Former Bosnia Serb Leader To Be Transferred To U.K. Prison

Former Bosnia Serb leader Radovan Karadžić is being transferred to a British prison to carry out the remainder of his life sentence. Karadžić was originally sentenced to 40 years on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. However, this was increased to life in prison at an appeal hearing in 2019, which found him to be responsible for the deaths of over 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. The event was one of Europe’s worst massacres since World War II. Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia also found Karadžić responsible for the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted more than three years and led to approximately 10,000 civilian deaths.

Judge Carmel Agius, President of the U.N. International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, ordered Karadžić’s transfer to the U.K. from a U.N. detention unit in the Netherlands following hearing representations.

Britain played a role in the search for Karadžić, as well as his trial and conviction. (Karadžić disappeared for 13 years, purporting to be an expert in alternative medicine, until his arrest in 2008.) United Nations officials have reported that the U.K. is on a list of U.N. member countries who have agreed to detain individuals who have been found guilty of committing global crimes, as well as continuing to support the international rules-based order.

“Radovan Karadžić is one of the few people to have been found guilty of genocide,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated, regarding the transfer. “We should take pride in the fact that, from U.K. support to secure his arrest, to the prison cell he now faces, Britain has supported the 30-year pursuit of justice for these heinous crimes.”

Karadžić opposed his transfer due to safety reasons, referencing former Serbian general Radislav Krstić, who was murdered by three inmates at Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire.

“The president has designated the U.K. as the place where he is to serve his sentence over our objections,” Peter Robinson, Karadžić’s lawyer, argued. “We objected because of what happened to General Krstić in the U.K. and because of the difficulties faced by Liberian president Charles Taylor. With a high percentage of Muslims among the prison population, we feel Karadžić will be in danger, and to keep him safe will require measures tantamount to solitary confinement.”

The U.K. signed enforcement agreements with the U.N. for the sentences passed by its tribunals related to the former Yugoslavia. U.N. officials have confirmed that Britain “enforced the sentence” at their request. “[A]ll necessary measures” will be taken “to facilitate Karadžić’s transfer … as expeditiously as possible,” the U.N. stated. No date has been given for the transfer.

The U.K. will fund Karadžić’s detention. However, any future decisions regarding his release before his death remain the responsibility of U.N. authorities in the Hague.