Radovan Karadzic convicted of war crimes


Decades after the dust had settled, the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been found guilty of crimes he committed during the Yugoslav Wars and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Karadzic faced 11 charges, although the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted him of a second genocide charge. Karadzic said he will appeal the decision, as do his prosecutors who feel the genocide charge should not have been dropped.[1] Karadzic was the supreme commander of the Bosnian Serb military forces of the unrecognized Republika Srpska in Bosnia that fought against Bosnian forces from 1992 to 1995. Karadzic’s polarizing image is demonstrated in the aftermath of his verdict. Bosnian Muslims were relieved that one of the perpetrators of the atrocities is brought to justice. On the other side, many Serbs both in Serbia and in Bosnia are dismayed of the trial.

The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars that broke out in 1991 in the territory of former Yugoslavia. Following the death of former Communist dictator Josip Tito and the end of Communist rule in Europe, nationalist sentiments broke out into open warfare in former Yugoslavia. The wars saw Yugoslavia breaking up into the modern states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia. Kosovo remains unrecognized but is de-facto independent from 1999 onwards. Montenegro seceded from the rump state in 2006 through a referendum.

Karadzic’s most notorious act is his involvement in the Srebrenica massacre. After disarming the Dutch peacekeepers, the Bosnian Serb forces massacred 8000 Muslim men and boys and shipped the women and the children to other Muslim controlled territories.[2] The Srebrenica massacre has often been termed the worst human rights atrocity seen in Europe since WWII.

Other than the Srebrenica massacre, Karadzic is also charged with crimes against humanity such as persecution on political, religious, and ethnic grounds, violence inflicted onto civilians, grave breaches of Geneva Convention and other laws of war. The Bosnian Serb forces committed many atrocities during the conflict, including the slaughtering civilians, taking hostages, and using terror tactics, with Karadzic as their commander.[3] Since the conflict in Bosnia, Karadzic fled to Serbia and disguised himself as a New Age mystic until he was discovered in 2008 living in Belgrade.

The war in Bosnia lasted until 1995 when NATO militarily intervened in the conflict and the United States imposed the Dayton Accords on all the belligerents.  The Dayton Accords froze the conflict and the areas controlled by the Bosnian Serbs at the time formed the Republika Srpska and the areas controlled by the Bosniaks formed into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, federate entities with the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Karadzic’s trial opened up old wounds as can be seen in the different responses towards the Verdict. Many Muslim Bosnians that survived the Yugoslav wars felt vindicated and justice finally served. In the Republika Srpska however, many Serbs demonstrated in solidarity with Karadzic.[4] In Belgrade, Serbian nationalists turned up in force protesting against the verdict and claiming that the ICTY is biased against Serbs. Even a student dorm has been named after the now convicted war criminal.[5] Karadzic himself maintained that he is innocent and his actions were intended to protect the local Serb population.[6] Given Karadzic’s age and the evidence against him however, he is unlikely to be released from prison.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Borger, Julian, and Owen Bowcott. “Radovan Karadžić Sentenced to 40 Years for Srebrenica Genocide.” Radovan Karadzic sentenced to 40 years for Srebrenica genocide, 24 Mar. 2016 2016.

Dallison, Paul. “Student Dorm Named after War-Crimes Suspect Radovan Karadžić.”  Politico (2016). Published electronically 21.03.2016. //www.politico.eu/article/student-dorm-named-after-war-crimes-suspect-radovan-karadzic/.

Hume, Tim, Tiffany Ap, and Milena Veselinovic. “Karadzic Sentenced to 40 Years for Genocide.” CNN, 24 Mar. 2016 2016.

“Un War Crimes Tribunal Sentences Former Bosnian Serb Leader to 40 Years.” CBC News, 24 Mar. 2016 2016.

 

[1] “Un War Crimes Tribunal Sentences Former Bosnian Serb Leader to 40 Years,” CBC News, 24 Mar. 2016 2016.

[2] Tim Hume, Tiffany Ap, and Milena Veselinovic, “Karadzic Sentenced to 40 Years for Genocide,” CNN, 24 Mar. 2016 2016.

[3] Julian Borger and Owen Bowcott, “Radovan Karadžić Sentenced to 40 Years for Srebrenica Genocide,” Radovan Karadzic sentenced to 40 years for Srebrenica genocide, 24 Mar. 2016 2016.

[4] “Un War Crimes Tribunal Sentences Former Bosnian Serb Leader to 40 Years.”

[5] Paul Dallison, “Student Dorm Named after War-Crimes Suspect Radovan Karadžić,”  Politico (2016), //www.politico.eu/article/student-dorm-named-after-war-crimes-suspect-radovan-karadzic/.

[6] Borger and Bowcott, “Radovan Karadžić Sentenced to 40 Years for Srebrenica Genocide.”

Hanyu Huang