The Hague- Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 40 years in jail over the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
UN war crimes judges said Karadzic, the most high-profile figure convicted over the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart, bore criminal responsibility for murder and persecution during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict.
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon hailed it has a “historic day” for justice, but relatives of the victims voiced disappointment at the sentence.
In what will be a blow to thousands of victims, the court in The Hague said it did not have enough evidence to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that genocide had been committed in seven Bosnian towns and villages, over two decades ago.
In Srebrenica, relatives of men murdered there slammed the sentence. There was also disappointment among demonstrators who had gathered outside the court from the early morning
After former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic died while on trial in 2006, the last high-ranking official of the top leadership to face judgement will be notorious Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, “The Butcher of Bosnia” whose verdict is due next year.
However, Karadžić’s lawyer Peter Robinson said his client was “disappointed and astonished”.
“He feels that he was convicted on inference instead of evidence and will appeal the judgement,” Robinson said outside the tribunal.
The 70-year-old listened stony-faced as the judge said it was clear Karadzic bore “individual criminal responsibility” for murder, persecution as well as the hostage-taking of UN peacekeepers.
Karadzic “was at the apex of political, governmental and military structures” of the Bosnian Serb leadership and “at the forefront of developing and promoting its ideologies,” the judge added.
There was “a clear intent to kill every able-bodied Bosnian male from Srebrenica,” the judge said, and the operation was “intended to destroy the Bosnian Muslims” in the UN-protected enclave.
For his part, UN Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein hailed the verdict as “hugely significant”.
“It… strips away the pretense 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.”
ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz welcomed the verdict, saying: “Justice has been served.”
“Thousands came here to tell their stories and courageously confront their tormentors. Today with this conviction that trust has been honored,” he said in a statement.
The hearing, attended by more than 200 journalists and over 100 diplomats and observers, took place amid tight security.