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Srebrenica 'mastermind' makes final plea

October 1, 2014

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic made his final plea of innocence before a UN court. The former commander is alleged to have committed war crimes, including orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

Radovan Karadzic Kriegsverbrechertribunal 01.10.2014
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/ICTY via Associated Press Television

On Wednesday, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) began hearing the final statement from Radovan Karadzic, one of the most infamous figures in the Bosnian war.

The former commander began by accusing the prosecution of "unfair argumentation" which was not based on "a shred of evidence."

He also argued that there was proof of his "good deeds" during that period of time, which were "reflected in [my] major efforts to avoid a war."

However, he did acknowledge that while he was innocent, he bore "moral responsibilty for any crimes committed by citizens and forces of Republika Srpska," referring to the ethnically Serb breakaway state, carved out of multi-ethnic Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war.

Karadzic, 69, faces charges which include crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Most notably, prosecutors allege that the former Bosnian Serb commander was the mastermind behind the slaughter of approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 in what has become known as the Srebrenica massacre.

He is also accused of overseeing the shelling of Sarajevo, which lasted for 44 months between 1992 and 1996 and claimed thousands of lives.

During his five-year trial, Karadzic has maintained his innocence. He told the court in 2010 that the Srebrenica massacre was a "myth," and also shifted the blame for other atrocities to his Muslim enemies.

The massacre is considered to be one of the worst atrocities to have occurred in Europe since World War II.

Prosecutors call for life in prison

Prosecutors in the Hague - who contend that witnesses have confirmed Karadzic was the "driving force" behind the policy of ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War - have asked the court on Friday to hand down a sentence of life imprisonment to the former commander.

In their final brief to the tribunal, they wrote: "Under his command and oversight, Karadzic's subordinates and those cooperating with them expelled, killed, tortured and otherwise mistreated hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats."

Other figures from the Bosnian war have also faced similar charges. Former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006 before the trial ended. Meanwhile, the ICTY continues to hear the case of former Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic.

Karadzic's verdict is expected to be handed down by the ICTY next year.

kms/ksb (AP, AFP, dpa)