THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – United Nations (UN) appeals judges on Wednesday upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.
Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgement, which means the 73-year-old former Bosnian strongman will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Karadzic had appealed 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 World War II.
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 over 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.
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 Joensen passed the new sentence.
Families of victims who travelled to the Hague welcomed the verdict. Mothers of victims, some elderly and walking with canes, 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 judgement 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 the Bosnia’s eastern Srebrenica region in July 1995.
Prosecutors had appealed 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 on Wednesday rejected that appeal.
At an appeals hearing last year, 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.”