UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS FROM THE HEARING AND REACTIONS; NEW DECK
By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - A UN tribunal in The Hague on Wednesday sentenced former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to life in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity, and violating the laws and customs of war.
In 2016 Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. He then filed an appeal seeking an acquittal or retrial.
Following the closure of the former Yugoslav tribunal in 2017, the Council of Appeal of the International Criminal Courts Mechanism took over the ongoing cases.
The council on Wednesday announced the decision for Karadzic's appeal, which had been going on for some three years.
The council sentenced Karadzic, 73, for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995, as well as the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Karadzic's appeal of his 40-year prison sentence was also rejected.
"Considering the brutality and unprecedented size of the crimes committed, the 40-year prison sentence was insufficient," said the council.
The council also confirmed that Karadzic had knowledge of murders committed in July 1995 following the fall of Srebrenica.
While the court convicted Karadzic over his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, he was found not guilty of genocide in seven other Bosnian towns.
Apart from his single genocide conviction, he was also found guilty on five counts of crimes against humanity and four war crimes charges, including taking UN soldiers hostage, exterminating civilians, murders, and attacking soldiers.
-‘Ruin of his Greater Serbia policy’
Karadzic was the president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic and supreme commander of its armed forces between 1992 and 1995, when around 100,000 Bosnians died as the former Yugoslavia descended into ethnic bloodshed.
He was charged with 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica genocide, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.
Zeljko Komsic, Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia Herzegovina, praised the verdict in a statement today, saying it “represents the minimum of justice for all victims, Bosniaks and Croats, who were systematically exterminated as part of the genocidal project of the creation of the Republika Srpska."
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said that the verdict could not bring back the victims.
“Today's decision is the final judgment on one of the main ideologists and executors of the Greater Serbia policy, who did not hesitate to commit genocide and other most serious international crimes against Croats and Bosniaks in order to create the so-called Greater Serbia," he wrote on Twitter.
The verdict “must serve as a lasting warning about the ruin of this policy," he added.
On the life sentence, former Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said: "He will continue to live, and his victims are long dead, and nothing can return them."
"My opinion is that any punishment [of Karadzic] is too small," Vojvodina Nenad Canak, head of the Serbian League of Social Democrats, told reporters in the Serbian Parliament.
Karadzic -- dubbed the Butcher of Bosnia -- was first indicted in July 1995 for the shooting of unarmed civilians in Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. Four months later, he was accused of orchestrating the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys after Serb forces seized the UN’s Srebrenica “safe area” in eastern Bosnia.
He went on the run after the war and was finally arrested in Belgrade in 2008.
During his trials, more than 580 witnesses gave testimony of crimes such as the murder of Muslims and Croats and the destruction of private property and mosques across Bosnia.
There is no appeal to today’s ruling.