UN judges to hear Karadzic appeal against 40-year jail term

Radovan Karadzic, right, and his military alter-ego, former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, who was jailed for life on similar charges to Karadzic. (Reuters)
Updated 20 April 2018

UN judges to hear Karadzic appeal against 40-year jail term

  • Karadzic, 72, was sentenced to four decades behind bars in 2016 for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • The former strongman — with his recognizable bouffant hairdo — was “at the apex of political and military structures” of the Bosnian Serb leadership.

THE HAGUE: Once-feared Bosnian Serb leader, now convicted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, on Monday launches his appeal before UN judges, seeking to overturn a 40-year jail term for abuses committed during Bosnia’s bloody 1990s conflict.
Karadzic, 72, was sentenced to four decades behind bars in 2016 for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, arising from the Balkan country’s three-year war which killed 100,000 people and left 2.2 million others homeless.

 

The former strongman — with his recognizable bouffant hairdo — was “at the apex of political and military structures” of the Bosnian Serb leadership and “at the forefront of developing and promoting its ideologies,” judges said at his sentencing in March 2016.
They found Karadzic guilty on 10 counts, including one of genocide for masterminding the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, deemed the worst bloodshed on European soil since World War II.
Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves after battle-hardened Bosnian Serb soldiers overran a protected “safe area” guarded by lightly-armed Dutch UN peacekeepers.
Judges also found him guilty of being behind the bitter 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which 10,000 civilians died in a relentless campaign of sniping and shelling.
But Karadzic was acquitted on one count of genocide, with judges saying there was not enough evidence to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that genocide was also committed in seven Bosnian towns and villages.
Karadzic appealed on 50 grounds and accused judges of conducting a “political trial” against him, while prosecutors said the trial judges “erred in law and fact,” asking that their original demand for a life sentence be reinstated.
His lawyer Peter Robinson said Karadzic did not get a fair trial as the UN judges “presumed him guilty and then constructed a judgment to justify its presumption.”In appeal documents, Robinson added that even though Karadzic was jailed for 40 years, trial judges “could have been under no illusion they were imposing a life sentence.”
Appeals judges should therefore “vacate the sentence of imprisonment and, if it upholds any convictions, impose a new sentence, taking the mitigating circumstances into account,” Robinson said.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia’s chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz also disagreed with trial judges and appealed on four grounds.
These included judges applying an “overly narrow definition of genocidal intent” and “improperly assessing aggravating and mitigating factors” when passing sentence.
The prosecution asked appeals judges to “correct the trial chamber’s errors and increase Karadzic’s sentence to life imprisonment.”
But in Banja Luka, many see the court as “unjust and selective, basing itself on scenarios prepared in advance,” Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik told AFP.
“It has not succeeded in imposing itself as a place of justice where reconciliation can be achieved,” he added.
The hearing at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which has taken over the ICTY’s functions, will start at 0920 GMT.
After a short introduction by presiding judge Theodor Meron, both Karadzic and prosecutors will have three hours for submissions and responses.
The sitting will resume on Tuesday, when Karadzic will also have the chance to personally address the judges.
The one-time psychiatrist is the highest-ranking official sentenced by the ICTY, set up in 1993 to prosecute those behind the Balkans bloodshed.
Former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison cell in 2006 before the end of this trial.
Karadzic’s military alter-ego and former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic was jailed for life in prison in November on similar charges.
During Karadzic’s marathon trial, which ended in October 2014 after an exhausting 497 days in the courtroom, some 115,000 pages of documentary evidence were presented along with 586 witnesses, while court officials recorded some 47,500 pages of transcripts.
Before his 2016 sentencing, Karadzic revealed he was so convinced he would walk free on his judgment day that he had already packed his bags.

Decoder

Srebrenica massacre

Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves after battle-hardened Bosnian Serb soldiers overran a protected “safe area” guarded by lightly-armed Dutch UN peacekeepers.

FASTFACTS

Srebrenica massacre


French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

Updated 56 min 50 sec ago

French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

  • PM Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing
  • The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey

PARIS: France’s prime minister led a memorial service Friday for six aid workers killed in Niger in what investigators said had likely been a premeditated attack targeting Westerners.
As the six caskets lay side by side in the VIP section of Orly Airport south of Paris, where the bodies arrived Friday from Niamey, Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing.
“In front of these six coffins... I want first of all to express the pain, the incomprehension, the anger of all French people,” said the premier as he saluted the youngsters’ generosity and altruism.
“The victims of this attack came to Niger to do good. They met with evil.”
The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey.
The area is a popular destination for weekend leisure trips by Niamey residents, including foreigners.
They worked for French NGO Acted and were aged between 25 and 30.
“This incarnation of evil, France unfortunately knows it only too well... it is very likely the same hatred, the same cowardice, the same inhumanity at work in Niger and Bataclan,” the Parisian concert venue targeted by extremists in 2015, said Castex.
And he stressed there was “no question of giving an inch of ground to criminal fanaticism or to enemies of the freedom to act, think and engage.”
Earlier, a source close to an ongoing investigation by French anti-terror prosecutors told AFP the attack “appears to have been premeditated to target a priori mainly Westerners.”
France’s anti-terror prosecutor’s office said Monday it would probe charges of murder “with links to a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association” in relation to the killings.
A team of 11 specialized investigators departed France for Niger the following day.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack carried out by gunmen on motorcycles.
But “given the modus operandi, the terrorist hypothesis is being favored,” the source told AFP.
Suspicion has fallen on Daesh in the Great Sahara, active in the shared border region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where it is being pursued by France’s Barkhane force fighting extremists in the Sahel.
The French investigation will seek to determine whether the assailants had been tipped off about the humanitarians’ visit to the national park.
French President Emmanuel Macron has described it as “manifestly a terrorist attack” and said there would be repercussions.
“We’re pursuing action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the strengthened support of our partners,” Macron said.