Bosnia’s Karadzic faces final war crimes verdict in The Hague

In this file photo taken on August 5, 1993 Radovan Karadzic (C), the Bosnian Serb warlord and leader of the Serb-run part of Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war, addresses the media in his stronghold of Pale. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Bosnia’s Karadzic faces final war crimes verdict in The Hague

  • Karadzic was convicted of orchestrating the nearly four-year siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died during a campaign of sniping and shelling

THE HAGUE: UN judges will rule Wednesday on former Bosnian Serb strongman Radovan Karadzic’s appeal against his conviction for genocide and other atrocities during the bloody civil war in the 1990s.
Karadzic was sentenced in 2016 to 40 years in jail for his role in the bloodshed in Bosnia, including the mid-1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
The Hague court ruling on the fate of the 73-year-old will be one of the last remaining cases springing from the catastrophic break-up of the former Yugoslavia after the fall of communism.
More than 100,000 people died and 2.2 million were left homeless as the 1992-1995 conflict pitted Muslims, Serbs and Croats against each other.
A poet and psychiatrist-turned ruthless political leader, Karadzic was found guilty on 10 counts including genocide at Srebrenica, where almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.
Karadzic was also convicted of orchestrating the nearly four-year siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died during a campaign of sniping and shelling.
Srebrenica survivors called for Karadzic to be locked up for the rest of his days.
“Like all other survivors of the Srebrenica genocide, I expect Radovan Karadzic to be sentenced to life imprisonment,” Amir Kulaglic, 59, told AFP during a recent rally in Bosnia.

Karadzic, who still cuts a distinctive figure in court with his trademark white mane of hair, has denounced his conviction as the result of a “political trial” and appealed on 50 grounds.
At his appeal hearing, he said he “never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion” adding: “Serbs, Croats, Muslims, we are one people, we have one identity.”
His lawyer at the appeal said UN judges “presumed him guilty and then constructed a judgment to justify its presumption.”
Karadzic was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but that is now defunct, so the appeals hearing is being conducted by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
Karadzic’s military alter-ego, former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” is also currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges.
Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic’s long-time patron during the war, was also on trial at the ICTY until his death in custody in 2006.
Bosnia gained its independence a year after the former Yugoslavia fractured in 1991 following the fall of communism.
Bosnian Serbs, however, boycotted a referendum on independence and instead, under the leadership of Karadzic and Mladic, declared a separate Serb entity called the Republika Srpska.
UN prosecutors said that in the bitter war that ensued with Bosnia’s Muslim-led government, Karadzic and his allies “knew they would need to spill rivers of blood to carve out the ethnically-homogenous territory.”
The prosecution also wants judges to reverse his acquittal on a second charge of genocide.

Some victims have expressed fears that the replacement of the top appeals judge during the hearing would affect the outcome of the case.
Judge Theodor Meron withdrew after lawyers for Karadzic and Mladic said he and two other judges may not be impartial because they had previously dealt with other cases dealing with the same facts.
Meron denied the claims, insisting that he would have “continued to adjudicate the Karadzic case with an impartial mind.”
Izabela Kisic, executive director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia said she expected Karadzic’s sentence to be upheld on appeal.
But she said she did not expect Belgrade “to accept the verdict.”
“Serbia has denied war crimes for a long time and its relation toward the war in Bosnia has not changed at all,” she told AFP.
“In fact, in the last several years the situation drastically deteriorated, there is no rational approach to what happened and no acceptance of the verdicts coming from the ICTY.”
In Bosnia too, Serb political leaders have questioned the severity of the Srebrenica massacre.
The government of the Republika Srpska — today a semi-autonomous entity within Bosnia — last year scrapped a 2004 report on the killings and set up a new international commission to re-investigate the crimes.


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.