Radovan Karadzic sentence increased to life for Bosnia genocide: UN judges

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic arrives at the court room of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 20, 2019 to hear the final judgement on his role in the bloody conflict that tore his country apart a quarter of a century ago. (AFP/AP Pool)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Radovan Karadzic sentence increased to life for Bosnia genocide: UN judges

  • A panel of appeals judges in The Hague “imposes a sentence of life imprisonment”
  • Judgement increases original sentence of 40 years

THE HAGUE: Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will spend the rest of his life in jail for the "sheer scale and systematic cruelty" of his crimes in the war that tore his country apart a quarter of a century ago, UN judges said on Wednesday.

Karadzic, 73, stood motionless and grim-faced in the dock as judges in The Hague said they had upheld his 2016 convictions for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre and war crimes in the 1990s.

In one of the last remaining cases from the break-up of Yugoslavia, they also increased his original 40-year sentence, saying it did not reflect his role in the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II.

Judges at the original trial "underestimated the extreme gravity of Karadzic's responsibility for the most grave crimes committed during the period of conflict, noted for their sheer scale and systematic cruelty", head judge Vagn Joensen said.

The panel of appeals judges therefore "imposes a sentence of life imprisonment", he said.

Relatives of the victims had called for a life sentence.

A woman reacts after the verdict on former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic's appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes, in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica. (Reuters)

"If he is not given a life sentence, the tribunal will have committed genocide against justice," Munira Subasic of the Mothers of Srebrenica victims' association told reporters ahead of the verdict, where a small group of relatives held banners and photos of the dead outside the tribunal.

Karadzic, who has been in detention for 11 years, was "calm" ahead of the verdict, the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti quoted his brother Luka as saying.

The paper also published several cryptic "aphorisms" written by Radovan Karadzic including one which said: "A man who swallows his honour for breakfast may have something for dinner."

A former psychiatrist and amateur poet turned brutal political leader, Karadzic was arrested in 2008 in Belgrade after nearly 13 years on the run during which he posed as a new age healer called Dragan Dabic.

In 2016, Karadzic was found guilty on 10 counts including orchestrating a nearly four-year siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where more than 10,000 people died in a campaign of sniping and shelling, according to prosecutors.

He was also found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in eastern Bosnia, which was supposed to be under UN protection, and buried their bodies in mass graves.

Prosecutors said Karadzic and others including his military alter-ego, former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, wanted to "permanently remove Muslims and Croats" from territory claimed by Bosnian Serbs at the time.

Radovan Karadzic appears before the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals ("Mechanism") ruling on a appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes in The Hague. (Reuters)

Bespectacled and with his trademark mane of white hair swept back from his face, Karadzic said nothing as the verdict was read out, but shortly afterwards looked to the public gallery and gave a small smile.

Appeals judges repeatedly dismissed Karadzic's claims that he was not aware of orders by Bosnian Serb forces to eliminate Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and to indiscriminately target civilians in Sarajevo.

They rejected Karadzic's claims that he did not know a military directive he drafted and signed on the fate of Srebrenica called for Bosnian Serb forces to create an "unbearable situation with no hope of further survival" for inhabitants.

Karadzic's case still bitterly divides the country he helped drive to war, with widows of Srebrenica hoping he dies in prison even as Bosnian Serbs have honoured him with a university dorm in his name.

People react after the verdict on former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic's appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes, in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica. (Reuters)

Families of the victims of Srebrenica were watching the verdict at the Women of Srebrenica association building in the town of Tuzla.

Hajrija Oric, 63, who arrived at the Srebrenica memorial centre to watch the verdict showed AFP photos on her mobile phone of her son 17-year-old son Elvir and husband Sahin who were both killed in the massacre.

Their remains were found years later and buried.

"My hope.. is that (Karadzic) is sentenced to life," she said ahead of the verdict.

"All I found was a handful of bones and head. I would give everything, I would give my eyes if I could bring them back but it cannot happen."

The case also comes at a crucial time for international courts as they come under attack from quarters including the administration of US President Donald Trump, and reel from a series of mistrials.

Ex-military chief Mladic, 76, dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges.
Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic's long-time patron during the war, was on trial in The Hague until his death in 2006.


Former militant Tania Joya now fights to ‘reprogram’ extremists

Updated 41 sec ago
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Former militant Tania Joya now fights to ‘reprogram’ extremists

  • Tania Joya grew up confronted by racism and the struggles of integration
  • ‘It’s really important to de-radicalize them, rehabilitate’ these people
WASHINGTON: Tania Joya has devoted her life to “reprogramming” extremists and reintroducing them into society — a process she understands well as a “former Islamic militant” herself.
“My aim is for them to feel a sense of remorse and to train them so that they can be good citizens once they are released from prison, so they can adjust to society,” Joya said during a visit to Washington, to present a project on preventing extremist violence.
Born in 1984 near London to a Muslim Bangladeshi family, Joya grew up confronted by racism and the struggles of integration. She radicalized at age 17, after the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Osama bin Laden’s call for a global jihad.
In 2004, she married an American Muslim-convert, Yahya Al-Bahrumi (born John Georgelas). She began advocating for an Islamic state, for which her three children would be soldiers.
But in 2013, her husband took her and their children against her will to northwestern Syria to join militant insurgents. Joya reported her husband to US authorities and, after three weeks, fled Syria to the United States.
Joya settled in Texas, her husband’s home state. There, she changed her life, divorced and re-married.
Yahya, her first husband, joined the Daesh group, which would soon control large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. He was in charge of the group’s English-language propaganda, and Joya said he became the “highest-ranking American” in the Daesh group.
He died in 2017 during fighting in Mayadin, in northern Syria, as the so-called Daesh “caliphate” crumbled.
However, this created a new problem — Western militants or their spouses and children wanting to come home.
Joya realized that she had something to offer. “It’s really important to de-radicalize them, rehabilitate” these people, she said.
“It’s reprogramming them and giving them a sense of hope in the political process.”
It’s also important to “get them to understand the psychology and the patterns... what led them to extremism,” understanding “the rejection many in the US and Europe faced growing up there, the cultural conflict, the crisis they went through,” she said.
“Once it’s all explained to them, very logically, they will accept it just as I did.”
Joya favors repatriating foreign rebels from the Middle East so they can be judged in their countries of origin.
While that is the US policy, many European countries such as France are wary of taking in the militants.
In May and June, 11 French nationals were sentenced to die in Iraq for their affiliation to Daesh.
Joya has campaigned for the return of Shamima Begum, who joined the militant group when she was just 15 but now wants to return home to Britain. However, Begum’s lack of remorse has turned public opinion against her, and the British government stripped her of her citizenship in February.
Kurdish-run camps in northeast Syria have taken in some 12,000 foreign fighters from 40 different countries, including 4,000 women and 8,000 children whose fathers are militants.
Countries with militants stranded in refugee camps “are responsible for these individuals,” said Joya. “We can’t just push them off to the Middle East, to the Kurdish people... the abuses they’re facing in these camps are only confirming their beliefs of radicalization.”
Joya is participating in the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) program organized by the Clarion Program, a US non-profit dedicated to educating people “about the growing phenomenon of Islamic extremism,” according to its website.
The PVE program provides “communication models” that offer “workshops for youth so that before a child is even indoctrinated or introduced to radical ideologies, they’ve really been inoculated” against religious and ideological extremism, said national program coordinator Shireen Qudosi.
“That goes from gangs, to radical ideologies: antifa, neo-Nazi groups, Islamist extremism,” she said.