By Stephanie van den Berg
The conviction of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide and nine counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for crimes committed during the Bosnian war, was met with both quiet satisfaction and loud disagreement by victims Thursday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
While many of the victims in the public gallery looked relieved at the sentence, which included a conviction for genocide in Srebrenica where Bosnian Serb troops killed over 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995, there was also disappointment. Karadzic escaped another genocide charge as judges ruled that the virulent campaign of ethnic cleansing in which Bosnian Serb forces drove out non-Serbs from villages considered to be on Serb territory at the start of the war was “not carried out with genocidal intent”.
For Hatidza Mehmedovic of the Mothers of Srebrenica NGO, no sentence could even be enough – forty years in a luxury Western prison cell could not erase her pain at losing her family members in the massacre.
“They killed my sons, they killed my brothers, my cousins,” she angrily told journalists outside the Court.
She returned to live Srebrenica, now located in the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska in Bosnia, where she said Karadzic’s “nationalist ideology is still very much alive” and she is feeling pressured to leave.
“My right side is satisfied, but my left side is crying”, said Mirsad Duratovic, a former inmate from one of the Prijedor camps.
The ICTY judges concluded Karadzic knew that his forces were committing crimes and by denying what was happening on the ground he “created an environment in which Serb forces could continue to commit the crimes” to further the Bosnian Serb plans to remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from certain municipalities they considered to be in Serb territory.
But the Chamber found that the campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1992 in seven municipalities, including the establishment of detention camps and the killings and expulsion of thousands, was “not carried out with genocidal intent”.
Fikret Alic, the man who was pictured emaciated behind barbed wire in infamous footage from the Trnopolje camp near Prijedor in 1992, said a Karadzic conviction without a genocide conviction for the municipalities was “no justice”.
“ I feel sorry for all those people they killed in the camps. Their bones will never find peace,” he said.
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told journalists he was satisfied with the conviction but would not say if his office would appeal.
“The victims would have wanted more, but when this tribunal was established (in 1995) nobody ever expected that Karadzic would ever appear here,” he recalled.
The Bosnian Serb leader spent 13 years on the run from justice, first in Bosnia and later across the border in Serbia, until he was arrested in Belgrade in 2008. He had been living in the Serbian capital under his assumed identity of Dr. Dragan Dabic, alternative healer.
Thursday in court Karadzic looked every inch the politician, showing no emotion as the verdict was read out save for a wry smile at the very end.
Karadzic’s legal adviser Peter Robinson, who spoke with his client immediately after the verdict said Karadzic was “disappointed with the verdict (…) and determined to appeal”.
Image: Protesters Radovan Karadozic in The Hague (Photo: Stephanie van den Berg/Justice Hug)
Lead image: Radovzan Karadozic at the International Criminal Court (Photo: Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP)