UN hails "historic" guilty verdict against former Bosnian Serb leader

Xinhua News Agency


Top UN officials on Thursday welcomed a guilty verdict handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, calling the judgement is "historic" for the people of the region and beyond.

Karadzic, who had been president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic, was found guilty for the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and he was convicted with 40 years of imprisonment at ICTY in The Hague on Thursday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through his deputy spokesman Farhan Haq at a daily news briefing here, said that "this was a historic day for the people of the region and beyond as well as for international criminal justice."

"The judgment sends a strong signal to all who are in positions of responsibility that they will be held accountable for their actions, and shows once again that fugitives cannot outrun the international community's collective resolve to make sure that they face justice according to the law," the secretary-general said.

"Fugitives cannot outrun the international community's collective resolve to make sure that they face justice according to the law," Ban said.

Haq said that "the secretary-general expresses deep appreciation for the dedication and hard work of the judges and staff of the ICTY as they progress towards the completion of the Tribunal's work."

In a separate statement, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, welcomed the verdict calling it "hugely significant."

"His judgment is symbolically powerful -- above all for the victims of the crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and across the former Yugoslavia, but also for victims across the world," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a statement from his Office (OHCHR).

He that while the verdict might be appealed, it shows "no matter how powerful they are, no matter how untouchable they imagine themselves to be, no matter what continent they inhabit, the perpetrators of such crimes must know that they will not escape justice."

The massacre in Srebrenica took place in July 1995, in which more than 7,000 Muslim men were reportedly killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

Karadzic was also convicted of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer), terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and hostage-taking.

The ICTY acquitted him of the charge of genocide in other municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.

Zeid has a personal connection to the trial, having served in the UN Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia between 1994 and 1996.

In his statement, Zeid said the verdict stripped away the pretence that Karadzic's actions were anything more than political manipulation, and exposes him as "the architect of destruction and murder on a massive scale."

"It is time now to ensure that his poisonous legacy does not continue to burden the people of the former Yugoslavia with deeply-felt grievances, secrecy and lies," he said.

He added that the trial should give pause to leader in Europe and elsewhere who seek to exploit nationalist sentiments and scapegoat minorities for broader social ills.

"Speech that incites hatred, discrimination and violence is an inflammable force," he said. "In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, we saw the terrible bloodshed that can result."

Following the announcement of the verdict, ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said, "For two decades now, the victims have put their trust in us to deliver (justice). Thousands came here to tell their stories and courageously confront their tormentors. Today, with this conviction, that trust has been honoured. Justice has been done."

He stressed that the truth established by this judgment will stand against continuing attempts at denying the suffering of thousands and the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.

"Moments like this should also remind us that in innumerable conflicts around the world today, millions of victims are now waiting for their own justice. This judgment shows that it is possible to deliver it," he said.