Ex-Bosnian Serb leader given life in prison on appeal

Radovan Karadzic's original 40-year jail sentence was deemed too light given the gravity of the crimes.
Radovan Karadzic's original 40-year jail sentence was deemed too light given the gravity of the crimes.

THE HAGUE • UN judges yesterday sentenced former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic to life in prison on appeal, ending one of the most momentous trials over massacres and other atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Appeals judges upheld Karadzic's conviction for the 1995 genocide at Srebrenica and ruled that the 40-year sentence imposed at the close of his trial was too light.

Survivors broke into applause after Presiding Judge Vagn Joensen read the sentence.

Karadzic, who had argued that the United Nations court was biased against him, stood impassively.

The five-judge panel ruled that the 40-year jail sentence originally imposed on Karadzic was too light given the "extraordinary gravity" of the crimes and "their sheer scale and systematic cruelty".

"Karadzic failed to bring into dispute the first-instance verdict's conclusions about his intent to commit genocide," said Judge Joensen, reading out the panel's decision.

Karadzic, 73, was convicted in 2016 over the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb separatist forces in the eastern town of Srebrenica.


He was also found guilty of leading a campaign of ethnic cleansing that drove Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed areas of Bosnia.

On appeal, prosecutors sought a life sentence and a second genocide conviction for his alleged role in that policy of targeting non-Serbs across several Bosnian towns in the early years of the 1992 to 1995 war.

Yesterday's ruling is final and cannot be challenged on appeal. It will have huge resonance in the former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia, where ethnic communities remain divided and Karadzic is still seen as a hero by many Bosnian Serbs.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-Bosnian Serb leader given life in prison on appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe