The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s was the worst conflict in Europe since World War II. It was a civil war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia and left more than 100,000 people dead and two million displaced. Radovan Karadzic, nicknamed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, after a protracted trial was yesterday held guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, an adhoc court the United Nations established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, of genocide and other crimes against humanity over atrocities that Bosnian Serb forces committed during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995 and has been sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was the President of the National Security Council of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on 12th May 1992, he was elected as the President of the Presidency of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. From 17th December 1992, he was the President of the Republika Srpska. He is the most senior political figure to be convicted over the violent Bosnian wars. Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president who was another high profile accused, died in March 2006 pending his trial before the tribunal.
The charges against Karadzic were of genocide, crimes against humanity(namely persecution, murder, extermination, deportation, and forcible transfer) and violations of the laws or customs of war (namely murder, acts of violence the primary purpose of which was to spread terror among the civilian population, unlawful attacks on civilians, and the taking of hostages). The complete trial record amounted to over 48,000 transcript pages, over 95,000 pages of filings and over 190,000 pages of admitted exhibits!
The Court observed that during the war, the Serb Forces took control of municipalities in Bosnian Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the course of these well-planned and co-ordinated take-overs and after, there was an organised and systematic pattern of crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats were also removed from positions of authority and dismissed from their employment. Thousands of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilians were unlawfully detained in around several detention facilities across the Municipalities. There was also widespread looting of non-Serb property and extensive destruction of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat villages and property by Serb Forces in many of the Municipalities. Serb Forces also destructed mosques and churches. The Court held that the objective of his atrocities was to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Also in early 1993, following a series of Bosnian Serb attacks in nearby villages, the Bosnian Muslim population fled to Srebrenica, which was proclaimed a safe area. But in March 1995, Karadzic issued a Directive, ordering the armed forces to create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica. Following this, restrictions on humanitarian aid and UNPROFOR resupply convoys intensified, resulting in disastrous conditions in the Srebrenica enclave. He also eliminated the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by killing thousands of men and boys of Srebrenica and forcibly removing the women, young children and some elderly men. Also the civilian population of Sarajevo was shelled and sniped by members of the Bosnian Serb Forces. It conducted a campaign of sniping and shelling of Sarajevo with the intention to terrorise the civilian population living there resulting in thousands of killed civilians in the city. He also consistently and systematically provided misleading information to representatives of international organisations and the media. This verdict sends a powerful signal that the Head of States who order atrocities cannot escape from justice anymore.