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
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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.


Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

Updated 4 min 28 sec ago

Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

WASHINGTON: Teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, delivered a pointed message before a US congressional hearing on Wednesday: “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
The 16-year old founder of the “Fridays For Future” weekly school walkouts to demand government climate-change action submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the hearing in lieu of testimony. It urged rapid, unprecedented changes to the way people live in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by 2030.
“People in general don’t seem to be aware of how severe the crisis” is, Thunberg said, urging lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and take action, pleading that people treat climate change “like the existential crisis it is.”
Thunberg was one of four students invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to provide the next generation’s views on climate change.
She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday and pressure lawmakers to take action on climate change.
At the hearing on Wednesday was also 21-year-old conservative climate-change advocate Benji Backer. He told lawmakers that young conservatives also favor climate change action, but through an approach focused on technology and allowing the continued use of fossil fuels.
“As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly. We need your leadership,” he said.
While he praised Thunberg and other climate activists for putting the issue at the forefront of politics, he said there was time to take more measured action.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, Thunberg met former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Obama described the teenager on Twitter as “already one of the planet’s greatest advocates.”
Later on Wednesday, she will join seven young Americans who have sued the US government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They will urge political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
At the panel, Republican representatives praised the students for raising awareness about climate change but disagreed over what action the US should take.
Representative Garret Graves from Louisiana, said his state was affected by rising sea levels and that he supported the US emission reduction target enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, but he criticized the pact for allowing emerging economies like China to continue to emit greenhouse gases.
“I think that signing on to an agreement...that allows for China to have a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030 is inappropriate,” he said.
Thunberg responded that in her home country, Sweden, people similarly criticize the United States for not taking enough action.
Another activist on the panel, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin from Seattle, called out lawmakers for taking too long to enact climate change policies.
“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride; it should fill you with shame,” she said.