The Yugoslav war crimes court drops one genocide charge against wartime leader Karadzic but leaves 10 other war crimes and genocide charges standing. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted
Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Karadzic (R) and his general Ratko Mladic (L) walk accompanied by bodyguards in this 1995 photo. Hürriyet photo
The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal acquitted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic yesterday of one of the two genocide charges he faces, but upheld 10 other counts, at the halfway stage of his long-running trial.
Presiding Judge Oh-Gon Kwon said prosecutors had not provided enough evidence to “be capable of supporting a conviction of genocide in the municipalities,” a charge covering the mass killings, expulsions and persecution by Serb forces of Muslims and Croats in Bosnian towns early in the country’s 1992-95 war.
While the dismissal of one genocide charge was a setback for prosecutors, judges upheld 10 more charges, including a genocide count covering Karadzic’s alleged involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
Prosecutors finished presenting their evidence in May and earlier this month Karadzic had asked judges to dismiss all 11 counts against him, saying prosecutors had failed to prove their case.‘Courageous decision’
Karadzic’s lawyer, Peter Robinson, welcomed the rejection of the genocide charge. “Dr. Karadzic and myself both thought it was a courageous decision of the trial chamber to say at this stage of the case that there was no genocide in the municipalities in Bosnia in 1992,” Robinson told the Associated Press outside the court. “But I do expect that the prosecution will want to appeal this decision.”
However, survivors of the Bosnian war, which left 100,000 people dead, said the decision could set back any reconciliation.
“We are shocked and disappointed,” said Edin Ramulic, who heads an association of victims in Bosnia’s Prijedor region. “We have no reason to hope now that the Serbs will go through catharsis and acknowledge that the non-Serbs in Prijedor were killed, tortured, exterminated, raped.” Karazdic’s trial will continue later this year on the 10 remaining counts and he will begin his defense on Oct. 16. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
The court has repeatedly ruled that the massacre in Srebrenica was genocide, but has never convicted any suspect of genocide for the campaign of killings in the Bosnia towns and villages at the outset of the war.
Judges said there was enough evidence to uphold charges including murder and persecution in the early stages of the war, but that the killings did not rise to the level of genocide, which requires prosecutors to prove intent to wipe out a specific group of the population in whole or in part. Karadzic was arrested in 2008, some 13 years after he was first indicted on charges of masterminding Serb atrocities during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. His trial started in 2009 and prosecutors rested their case in May.
Karadzic’s former military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic also is on trial on almost identical charges. The first witness in that trial is scheduled to begin testifying early next month.