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.”


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 54 min 41 sec ago
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.