Radovan Karadzic sentence increased to life for Bosnia genocide: UN judges

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic arrives at the court room of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 20, 2019 to hear the final judgement on his role in the bloody conflict that tore his country apart a quarter of a century ago. (AFP/AP Pool)
Updated 20 March 2019
0

Radovan Karadzic sentence increased to life for Bosnia genocide: UN judges

  • A panel of appeals judges in The Hague “imposes a sentence of life imprisonment”
  • Judgement increases original sentence of 40 years

THE HAGUE: Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will spend the rest of his life in jail for the "sheer scale and systematic cruelty" of his crimes in the war that tore his country apart a quarter of a century ago, UN judges said on Wednesday.

Karadzic, 73, stood motionless and grim-faced in the dock as judges in The Hague said they had upheld his 2016 convictions for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre and war crimes in the 1990s.

In one of the last remaining cases from the break-up of Yugoslavia, they also increased his original 40-year sentence, saying it did not reflect his role in the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II.

Judges at the original trial "underestimated the extreme gravity of Karadzic's responsibility for the most grave crimes committed during the period of conflict, noted for their sheer scale and systematic cruelty", head judge Vagn Joensen said.

The panel of appeals judges therefore "imposes a sentence of life imprisonment", he said.

Relatives of the victims had called for a life sentence.

A woman reacts after the verdict on former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic's appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes, in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica. (Reuters)

"If he is not given a life sentence, the tribunal will have committed genocide against justice," Munira Subasic of the Mothers of Srebrenica victims' association told reporters ahead of the verdict, where a small group of relatives held banners and photos of the dead outside the tribunal.

Karadzic, who has been in detention for 11 years, was "calm" ahead of the verdict, the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti quoted his brother Luka as saying.

The paper also published several cryptic "aphorisms" written by Radovan Karadzic including one which said: "A man who swallows his honour for breakfast may have something for dinner."

A former psychiatrist and amateur poet turned brutal political leader, Karadzic was arrested in 2008 in Belgrade after nearly 13 years on the run during which he posed as a new age healer called Dragan Dabic.

In 2016, Karadzic was found guilty on 10 counts including orchestrating a nearly four-year siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where more than 10,000 people died in a campaign of sniping and shelling, according to prosecutors.

He was also found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in eastern Bosnia, which was supposed to be under UN protection, and buried their bodies in mass graves.

Prosecutors said Karadzic and others including his military alter-ego, former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, wanted to "permanently remove Muslims and Croats" from territory claimed by Bosnian Serbs at the time.

Radovan Karadzic appears before the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals ("Mechanism") ruling on a appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes in The Hague. (Reuters)

Bespectacled and with his trademark mane of white hair swept back from his face, Karadzic said nothing as the verdict was read out, but shortly afterwards looked to the public gallery and gave a small smile.

Appeals judges repeatedly dismissed Karadzic's claims that he was not aware of orders by Bosnian Serb forces to eliminate Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and to indiscriminately target civilians in Sarajevo.

They rejected Karadzic's claims that he did not know a military directive he drafted and signed on the fate of Srebrenica called for Bosnian Serb forces to create an "unbearable situation with no hope of further survival" for inhabitants.

Karadzic's case still bitterly divides the country he helped drive to war, with widows of Srebrenica hoping he dies in prison even as Bosnian Serbs have honoured him with a university dorm in his name.

People react after the verdict on former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic's appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes, in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica. (Reuters)

Families of the victims of Srebrenica were watching the verdict at the Women of Srebrenica association building in the town of Tuzla.

Hajrija Oric, 63, who arrived at the Srebrenica memorial centre to watch the verdict showed AFP photos on her mobile phone of her son 17-year-old son Elvir and husband Sahin who were both killed in the massacre.

Their remains were found years later and buried.

"My hope.. is that (Karadzic) is sentenced to life," she said ahead of the verdict.

"All I found was a handful of bones and head. I would give everything, I would give my eyes if I could bring them back but it cannot happen."

The case also comes at a crucial time for international courts as they come under attack from quarters including the administration of US President Donald Trump, and reel from a series of mistrials.

Ex-military chief Mladic, 76, dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges.
Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic's long-time patron during the war, was on trial in The Hague until his death in 2006.


Armed civilian border group member arrested in New Mexico

Updated 12 min 59 sec ago
0

Armed civilian border group member arrested in New Mexico

  • Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children
LAS CRUCES, N.M.: A New Mexico man belonging to an armed group that has detained Central American families near the US-Mexico border was arrested Saturday in a border community on a criminal complaint accusing him of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, authorities said.
The FBI said in a statement it arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins in Sunland Park with the assistance of local police. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a separate statement that Hopkins was a member of the group that had stopped migrants.
Hopkins was booked into the Dona Ana County detention center in Las Cruces and it wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The FBI statement did not provide information on Hopkins’ background, and FBI spokesman Frank Fisher told The Associated Press that no additional information would be released until after Hopkins has an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Las Cruces.
The FBI said Hopkins is from Flora Vista, a rural community in northern New Mexico and approximately 353 miles (572 kilometers) north of Sunland Park, which is a suburb of El Paso, Texas.
The Sunland Park Police Department on Saturday referred an AP reporter to the FBI.
Balderas said in a statement that Hopkins “is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
Federal authorities on Friday warned private groups to avoid policing the border after a string of videos on social media showed armed civilians detaining large groups of Central American families in New Mexico.
The videos posted earlier in the week show members of United Constitutional Patriots ordering family groups as small as seven and as large as several hundred to sit on the dirt with their children, some toddlers, waiting until Border Patrol agents arrive.
Customs and Border Protection said on its Twitter account that it “does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands. Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”
Jim Benvie, a spokesman for United Constitutional Patriots, did not immediately respond Saturday to a request for comment made via Facebook.
Benvie said in a video that the group’s members were assisting a “stressed and overstrained Border Patrol” and said the group is legally armed for self-defense and never points guns at migrants. The posted videos do not show them with firearms drawn.
Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children.
In the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which has emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, 86% of arrests in March were people who came as families or unaccompanied children.