Karadzic Sentenced to 40 Years in Jail for Bosnia War Crimes

  • Guilty verdict includes charges of genocide in Srebrenica
  • Wartime leader of Bosnian Serbs may appeal court verdict

Radovan Karadzic in 2013.

Photographer: Michael Kooren/AFP via Getty Images

Radovan Karadzic, who led Serb forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 1992-95 ethnic war, was found guilty of genocide and nine other counts of war crimes, judge O-Gon Kwon said at the United Nations Hague tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The court sentenced Karadzic, 70, to 40 years in prison on Thursday for his role in the conflict that was triggered by the collapse of the Yugoslav federation after the fall of communism. He was found guilty of genocide for the massacre of Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica, as well as murder, deportation, taking hostages, and other crimes, according to the court. The war killed more than 100,000 people.

“There was intention to commit murder, extermination and persecution,” the
judge said in the Hague on Thursday. Karadzic, 70, wore a dark suit and sat quietly throughout the 90-minute reading of the evidence. He was ordered to stand for his conviction. “The killings were committed as part of a highly organized plan, and the accused made a significant contribution to the crimes,” the judge said.

Karadzic is the most senior Bosnian-Serb leader to be convicted by the Hague tribunal, which was established in 1993. While he was found not guilty of genocide for a campaign to drive Muslims from towns and cities occupied by Serb forces, Karadzic was ruled responsible for a plan to “destroy” the entire male Muslim population in Srebrenica, the court said. Bosnian-Serb troops killed about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the 1995 massacre, the worst atrocity in Europe since the Holocaust.

New-Age Healer

Karadzic’s responsibility includes holding the capital Sarajevo under siege for more than three years and targeting the city with artillery and sniper fire. “Thousands of shells fell on the city during the conflict, including on residential areas and civilian facilities,” Kwon said.

After serving as the first president of the Serb entity in Bosnia, known as Republika Srpska, Karadzic resigned in 1996 as the war-torn country began implementing a peace accord forged in Dayton, Ohio. Indicted and sought by the UN court, he went into hiding for more than a decade. He was arrested in 2008 in Serbia, where, with long grey hair and a beard, he was living under a false identity as homeopathic healer Dragan Dabic.

Karadzic was sent to the court’s detention unit days later, and the trial began in October 2009. Almost 600 witnesses appeared during 497 days of testimony. The former Bosnian leader insisted that late U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who mediated the Dayton peace pact, promised to him he wouldn’t be prosecuted if he left public life.

Karadzic’s top military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, is also on trial before the UN court, facing similar charges. The Bosnian-Serb fight for control over parts of the country also enjoyed the support of Serbia’s former leader Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted and extradited to the international tribunal. He died there before a verdict in 2006.

Ethnically Divided

Serbian Premier Aleksandar Vucic, once an ally of Milosevic, said on Thursday his country would contest any attempt to curb the autonomy of the Serb entity in Bosnia following the Karadzic verdict.

“I warn all who think to use today’s verdict against the Republika Srpska that Serbia will not and cannot allow that,” he said.

Under the Dayton accord, Bosnia is divided into two autonomous entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is divided into 10 cantons. A third region, the Brcko district is governed under a local administration.

The country is a candidate for membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It’s one of Europe’s poorest countries and lags its former Yugoslav Federation partners, with output per capita in purchasing power at 29 percent of the EU average, according to Eurostat.

The Bosnian war was the worst of the conflicts triggered by Yugoslavia’s breakup along ethnic lines. It’s the most diverse of the federation’s six constituent republics, with Muslims forming 43.5 percent, Serbs 31.2 percent and Croats 17.5 percent of Bosnia’s 4.4 million people.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.