Bosnia divided ahead of Karadzic war crimes verdict

While awaiting the sentencing hearing for Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian public is deeply divided and the verdict which the International Criminal Tribunal for the Yugoslavia is to deliver on Thursday has served as a new reason for disputes over the nature of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

Representatives of associations of war victims and of the families of the killed and the missing will attend the hearing in The Hague on March 24, including Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association.

Asked by Hina on Tuesday what she expected on Thursday, she said, "I expect the sentence to be the severest that the Tribunal can hand down and that Karadzic will be convicted of genocide on all counts of the indictment for other towns too, not just Srebrenica."

Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik on Sunday opened a student dormitory in Pale named after Karadzic. He said he did that to "send a message" to all those accusing Karadzic, whom he described as "a fighter for the freedom of Serbs."

"If Naser Oric is being tried in BiH and if (Croatian general) Ante Gotovina was acquitted (by the ICTY), why wouldn't Karadzic be too?" Dodik said, adding that a conviction would be based on political judgements and not the law and equity. He said a conviction might encourage "new attacks on RS" and called on all political parties in the entity to defend national interests.

Dodik, just like all political parties and media in RS, perseveres in avoiding to mention any fact which recalls the war and which testifies to mass persecutions of non-Serbs and the destruction of their property, religious buildings and cultural monuments committed when Karadzic was the most responsible politician among Bosnian Serbs.

The Catholic bishops in BiH pointed to those facts in an open letter to Serb Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej in February, warning that RS was created on "horrific crimes," including the expulsion of more than 140,000 Catholics from the territory of today's RS and the killing of 122 Catholics in Banja Luka and 155 in Prijedor after the war.

Recalling this letter recently, the secretary-general of the Bosnian Bishops Conference, Ivo Tomasevic, told Hina the letter clearly testifed to the the facts, but also to attempts to twist them.

In its closing arguments in September 2014, the ICTY Prosecutor's Office asked for a life sentence for Karadzic, who was accused, among other things, of the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and the shelling of Sarajevo during a 44-month-long siege in which close to 12,000 people were killed.

Under Karadzic's command and supervision, his subordinates and their associates expelled, killed, tortured and otherwise abused hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats, prosecutors said in their closing brief, adding that life imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence.

The one-time president of RS was arrested in July 2008 after 13 years of hiding and was extradited to the ICTY a week later. He was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. The ICTY indicted him in 1995.

Last update: Tue, 22/03/2016 - 11:28
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