Butcher of Bosnia Radovan Karadzic will be moved to British prison

The UK has agreed Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic should be transferred to a British prison to serve the rest of his sentence for his role in the Srebrenica genocide, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. 

Former Bosnian Serb political leader Karadzic, 75, was convicted of war crimes during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s.

He was handed a life-sentence after 8,000 men and boys were massacred in the Srebrenica genocide.

Mr Raab said Karadzic ‘helped prosecute the siege of Sarajevo with its remorseless attacks on civilians’.

He added: ‘We should take pride in the fact that, from UK support to secure his arrest, to the prison cell he now faces, Britain has supported the 30 year pursuit of justice for these heinous crimes.’

As well as genocide, Karadzic was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 44-month Serb siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and for overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing that drove Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed areas of Bosnia.

In hiding for over a decade after the war, he was arrested and handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in July 2008. After his conviction he was held at court’s detention centre in The Hague. 

UN appeals judges upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (right) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment

UN appeals judges upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (right) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment

UN appeals judges upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (right) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment

In 2016, Karadzic was found guilty of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre by judges at a UN War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.  

The former psychiatrist was originally jailed for 40 years for ordering the 1995 killings, Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War.

Widows of men murdered said even decades behind bars would not give them justice.

Three years later Karadzic had his sentence for genocide increased to life behind bars, meaning he will almost certainly die in prison.

UN appeals judges in The Hague upheld the convictions for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.

FROM NATIONALIST TO GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES: HOW RADOVAN KARADZIC WAS SENTENCED TO LIFE IN JAIL

June 19, 1945: Born in Savnik, Yugoslavia, in what is now the Republic of Montenegro.

July 12, 1990: A founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

March 27, 1992: Becomes president of Serbia’s National Security Council.

April 6, 1992: Bosnia is recognized as an independent state by the United Nations.

May 12, 1992: Elected president of the three-person presidency of the Serbian republic in Bosnia.

December 17, 1992 – July 19, 1996: Serves as sole president of Serb Republic in Bosnia. He is also supreme commander of the armed forces.

July 1, 1991 – November 30, 1995: According to his UN indictment, Karadzic participates in war crimes in order to gain control of parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina that have been proclaimed part of the Serb Republic, using terror tactics and a campaign of persecution and deportations.

April 1, 1992 – November 30, 1995: Bosnian Serb forces engaged in a 44-month siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.

July 11 – 18, 1995: Bosnian Serb forces killed thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in and around the town of Srebrenica.

1996: Karadzic vanishes from public eye.

2003: Bosnia’s top international official freezes bank accounts and other assets of Karadzic’s close relatives who are suspected of helping him hide.

July 2005: Karadzic’s wife makes public appeal for him to surrender ‘for the sake of your family.’ He publishes a book of poetry in Serbia, titled ‘Under The Left Breast Of The Century.’ A spokeswoman in The Hague expresses outrage that he is free to do so.

July 21, 2008: Karadzic is arrested on a Belgrade bus while posing as New Age healer Dr. Dragan Dabic and disguised by a thick beard and shaggy hair.

July 30, 2008: Karadzic is flown to International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s detention block.

July 31, 2008: A clean-shaven Karadzic makes first appearance in tribunal courtroom. Refuses to enter pleas to charges.

October 26, 2009: Karadzic trial starts, but he boycotts the hearing.

October 7, 2014: Final day of trial. Judges begin lengthy deliberations.

March 24, 2016: Judges find him guilty of war crimes and genocide in the Srebrenica massacre

March 20, 2019: Karadzic has his sentence for genocide increased to life behind bars, meaning he will almost certainly die in prison.

May 5, 2021: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says Karadzic will be moved to a UK prison.

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Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgment.

The former strongman had appealed against his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country’s devastating 1992-95 war.

The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by The Hague war crimes court. 

His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the conflict, which left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Judge Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose just a 40-year sentence, given what he called the ‘sheer scale and systematic cruelty’ of Karadzic’s crimes. 

Applause broke out in the public gallery as Judge Joensen passed the new sentence. 

Mothers of victims, some elderly, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.

Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic was also awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence.

Both men were convicted of genocide for their roles in the slaughter by Serb forces of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia’s eastern Srebrenica region in July 1995.

