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Reactions to Karadzic vercit

Zdravko Ljubas
March 24, 2016

Over 20 years after the first indictment against him, wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison for war crimes and genocide during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bosnian survivors and family in The Hague
Image: Reuters/M. Kooren

"This verdict is important because it is a verdict against an ideology. There is only one truth about the (1992-95) war in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Bakir Izetbegovic, chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite state presidency told reporters in Sarajevo after the ruling on Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic was delivered.

He stressed that the verdict is important for the victims of the war, the Balkan country and for the entire region. "With this verdict, the civilized world showed it understands the suffering of the peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war."

Izetbegovic, whose father, the late Alija Izetbegovic, ran the country during the war and went through numerous negotiations with Karadzic, said it was necessary for everyone to face the truth for the sake of a better future. He called on all sides not to politicize the decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague and added that relations in the region have to be built on a basis of truth and justice.

Niederlande Radovan Karadzic vor Gericht in den Haag Überlebende und Angehörige vor dem Gericht
Survivors and relatives protested against the limited sentenceImage: Reuters/M. Kooren

Srebrenica mothers slam verdict: No justice for victims

The verdict, however, did not bring satisfaction to the victims of the 1992-95 war, although this initial sentence by the ICTY puts the 70-year-old Karadzic behind bars for 40 years.

Survivors of the wartime Bosnian Serb troops' detention camps in the Prijedor area in northwestern Bosnia are disappointed with the fact that the tribunal did not hold Karadzic responsible on a second genocide charge, for a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and Croats in seven municipalities, including Prijedor.

"Somehow I expected this," Nusreta Sivac, a former judge from Prijedor, told DW. As a Muslim from Prijedor, Sivac was detained in 1992 and spent about three months in the Omarska detention camp, being raped and abused. "There is no justice in this case. In a way, this is a slap to the survivors of the atrocities in Prijedor and other six municipalities. Anyway, we do expect the prosecution to appeal, so we will see," Nusreta said.

"There is no justice for Karadzic but that of God's will, which will find him as well as all those involved in crimes," said Munira Subasic of the Association of Srebrenica Mothers. Karadzic was found guilty for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, in which up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were massacred.

Radovan Karadzic
Radovan KaradzicImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Kooren

Subasic attended the verdict delivery in The Hague. "Forty years in prison is not so bad, but I hope the prosecutor will appeal and that we will all be happy later on. The verdict to Karadzic is not that important because of my children, our children killed in Srebrenica and across Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it is important because of the children poisoned with hatred and lies," Subasic told Deutsche Welle.

Do not forget Sarajevo

The tribunal also found Karadzic responsible for the 44-month siege of the country's capital, Sarajevo. "Most of my family was killed – my father, mother, grandmother, brother and his wife. My wife and daughter were injured," said deeply disappointed Sakim Mujo Hasanovic, whose family members were killed in the massacre at the Markale marketplace in February 1994. Sakim, who still sells fruits and vegetables at Markale, just like his late parents did, stressed that "there is no real justice for Karadzic."

Ivo Komsic, a former member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's wartime state presidency and the current mayor of Sarajevo, is also disappointed with the verdict. He wonders why the Tribunal decided to limit the genocide charge to Srebrenica only, as "Karadzic was responsible for atrocities across the country."

"If we take only Sarajevo into account, it would be more than enough for life imprisonment. Let me remind you that more than 10,000 people were killed in Sarajevo, more than 1,500 children, not to mention that the city was constantly bombed in combination with sniper fire, under total siege for more than 1,400 days. That would be more than enough for someone to spend life in prison without any chance to get out one day," said Komsic. The court's ruling, he added, may only encourage other potential criminals to perpetrate similar crimes and hope to get mild punishments in return.

Niederlande Radovan Karadzic vor Gericht in den Haag Überlebende und Angehörige vor dem Gericht
Family of victims gathered outside the ICTY in The HagueImage: Reuters/M. Kooren

Despite the ICTY's verdict against Radovan Karadzic, the man's legacy survives through the Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb-run ethnic entity, which, in accordance with the Dayton Peace Agreement, covers some 49 percent of the country's territory. The Bosnian Serb authorities, above all the members of Karadzic's Serb Democratic Party (SDS), are also unhappy with the verdict, strongly believing that Radovan should have been released.

Bosnian Serbs also unhappy with verdict

According to SDS president Mladen Bosic, "the verdict against Radovan Karadzic is unjust and will not help build justice and truth here." The verdict, he told reporters in Karadzic's former stronghold of Pale, near Sarajevo, "implies again that the ICTY is a political institution tasked with demonizing the Serbs. The fact that most of the crimes against Serbs were not processed proves that." Bosic added: "We are sorry for all the victims of the atrocities in the past, and we condemn all the crimes our people committed."

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, who came to power in the entity by criticizing Karadzic, recently changed his stand and began to magnify Karadzic's role in creating the Bosnian Serb entity.

"The verdict against Karadzic, or anyone else, cannot diminish the power of the Republika Srpska, as it has never been stronger and more determined to protect its rights," Dodik told local media.