Thu, 22 Aug 2019

Relatives who lost family members in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica will be closely watching United Nations judges ruling of an appeal by convicted Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

Judges in The Hague on March 20 are expected to rule at the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) whether to uphold or overturn Karadzic's 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

They will also decide whether to uphold the 40-year sentence he was handed down by the previous court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which closed in late 2017.

Karadzic was in 2016 sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of genocide for the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

The 73-year-old Karadzic, a former poet and psychiatrist, was also found guilty of orchestrating the nearly four-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in which some 10,000 people died from shelling and sniper fire.

Judges are also set to rule on a request by prosecutors to reverse an acquittal on a second genocide charge and sentence the former wartime leader to life in prison for that offense.

'We expect that he'll get [the punishment] he deserves,' said Sehida Abdurahmanovic, who lost 30 relatives in the Srebrenica massacre.

'We expect [the appeals court] to confirm the first-instance verdict and that he will not be allowed at any price to avoid the responsibility for genocide,' she added.

Azir Osmanovic, 36, who curates the Srebrenica memorial, survived the massacre as a child, but his older brother's remains have never been found. He said he fears that Karadzic's sentence could be lowered.

'We believe that for the crimes he had organized here in Bosnia-Herzegovina he does not deserve 40, but rather 400 years in prison,' he said.

Karadzic does have his supporters.

'I believe that, at worst, the [appeals] verdict will be much, much more favorable than the first-instance verdict,' said Momcilo Krajisnik, Karadzic's political aide during the war who also received a long prison sentence related to the conflict.

'If we are lucky, he will be a free man,' he added.

Krajisnik was sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes against humanity and for persecuting and expelling non-Serbs. He served two-thirds of his sentence and was released in 2014.

The Karadzic rulings will be among the last ones related to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which left over 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic is also appealing his genocide and war crimes conviction, which left him with a life sentence.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

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