Prosecutors had appealed against Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of genocide, which saw Serb forces drive out Muslims and Croats from Serb-controlled villages in a 1992 campaign.

Judges rejected that appeal.

At an appeals hearing in 2018, prosecution lawyer Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge panel that Karadzic ‘abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims. Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence – a life sentence’.

Karadzic has always argued that the Bosnian Serb campaigns during the war, which included the bloody siege of the capital Sarajevo, were aimed at defending Serbs. 

In 2016 Bida Smajlovic, who lost her husband and brother in the atrocity, said: ‘He killed so many children and will perhaps live long enough to regain freedom. 

‘Where he is is not really a prison. It is warm, he eats, he even looks good. My pain and my loneliness endure and nothing will change that, nothing can reduce my suffering.’

The 63-year-old’s husband was one of three brothers who died at Srebrenica. 

Thousands of bodies were dumped in mass graves by Bosnian Serb forces in the massacre, in which Muslim women were separated from the men and boys, during the Bosnian War.

Another Smajlovic widow, Sajma, wept as she saw Karadzic on television at the time of his original sentencing.

‘As soon as I see him it angers me,’ she said, adding that she had taken tranquillisers to cope with the pain of the sentencing. 

As he sat down after hearing his sentence, Karadzic slumped slightly in his chair, but showed little emotion. He was also found guilty of crimes against humanity in several municipalities of Bosnia as well as murder and persecution.

Judges also convicted him of deportation, unlawful attacks, inhumane treatment, taking hostages, extermination and found criminally responsible for a campaign of sniping and shelling in the siege of Sarajevo.

A 1996 file photo shows International War Crimes Tribunal investigators clearing away soil and debris from dozens of Srebrenica victims buried in a mass grave near the village of Pilica, some 32 miles north east of Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina

A 1996 file photo shows International War Crimes Tribunal investigators clearing away soil and debris from dozens of Srebrenica victims buried in a mass grave near the village of Pilica, some 32 miles north east of Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina

A 1996 file photo shows International War Crimes Tribunal investigators clearing away soil and debris from dozens of Srebrenica victims buried in a mass grave near the village of Pilica, some 32 miles north east of Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina

While in hiding Karadzic made himself unrecognizable

While in hiding Karadzic made himself unrecognizable

He grew a thick beard and long, grey hair, and became known to the locals as 'Santa'

He grew a thick beard and long, grey hair, and became known to the locals as 'Santa'

While in hiding Karadzic made himself unrecognizable growing a thick beard and long, grey hair, and became known to the locals as ‘Santa’

Giving its verdict, presiding judge O-Gon Kwon said the campaign in which the city of Serbs, Muslims and Croats was shelled and sniped at by besieging Bosnian Serb forces, could not have happened without Karadzic’s support. 

He also said Karadzic and his military commander, General Mladic, intended ‘that every able-bodied Bosnian Muslim male from Srebrenica be killed.’

However, he was acquitted of another count genocide in connection with the municipalities.

Peter Robinson, part of Karadzic’s legal team, said: ‘He’s astonished. He feels the trial chamber took inference instead of evidence in reaching the conclusions that it did.’

But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the conviction of Karadzic for genocide as a ‘historic day for international criminal justice.’

In a statement, he said: ‘This judgment sends a strong signal to all who are in positions of responsibility that they will be held accountable for their actions and shows that fugitives cannot outrun the international community’s collective resolve to make sure they face justice according to the law.’

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein hailed the verdict as ‘hugely significant’. 

He said: ‘It… strips away the pretence that what he did was anything more than political manipulation, and exposes him for what he really was: the architect of destruction and murder on a massive scale.’ 

Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch said in a statement: ‘Victims and their families have waited for over two decades to see Karadzic’s day of reckoning. 

‘The Karadzic verdict sends a powerful signal that those who order atrocities cannot simply wait out justice,’ Singh said.

Meanwhile in Bosnia, which has remained divided since the war, posters displaying Karadzic’s photo and saying ‘We are all Radovan’ were plastered on walls in several towns in the Serb part of the country.

Dozens of people gathered in a park in the Bosnian Serb town of Doboj to offer support to Karadzic.

In Sarajevo, Amra Misic, 49, said: ‘I took a day off to watch the verdict as I was waiting for this for 20 years. I wish him a long life,’ she said, referring to the fact that Karadzic is 70 years old and sentenced to 40 years.

