The decision to sentence Radovan Karadzic to life in imprison is “appropriate in the interest of justice,” Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
“Radovan Karadzic, the butcher of Bosnia, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the Srebrenica Genocide,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter. “Even though it does not relieve the pain we feel for the slaughter of our Bosnian brotherssisters, we find this decision appropriate in the interest of justice.”
A UN tribunal at The Hague on Wednesday sentenced the former Bosnian Serb leader for genocide, crimes against humanity and violating the laws and customs of war.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also tweeted early Thursday about the sentencing. “The Srebrenica genocide is a black blotch in modern European history. No court decision can relieve the pain in consciences,” Gul said. “However, the decision of the Council of Appeal of the International Criminal Courts to Radovan Karadzic for the life imprisonment is gratifying.”
In 2016 Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. He filed an appeal seeking an acquittal or retrial.
Following the closure of the former Yugoslav tribunal in 2017, the Council of Appeal of the International Criminal Courts Mechanism took over the cases.
It announced Wednesday the decision for Karadzic's appeal that had been going on for three years.
The Council also sentenced Karadzic, 73, for genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
His appeal of his 40-year prison sentence was also rejected.
"Considering the brutality and unprecedented size of the crimes committed, the 40-year prison sentence was insufficient," said the Council.
It confirmed Karadzic had knowledge of murders committed in July 1995 following the fall of Srebrenica.
He was, however, found not guilty of genocide in seven other Bosnian towns.
Apart from his single genocide conviction, he was also found guilty on five counts of crimes against humanity and four war crimes charges, including taking UN soldiers hostage, exterminating civilians, murders, and attacking soldiers.
- ‘Ruin of his Greater Serbia policy’
Karadzic was the president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic and supreme commander of its armed forces between 1992 and 1995, when 100,000 Bosnians died as the former Yugoslavia descended into ethnic bloodshed.
He was charged with 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica genocide, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.
Zeljko Komsic, Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia Herzegovina, praised the verdict. It “represents the minimum of justice for all victims, Bosniaks and Croats, who were systematically exterminated as part of the genocidal project of the creation of the Republika Srpska," he said in a statement.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said the verdict could not bring back the victims.
“Today's decision is the final judgment on one of the main ideologists and executors of the Greater Serbia policy, who did not hesitate to commit genocide and other most serious international crimes against Croats and Bosniaks in order to create the so-called Greater Serbia," he wrote on Twitter.
The verdict “must serve as a lasting warning about the ruin of this policy," he added.
On the life sentence, former Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said: "He will continue to live, and his victims are long dead, and nothing can return them."
"My opinion is that any punishment [of Karadzic] is too small," Vojvodina Nenad Canak, head of the Serbian League of Social Democrats, told reporters in the Serbian Parliament.
Karadzic was first indicted in July 1995 for the shooting of unarmed civilians in Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. Four months later, he was accused of orchestrating the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys after Serb forces seized the UN’s Srebrenica “safe area” in eastern Bosnia.
He went on the run after the war and was finally arrested in Belgrade in 2008.
During his trials, more than 580 witnesses gave testimony of crimes such as the murder of Muslims and Croats and the destruction of private property and mosques across Bosnia.
There is no appeal to Wednesday’s ruling.