Radovan Karadzic, the “Butcher of Bosnia,” was sentenced today to 40 years in prison for his malicious leadership in the Bosnian war, according to CNN. The 70-year-old was the former president of the breakaway Bosnian Serb Republic. Karadzic was found guilty of genocide and 9 other crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War, including extermination, persecution, forcible transfer, terror, and hostage taking.
Karadzic was co-founder of the Serb Democratic Party. In his civilian life, prior to becoming a politician, he had been convicted of fraud and embezzlement and spent three years in prison.
The trial took place at the International Criminal Tribune for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands.
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Karadzic, a former psychiatrist, had been on the run for 12 years before being discovered working in a clinic in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, using the alias Dr. Dragan David Dabić, for the company Human Quantum Energy. He specialized in alternative medicine. He had changed his appearance drastically from the formerly well-kept leader, to wearing a beard, long hair, and spectacles, and referring to himself as a “healer.”
Attempting to represent himself at trial caused delays, and Karadzic was eventually forced to obtain counsel. At the 500-day trial, evidence included more than 11,000 exhibits and 586 witnesses.
Victim’s families attended the trial, weeping. Hatidza Mehmedovic, who lost her entire family in the war, was angry with the verdict. She said no punishment was enough.
“He can live in a cushy prison while I have to live in Srebrenica, where his ideology is still in place. I have no sisters, no brothers, no husband.”
Karadzic deflected blame from himself, stating he was not responsible for the actions of soldiers and civilians during the war, stating they acted as individuals. He blamed some of the crimes on the Bosnian Muslims themselves.
Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwok said Radovan Karadzic was responsible for the removal of 30,000 elderly males, women, and children from a Muslim-held territory. Eight thousand men and boys were separated and taken away to Srebrenica, where they were killed in 1995. Kwok made a statement regarding the murders, according to Reuters.
“The accused was the sole person within Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb Republic) with the power to prevent the killing of the Bosnian Muslim males. Far from preventing it, he ordered they be transferred elsewhere to be killed.”
The Srebrenica deaths were the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II. The tribunal found that Karadzic’s intent was to kill every able-bodied male in Srebrenica.
Radovan Karadzic was also charged in the siege of Sarajevo, in which more than 11,000 people died. The judge said that deliberately sniping civilians in Sarajevo caused extreme fear, and that Karadzic intended terror and murder of civilians.
“Sarajevo civilians were sniped while fetching water, walking in the city, and when using public transport. Children were sniped at while playing in front of their houses, walking with their parents or walking home from school.”
Radovan Karadzic was also found guilty of taking U.N. peacekeepers hostage in 1995 to place them in strategic locations to prevent NATO airstrikes.
Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz hopes the ruling helps to deter the idea that such war criminals are seen as heroes.
“There is nothing heroic about raping persons, about sexual abuse in camps… There is nothing heroic about executing 7,000 prisoners which have been detained in impossible circumstances. There is nothing heroic to kill with snipers children who are playing.”
Peter Robinson, legal advisor for Radovan Karadzic, said he was “disappointed with the verdict, astonished by the reasoning and he [Karadzic] wants an appeal.” The 40-year-sentence will be reduced by the eight years that Radovan Karadzic has already been held.
[Photo by Robin von Lonkhuijsen/AP]