Some residents of Belgrade criticised his sentence, reflecting widespread mistrust in the UN war crimes tribunal.

Bosko Solic said: ‘This is a fascist decision!’ adding ‘there is no justice and he was convicted for nothing.’  

Another retiree, Djordje Katic, says he is ‘not surprised’ that Karadzic has been convicted by the tribunal.

Toys and other belongings of children who were killed in the 1990s war in Bosnia are displayed in Sarajevo as their parents wait for broadcast of the verdict in the case of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzi

Toys and other belongings of children who were killed in the 1990s war in Bosnia are displayed in Sarajevo as their parents wait for broadcast of the verdict in the case of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzi

Toys and other belongings of children who were killed in the 1990s war in Bosnia are displayed in Sarajevo as their parents wait for broadcast of the verdict in the case of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzi

Katic insists the court ‘could sentence him to as many years (in prison) as they wished. What else can I say?’

Karadzic is the highest-ranking person to face reckoning before the UN tribunal in The Hague over the war two decades ago in which 100,000 people died as rival armies carved up Bosnia along ethnic lines that largely survive today.

Among the main charges was that Karadzic controlled Serb forces that massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 after overrunning the supposed UN-designated ‘safe area’.

Karadzic once headed the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic and held the title of supreme commander of its armed forces. 

The only more senior official to face justice before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in custody a decade ago before a verdict was reached.

Ratko Mladic, the general who commanded Bosnian Serb forces, was the last suspect to be detained over the Srebrenica slaughter and is also in a UN cell awaiting judgement.

Speaking before the verdict, Munira Subasic, whose son was among the victims of Srebrenica, said: ‘I expect justice to win tomorrow and that he (Karadzic) will be sentenced for the killings.

‘The verdict is very important to show new generations, especially those in Serbia who have been poisoned with hatred already, what really happened in Bosnia.

The Srebrenica massacre and the Serb siege of Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo were events that turned world opinion against the Serbs and prompted NATO air strikes that brought the war to an end.

Karadzic defended himself through his 497-day trial and called 248 witnesses, poring over many of the millions of pages of evidence with the help of a court-appointed legal adviser.

Prosecutors say he conspired to purge Bosnia of its non-Serb population. Rejecting the charges, Karadzic sought to portray himself as the Serbs’ champion, blaming some of the sieges and shelling on Bosnian Muslims themselves.

But opponents of the ICTY argue its prosecutors disproportionately targeted Serbs, with 94 out of 161 suspects charged from the Serbian side, while 29 were Croat and nine Bosnian Muslim.

The 75-year-old had appealed against his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country's devastating 1992-95 war - Europe's bloodiest conflict since the Second World War

The 75-year-old had appealed against his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country's devastating 1992-95 war - Europe's bloodiest conflict since the Second World War

The 75-year-old had appealed against his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country’s devastating 1992-95 war – Europe’s bloodiest conflict since the Second World War

Prosecutors were also criticized for not bringing charges over the atrocity-ridden war against two other leaders of that era who have since died – Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. 

‘If you had got prosecutions of those three (including Milosevic) then you’d get a really good picture of the way the violence was produced but we’re not getting it,’ said Eric Gordy, an expert on the court at University College London.

The ICTY, set up in 1991 at the outset of federal Yugoslavia’s violent break-up that killed 130,000 people through the 1990s, was meant to deter future war crimes and promote reconciliation – but its judgments remain divisive.

The government of Croatia – an ex-Yugoslav republic now in the European Union – previously asked the ICTY to revise a ruling that named Tudjman, the country’s founding president, as an accessory to a plan to commit ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. 

Many Serbs, both in Bosnia and Serbia, regard the court as a pro-Western instrument, maintain that Karadzic is innocent and believe his conviction would inflict grave injustice on all Serbs.

Serge Brammertz, prosecutor at the tribunal, worries that its work did little to help heal the war’s deep wounds, given that ethnic nationalists continue to dominate power in much of Bosnia.

‘I’m not convinced everyone has really understood the wrongdoings from the past,’ he said. 

‘Many people in all the former Yugoslavia are still using a rhetoric that is still closer to what we heard in court than we should expect.’ 

