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Yugoslav war crimes court reinstates genocide charge against Karadzic

AFP-JIJI

The U.N.’s Yugoslav war crimes court on Thursday reinstated a genocide charge against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, overturning on appeal an earlier decision by trial judges.

Appeal judges said the trial chamber “erred in fact in concluding that there was no evidence” of genocidal intent in relation to the killings allegedly carried out by Bosnian Serbs of Muslims and Croats in Bosnian municipalities from March to December 1992.

“The appeals chamber . . . reverses the trial chamber’s acquittal of Mr. Karadzic for genocide . . . and reinstates the charges,” Judge Theodor Meron told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Karadzic, 68, now faces 11 charges, including two counts of genocide as well as accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He denies the allegations against him, all of which relate to his role in the Balkan country’s 1992-95 interethnic war, in which 100,000 people were killed and some 2.2 million others left homeless.

The first genocide charge relates to a campaign to “permanently remove” Bosnian Croats and Muslims from towns and cities, collectively referred to as Bosnia’s “municipalities,” and claim the land as Bosnian Serb territory.

A second genocide charge covers the 1995 massacre at eastern Bosnia’s Srebrenica, where almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves.

Judges last year dropped the first genocide charge, saying there was no evidence to convict Karadzic for genocide in the municipalities.

But appeals judges Thursday said the decision “resulted in a miscarriage of justice.”

They said there was evidence from meetings attended by Karadzic in the early 1990s “that it had been decided that one third of the Muslims would be killed, one third would be converted to the Orthodox religion and a third will leave on their own.”

Meron added that based on evidence during Karadzic’s trial — including reports of rape and violent beatings of Bosnian Muslims and Croat detainees having their “heads hit against walls” — “no reasonable trial chamber” could have concluded that the evidence was insufficient.

Genocide is the gravest crime under international humanitarian law — and the hardest to prove.

Karadzic is also being prosecuted at the U.N. court for his role in the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, between May 1992 and November 1995 in which 10,000 people died.

He faces charges for his part in taking hostage U.N. observers and peacekeepers and using them as human shields during a NATO bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb military targets.

Arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008 after years on the run, the carefully quaffed Karadzic was wanted in particular for masterminding the killings that followed Srebrenica’s capture in 1995.

Thursday marked the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, deemed Europe’s worst wartime atrocity since World War II.

The incident saw Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Karadzic’s fellow accused, wartime Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, overrun Dutch peacekeepers meant to protect the U.N. enclave on 11 July, 1995, before deporting women and children and killing thousands of Muslim men and boys.

At Srebrenica on Thursday, 409 victims of the massacre, including a newborn baby, were reburied in a somber funeral service after their remains were identified nearly two decades after they were dumped in mass graves.

The remains of more than 5,600 other victims, identified through DNA tests, have already been reburied from dozens of mass graves in the area since the identification process started a decade ago.

But many victims remain unidentified and unaccounted for.