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Former Bosnian Serb leader found guilty of genocide

A United Nations tribunal sentenced on Thursday former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to 40 years in prison for genocide and war crimes.

The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia found Karadzic, former president of the Serbian Rupublic during the Bosnian Civil War, guilty on 10 of 11 counts. These charges included two counts of genocide, including one for complicity in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, where Serbian Republic soldiers murdered more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims around the town of Srebrenica.

Karadzic was found not guilty on the other count of genocide, related to ethnic cleansing efforts in other Bosnian municipalities.

Karadzic was also found guilty of crimes against humanity for his role in the siege of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, during which Serbian Republic forces deliberately targeted civilians, according to presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon. Other charges included persecutions, murder, deportation, forcible transfer and taking UN observers and peacekeepers hostage, according to the BBC.

Karadzic acted as his own defense counsel during the trial. He denied the charges against him, claiming any atrocities committed during the war were the actions of rogue agents.

Karadzic was president of the Serbian Republic from its establishment in April 1992 until July 1996.

As part of the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, the communist nation’s constituent republics declared independence one by one; these included Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the majority of ethnic Bosnians were Muslims, the country also boasted a substantial minority of Orthodox Serbs, who were governed by their own legislative assembly, where Karadzic was a prominent leader.

Desiring an autonomous Serbian state separate from the Muslim majority, the Bosnian Serb Assembly declared independence from Bosnia on April 7, 1992, one day after the European Union formally recognized Bosnia’s sovereignty. The newly formed Serbian Republic, or Republika Sprska, promptly elected Karadzic president and began a comprehensive campaign of ethnic cleansing to remove Bosnian Muslims from its territory, with the tacit support of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

Hostilities between the Serbian Republic and Bosnia quickly escalated into civil war. UN peacekeeping initiatives in the region ended in failure, and NATO began an airstrike campaign against Bosnian Serb forces in 1994. Karadzic and his leading general, Ratko Mladic, were indicted by a UN tribunal for crimes against humanity in 1995.

The Bosnian Civil War ended after the Dayton Accords of Nov. 21, 1995, whereupon NATO deployed 80,000 ground troops into Bosnia. Karadzic fled the country and went into hiding in Serbia, adopting the name Dragan Dabic and posing as an alternative medicine practitioner. He made several appearances in this capacity at medical conferences in Serbia and Austria. He was arrested by Serbian authorities in Belgrade in 2008 and extradited to The Hague to stand trial, according to the BBC.

Karadzic’s legal advisor Peter Robinson told the BBC that Karadzic intends to appeal the tribunal’s decision, a process that could take several more years. In the meantime, Karadzic will remain detained in The Hague. He is entitled to credit for time served in detention, so if upheld this year his sentence would run 32 years.

Since its establishment in 1993, the Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia has indicted 161 people for “serious violations of humanitarian law” in the former Yugoslavian states. Of the accused, 149 have already been tried, while proceedings are ongoing for 12 more.

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