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Genocide: Karadzic pleads innocence on appeal to international justice

Ⓒ POOL/AFP – Yves Herman – | Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic (C) appears in international justice in The Hague on 23 April 2018

The former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, on Monday urged international justice to overturn his conviction for genocide and other serious crimes, vehemently denying planning for ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

“It is absolutely not possible that anything imputed to me in this judgment is correct,” Karadzic said on the first day of the two-day appeal trial in The Hague. “My statements have been distorted, my rights flouted, hidden motives,” added the 72-year-old Serb, in a dark suit and red tie.

In March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found him guilty and sentenced to 40 years in prison for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian conflict.

Involved in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo, the former president of the country’s Serb entity, Republika Srpska, denounced “myths”.

After death during his trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, he is the most responsible for the war, which left more than 100,000 dead and 2.2 million displaced between 1992 and 1995.

Still considered a “hero” by many of his family, Karadzic appealed 50 points of his conviction before the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which took over from the ICTY.

– “Unfair” trial –

“We are here today to ask you to stop Radovan Karadzic’s conviction and order a new trial,” his lawyer, Peter Robinson, said, finding the first “unfair”.

“What we are asking you to do in this case will not be popular in the short term but it will serve the cause of justice long after us,” he told the five judges of the MPTI.

In particular, the defense made its appeal that at first instance Karadzic had to choose, under pressure from the prosecution, to represent himself – what he had done – or to testify in his favor, and not both.

In its verdict, the ICTY considered that the accused, “spearheading the military, political and governmental structures” of the Bosnian Serbs, had sought to divide the country.

He was convicted of genocide for the murder of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, the worst massacre in Europe since the Second World War.

According to the judges, this massacre was part of an “ethnic cleansing” planned by a trio regrouping Karadzic, his military alter ego, General Ratko Mladic, and Slobodan Milosevic.

“There was never any intention to separate the populations,” defended the accused on Monday.

– “A monster” –

Ⓒ ANP/AFP – Yves Herman – | Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan appears in international justice in The Hague on 23 April 2018

It’s “a monster,” said Munira Subasic, president of the Srebrenica Mothers’ Association, who herself lost her husband and 16-year-old son, and attended the hearing. “Karadzic is neither a human nor an animal because he has no feelings,” she told AFP.

The ex-psychiatrist was also convicted of persecution, murder, rape, inhuman treatment or forcible transfer, including the siege of Sarajevo, which claimed the lives of 10,000 civilians in 44 months, as well as detention camps in inhuman living conditions “.

He had, however, been acquitted on one of the two counts of genocide for lack of sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that such a crime had been committed in seven other Bosnian municipalities.

The prosecution, which asked for life imprisonment, also appealed the verdict, which was considered too lenient.

Prosecutor Serge Brammertz regretted in particular that the judges retained “an excessively narrow definition of genocidal intent”.

One of the most sought after fugitives on the European continent, Radovan Karadzic was arrested in 2008 after nearly 13 years on the run.

Having given up his indomitable wick, he was hiding in Belgrade as a specialist in alternative medicine, sporting a white beard.

Ⓒ AFP – Jean Michel CORNU – | Radovan Karadzic

Since 2009, he is behind the bars of the United Nations Detention Unit in the dunes of The Hague, where he coexists with Mladic, aka the “Butcher of the Balkans”, sentenced to life in November.

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