic oversaw it from the apex of power.”
Presiding judge Theodor Meron closed the hearing saying he and the four other judges would hand down their ruling “in due course.”
After years on the run, Karadzic was caught in 2008 on a Belgrade bus, disguised as a faith healer. He was handed over to The Hague and his trial opened in October 2009, lasting until October 2014.
He is the highest-ranked person to be convicted and sentenced at the ICTY, after Serbian ex-president Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial.
Documents released Tuesday showed the court has freed on health grounds Bosnian Croat policeman Berislav Pusic, who was a member of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Croat state of Herceg-Bosna.
Pusic’s 10-year sentence imposed for atrocities against Bosnian Muslims was upheld on appeal in December, but Meron approved his release after serving almost two-thirds of his term, saying “his health condition is a factor generally weighing in favor of his early release.”


‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

Updated 25 May 2019
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‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

  • Promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans
  • South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country

PRETORIA: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday urged the country to pursue “an extraordinary feat of human endeavor” as he was sworn in for a five-year term with a delicate fight against government corruption ahead of him.
“The challenges our country face are huge and real. But they are not insurmountable. They can be solved. And I stand here today saying they are going to be solved,” Ramaphosa told some 30,000 people in the capital, Pretoria, with several African leaders in attendance.
He promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans instead of enriching themselves. He called for a state free from graft and “resources squandered,” and urged fellow citizens to end poverty in a generation. Both would be immense achievements: Corruption and mismanagement have consumed billions of rand, and South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country.
Ramaphosa’s inauguration followed his ruling African National Congress party’s 57.5% victory in this month’s election. It was the party’s weakest showing at the ballot box since the ANC took power at the end of the harsh system of racial apartheid in 1994, as voter turnout and confidence fell.
Ramaphosa first took office last year after former president Jacob Zuma was pressured to resign amid corruption scandals that badly damaged public faith in the ANC. A former protege of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa is seen by many as having the potential to clean up both the government and the ruling party’s reputation. Without him the ANC likely would have received just 40% of the vote, one party leader, Fikile Mbalula, has said.

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ROYAL CONGRATULATIONS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Ramaphosa a cable of congratulations on his swearing in. 
The crown prince expressed his sincere congratulations, best wishes for success and further progress for the people of South Africa

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There was no sign at Saturday’s ceremony of Zuma, who has insisted he did nothing wrong and that allegations are politically motivated. His allies within the ANC leadership pose a challenge to Ramaphosa as he pursues reforms.
Ahead of the election Ramaphosa apologized to South Africans for the political turmoil. He also vowed to continue the fight against graft that has hurt the country’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.
The president’s resolve to impose clean governance will be tested with the appointment of his new Cabinet in the coming days. He faces pressure from opposition parties and civil society to reduce the number of ministers — there are now 34 — and appoint ones who are scandal-free.
In a sign his efforts are working, former deputy president David Mabuza was not sworn in as a member of Parliament due to an incriminating report on him by the ANC’s integrity commission. For now, Ramaphosa is without a deputy.
In his speech on Saturday the president also addressed public frustration with joblessness, patchy delivery of basic services and the legacy of inequality. Unemployment is above 25% and much of the country’s wealth and private levers of power are held by the small white minority.
“Many South Africans still go to bed hungry,” Ramaphosa said. “Many live lives of intolerable deprivation. Too many of our people do not work, especially the youth.”
One challenge for the president in the years ahead is engaging potential voters in South Africa’s “Born Free” generation , who never experienced apartheid and unlike their parents see the ANC not as a party of liberation but one expected to deliver for the future.