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KARADZIC VERDICT: LEGAL PRECEDENTS AND UNPROVEN ALLEGATIONS
The Hague Tribunal has legal precedents for some of the charges against Radovan Karadzic, but allegations that genocide was committed in 1992 and UN peacekeepers were taken hostage have never been proven by the court.
The crimes with which he is charged have been the subject of more than 20 cases already heard at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
The charges include genocide against Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995 and in seven other Bosnian municipalities in 1992, the persecution of non-Serbs in 20 municipalities and taking peacekeepers from the UN protection force UNPROFOR hostage.
He is charged as a member of a joint criminal enterprise - together with other high-ranking Republika Srpska police and army officials and political leaders in local communities, as well as leaders of paramilitary and volunteer units – with the aim of persecuting non-Serbs.
In the 20 years since the biggest crime on European soil since World War II - the killings of over 7,000 Bosniak men and boys and the deportation of 25,000 women and children from the United Nations-designated ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica - the Hague Tribunal has convicted 14 people for these crimes.
Three of those convicted by the Hague Tribunal were given life sentences - two former officers at the Bosnian Serb Army’s Main Headquarters, Zdravko Tolimir and Ljubisa Beara, as well as former Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps security officer Vujadin Popovic. The rest received a total of 189 years in prison.
Karadzic is mentioned in Beara’s and Popovic’s verdict in several places. It is stated that on July 9, 1995, Karadzic issued an order approving the seizure of the protected enclave of Srebrenica, and that he discussed the Bosniak captives with Miroslav Deronjic, a now-deceased Bosnian Serb official who was also convicted of war crimes.
The Srebrenica crimes were first labelled genocide in 2004 in the Hague Tribunal verdict convicting former Drina Corps chief of staff Radislav Krstic. This verdict also mentioned Karadzic in his role as the supreme commander of Bosnian Serb forces.
“VRS [Bosnian Serb Army] units were engaged in detention, transport and execution of Bosnian Muslims, including the members of the Drina Corps, the Bratunac and Zvornik Brigades and the 10th Sabotage Unit,” the verdict said.
“The participation of so many units shows the extent to which the process was planned, and the participation of the Sabotage Unit specifically shows that the VRS General Staff was directly involved in this operation,” it added.
Bosnian Serb Army Main Headquarters official Zdravko Tolimir’s verdict also mentions Karadzic as the “only one with the authority to command the VRS Main Headquarters”.
As with Srebrenica, Karadzic’s name is mentioned in two Hague Tribunal verdicts convicting Bosnian Serbs of terrorizing the population of Sarajevo during the three-and-a-half year long siege of the city. The Tribunal convicted Stanislav Galic and Dragomir Milosevic, who were both commanders of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps of the VRS at different times.
Both verdicts stated that the units under the command of Galic and Milosevic, fired on the city indiscriminately, causing numerous civilian casualties and terrorising its residents.
“For all military officials in the Sarajevo region, it is beyond doubt that general Galic was their commander as the commanding officer of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, and that his superior was Bosnian Serb Army’s Main Headquarters commander Ratko Mladic and Supreme Commander Radovan Karadzic,” Galic’s verdict said.
The Hague Tribunal. Photo: BIRN.
The most highly-anticipated part of Karadzic’s verdict is concerns the charges that he was responsible for genocide in the municipalities of Bratunac, Foca, Kljuc, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Zvornik in 1992.
The Tribunal has handed down more than 15 verdicts for crimes against humanity, extermination and persecution in these municipalities, but not one for genocide.
High-ranking Bosnian Serb political officials Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic - who are listed in Karadzic’s indictment as members of the same joint criminal enterprise - were convicted of crimes in all these municipalities, except for Bratunac.
Karadzic is described in Krajisnik’s verdict as “the key figure in Republika Srpska”, and is mentioned in Plavsic’s plea deal as part of the Bosnian Serb leadership which was guilty of a “crime of utmost gravity, involving a campaign of ethnic separation which resulted in the death of thousands and the expulsion of thousands more in circumstances of great brutality”.
The Hague judges in Krajisnik’s case found that some of the crimes committed in Foca, Kljuc, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Zvornik reached the scale of genocide, but did not find that the defendant had “intent to destroy in part or in whole the group of Bosnian Muslims or Croats”.
Many of the Hague Tribunal verdicts relate to mass crimes committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor, with Karadzic listed as a member of a joint criminal enterprise member in the verdict convicting the former head of the Prijedor Crisis Committee, Milomir Stakic, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Along with Stakic, the Tribunal convicted former guards and commanders of several Bosnian Serb-run detention camps in Prijedor.
Mass crimes in Foca were proven in the verdicts convicting Milorad Krnojelac, the commander of a Serb-run detention camp in Foca, and former VRS soldiers Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac, Zoran Vukovic and Dragan Zelenovic.
Dragan Nikolic was convicted of crimes against Bosniaks from Vlasenica detained at the Susica camp, where he was the commander, and Karadzic was mentioned as part of the Serb leadership in the verdict convicting Radoslav Brdjanin, a senior political figure in the self-styled Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina.
Along with the 1992 genocide charges, Karadzic is also on trial for crimes against humanity in 20 municipalities - Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Bosanski Novi, Bratunac, Brcko, Foca, Hadzici, Ilidza, Kljuc, Novi Grad, Novo Sarajevo, Pale, Prijedor, Rogatica, Sanski Most, Sokolac, Visegrad, Vlasenica, Vogosca and Zvornik.
The verdicts convicting Brdjanin, Krajisnik and Plavsic deal with some of those municipalities, and the Tribunal has also convicted Milan and Sredoje Lukic and Mitar Vasiljevic for crimes in Visegrad and Ranko Cesic and Goran Jelisic for crimes in Brcko.
The final part of Karadzic’s verdict concerns his alleged responsibility for taking UN peacekeepers hostage, but these allegations have never been part of any previous indictment at the Tribunal.