Psychiatrist, poet and mass murderer: The warlord who spent 13 years on the run and disguised himself as a new age healer

From psychiatrist and poet to leader of the Serbian resistance in Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic ultimately chose a brutal path.

Born in 1945 into a poor family in Savnik, Yugoslavia, Karadzic moved to Sarajevo in 1960 to study medicine.

By 1971 he was practicing psychiatry in the ethnically mixed Bosnian capital, writing poetry and a children’s book.

In 1985, he was tried for embezzlement of public property while building a family house and served 11 months in jail.

But by 1990, with nationalism on the rise, Karadzic shifted his focus to politics, forming the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) that led to his election to parliament in the first democratic elections after the fall of communism the same year.

WITNESS ACCOUNTS OF HORRORS CAUSED BY KARADZIC 

‘They made 20 prisoners dig their own graves before cutting their throats. Two men would kick us in one part of the body and another would use a baton to beat you over the head until you became unconscious,’

Ahmet Zulic, held at Betonirka detention centre in Sanski Most, testifying at Karadzic’s trial in 2009.

‘I was shot from the left side, but the bullet passed through me and killed the little one. It was against his cheek and it came out of his head,’

Dzezana Sokolovic, who was shot during the siege of Sarajevo in 1994, with the bullet killing her son Nermin.

‘The last two that remained were my son and another boy. His hands were tied behind his back. First they killed the guy in front of him and then they shot him once and a second time and then I started screaming’

Nura Alispahić, whose son’s murder in Srebrenicva was broadcast on national television. 

‘When we heard the news that Srebrenica had fallen, that’s why we had to leave, because everybody would be killed. Some old people stayed behind and ended up being killed. They could not get away.’

Protected witness ‘KDZ039’ [Identity protected], who survived Srebrenica massacre in 1995, at the 2009 trial

‘A single man survived among thousands’

Protected witness of the Srebrenica massacre, via Prosecutor Julian Nicholls at the 2009 trial

‘I don’t know exactly, Mr Karadzic, who was killing with what intentions in mind. As far as I could see, some persons really enjoyed torturing others.’

Ex-Bosnian Serb army soldier Drazen Erdemovic who participated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre 

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As the Yugoslav republics were breaking away one by one, first Slovenia, then Croatia, Karadzic warned non-Serbs in Bosnia not to declare independence from Serb dominated Yugoslavia, telling them clearly what would happen if they did.

‘Do not think that you will not lead Bosnia and Herzegovina into hell, and do not think that you will not perhaps lead the Muslim people into annihilation because the Muslims cannot defend themselves if there is war,’ he said in October 1991.

Karadzic, who saw himself as a historic figure who would unify all Serbs in a common country, led the Serb resistance to the majority vote for Bosnia’s independence in 1992 and declared himself the leader of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnian Serbs armed and backed by the Yugoslav Army conquered some 70 per cent of the country, laying siege to its capital and killing and expelling non-Serbs from the territory they controlled.

The conflict took over 100,000 lives and forced over two million people from their homes.

On July 11, 1995, Serb troops overran the Muslim enclave. Some 15,000 men tried to flee through the woods toward government-held territory while others joined the town’s women and children in seeking refuge at the base of the Dutch UN troops.

The outnumbered Dutch troops could only watch as Serb soldiers rounded up about 2,000 men and later hunted down and killed another 6,000 men in the woods. The bloodshed marks Europe’s worst massacre since the Holocaust.

So far, remains of some 7,000 victims have been excavated and identified through DNA technology but the bodies of more than 1,000 more victims have yet to be found.

Karadzic was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in 1995, one of the 11 counts relates to genocide in Srebrenica.

He went into hiding and evaded arrest for 13 years before he was caught in Belgrade, Serbia, in 2008, where he hid masked as a New Age healer.

Karadzic lived under the guise of Dr Dragan Dabic, an identity he had stolen from Bosnian Serb who died during the war in Sarajevo in 1993.

As Dr Dabic, he practiced alternative medicine and ran his own website where he advertised his expertise in ‘human quantum energy’.

Over the years, he made himself unrecognizable growing a thick beard and long, grey hair, and became known to the locals as ‘Santa’.

While Karadzic’s wife Ljiljana remained in their family house in the former Serbian stronghold of Pale, east of Sarajevo, he had a girlfriend called Mila, who worked with him in his ‘alternative medicine business’.

