THE HAGUE (Netherlands) • A United Nations tribunal has convicted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for leading a campaign of terror against civilians in the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II.
Karadzic, 70, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in lethal ethnic cleansing operations, the siege of Sarajevo and the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, in proceedings that were likened to the Nuremberg trials of former Nazi leaders.
The trial was the most important in the 23-year history of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and a defining test for the entire system of international justice, human rights advocates said. "Twenty-one years after Karadzic was indicted, this verdict is a forceful manifestation of the international community's implacable commitment to accountability," UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a statement.
Thursday's conviction offered a note of closure to a civil war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia and left more than 100,000 people dead. The main Balkan combatants, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia, are now themselves members or aspiring members of the European Union, an achievement for European unity at a time when the bloc faces severe strains over migration and economic stagnation.
While the tribunal had convicted many lesser figures of war crimes, it had never prosecuted a figure as senior as Karadzic.
In July 1995, began to implement a plan with others to eliminate Bosnian Muslims males in Srebrenica and forcibly remove the women and children. Almost 8,000 men and boys were killed.
Allowed forcible deportations, harassment, torture, rape and other sexual violence against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in 19 towns and villages.
Included the sniping and shelling during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and the deaths in Srebrenica.
MURDER (as a crime against humanity)
Played a key role in acts of murder including in Sarajevo where some 10,000 people were killed, Srebrenica and other municipalities.
Knew that between March 1992 and November 1995, Serb forces and Bosnian Serbs forcibly displaced Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.
Arbitrary arrest and detention, harassment, torture, rape, other sexual violence, killing and destruction of houses and cultural monuments.
Between April 1992 and November 1995, used the Sarajevo forces to spread terror through sniping and shelling.
TAKING OF HOSTAGES
In May-June 1995, Bosnian Serb Forces detained over 200 UN peacekeepers and military observers to force Nato not to carry out air strikes against Bosnian Serb military targets.
Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president whose extreme nationalism instigated and enabled much of the fighting, died in March 2006 in his cell in The Hague before the end of his trial.
Ratko Mladic, who was Karadzic's military chief during the campaign, is being tried separately.
Karadzic was convicted of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre, which aimed to kill "every able-bodied male" in the town and systematically exterminate the Bosnian Muslim population there.
He was also found guilty of persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer and murder in connection with a campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages claimed by Serb forces during the country's civil war from 1992 to 1995. He avoided conviction on a second count of genocide in seven Bosnian towns, but was found guilty in that case on a reduced charge of extermination.
In addition, Karadzic was found to have been "instrumental" in a campaign of sniping and shelling that terrorised the civilian population of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital. And he was convicted of leading the seizure of UN employees as hostages so as to obstruct Nato from carrying out air strikes on behalf of besieged Bosnian Muslim civilians.
Mr Hussein said the tribunal's judgment "strips away the pretence that what he did was anything more than political manipulation, and exposes him for what he really was: the architect of destruction and murder on a massive scale".
Mr Peter Robinson, Karadzic's chief legal adviser, said his client "was disappointed and astonished by his conviction and the judges' reasoning, and he asked us to appeal against his sentence".
In a policy that came to be known as ethnic cleansing, hundreds of thousands of Muslims and ethnic Croats, largely Roman Catholic, were driven from their villages, their homes looted and mosques and churches demolished. In 1992, the height of the campaign, close to 45,000 people were killed or missing, almost half of the 100,000 who died in the Bosnian war.
Karadzic was arrested on a public bus in 2008, more than 10 years after effectively vanishing. He had taken a new identity, posing as a faith healer and using the alias Dr Dragan Dabic.
NEW YORK TIMES