Karadzic lived in an apartment in a grim suburb called New Belgrade, and often frequented a local bar called The Madhouse, where he would drink underneath a portrait of himself.

The bar was popular among Serbian nationalists, and Karadzic would come in several times a week for wine, kebabs and sliwowitz [plum brandy].

Decision: Applause broke out in the public gallery as Judge Joensen passed the new sentence

Decision: Applause broke out in the public gallery as Judge Joensen passed the new sentence

Decision: Applause broke out in the public gallery as Judge Joensen passed the new sentence

After having a few drinks, he would reportedly often grab a gusle – a single-stringed musical instrument – and sing to fellow guests.

Despite the fact that the walls were adorned with his own portrait, neither the landlord nor the regulars recognised the ‘Butcher of the Balkans’ – or so they claimed after his arrest.

While he hid as Dr Dabic in New Belgrade, Karadzic remained one of the world’s most wanted men, and international special forces, including Delta Force, the SAS and Seal Team 6 (who would capture and kill Osama bin Laden).

In his book about the hunt for Karadzic, The Butcher’s Trail, Julian Borger tells of a botched Delta Force operation which involved a soldier dressed in a gorilla suit – flown in from the U.S. for the mission.

The plan was to lie in wait for Karadzic’s convoy in the hopes that a man in a gorilla suit jumping out on a Serbian mountain road would come as such a shock to Karadzic’s men that they would slow down – allowing for the U.S. forces to open fire and arrest him.

However, the scheme never came to fruition as Karadzic and his convoy never materialized, Borger writes in the book.

Karadzic was finally caught in 2008, after 11 years on the run, while traveling from one Belgrade suburb to another.

He defended himself during his trial, which started in 2009, denying the crimes and claiming he was a ‘man of peace.’ 

THE 11 CHARGES RADOVAN KARADZIC FACED 

1. GENOCIDE

Between March 31 and December 1992, Karadzic allegedly with others ‘planned, instigated, ordered and/or aided and abetted genocide’ of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croats to permanently remove them from territory claimed by the Bosnian Serbs across various municipalities.

2. GENOCIDE

In July 1995, he began to implement a plan with others ‘to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by killing the men and boys and forcibly removing the women, young children.’ Almost 8,000 men and boys were killed.

3. PERSECUTION

Karadzic allegedly instigated, aided and abetted the persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in 19 towns and villages by allowing forcible deportations, harassment, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence. The persecution allegedly included forced labour in detention camps and the use of human shields by Serb and Bosnian Serb forces.

4. EXTERMINATION

Prosecutors say Karadzic knew ‘extermination’ was ‘a possible consequence’ of the campaign to get rid of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats ‘and willingly took that risk.’ This included the sniping and shelling during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and the deaths in Srebrenica.

5. MURDER (as a crime against humanity)

Karadzic was allegedly behind a joint criminal enterprise ‘to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory’ through acts of murder including in Sarajevo where some 10,000 people were killed, Srebrenica and other municipalities.

6. MURDER (as a war crime)

Karadzic stands accused of aiding ‘organised and opportunistic killings’ in direct violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention governing the rules of war.

7. DEPORTATION

Karadzic allegedly knew that between March 1992 and November 1995, Serb forces and Bosnian Serbs ‘forcibly displaced Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from areas within the municipalities and within Srebrenica in which they were lawfully present.’

8. INHUMANE ACTS

Karadzic along with others targeted Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats through measures such as ‘arbitrary arrest and detention, harassment, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence, killing, and destruction of houses and cultural monuments’ which forced them to ‘flee in fear’ from their homes.

9. TERROR

Karadzic is accused from April 1992 to November 1995 with others of using the Sarajevo Forces to ‘spread terror’ in the city through a military strategy of ‘sniping and shelling to kill, maim, wound and terrorise the civilian inhabitants.’

10.UNLAWFUL ATTACKS

The Sarajevo siege included indiscriminate and excessive attacks ‘which were disproportionate in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.’

11. TAKING OF HOSTAGES

Between 26 May 1995 and 19 June 1995, Bosnian Serb Forces detained over 200 UN peacekeepers and military observers in various towns, including Pale, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Gorade, with Karadzic accused of abetting the kidnappings to force NATO not to carry out air strikes against Bosnian Serb military targets. 

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