Former Bosnian leader Radovan Karadžić gets life in prison for war crime

Former Bosnian leader Radovan Karadžić has been sentenced to life in prison at an appeal court in The Hague for his role in mass killings of civilians in the conflict that tore Bosnia apart a quarter century ago.

Karadzic, 73, stood motionless and grim-faced in the dock as judges in The Hague said they had upheld his 2016 convictions for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre and war crimes in the 1990s.

In one of the last remaining cases from the break-up of Yugoslavia, they also increased his original 40-year sentence, saying it did not reflect his role in the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II.

The appeal verdict confirmed Karadzic’s initial conviction and increased his sentence from 40 years to life in prison, citing the gravity of his crimes, which judge Vagn Prusse Joensen said were of “an unprecedented scale and cruelty”.

“The chamber considers the 40-year sentence inadequate when compared to convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment,” Joensen said.

Karadzic was initially convicted by the Hague Tribunal under a first-instance verdict in March 2016, but both the defence and the prosecution appealed against the verdict.

Judges at the original trial “underestimated the extreme gravity of Karadzic’s responsibility for the most grave crimes committed during the period of conflict, noted for their sheer scale and systematic cruelty”, head judge Vagn Joensen said.

The panel of appeals judges therefore “imposes a sentence of life imprisonment”, he said.

Relatives of the victims had called for a life sentence.

The judges upheld the charge of genocide for the July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, pointing to an order Karadžić had signed four months earlier that called for conditions for the city’s people to be made “unbearable with no hope of further survival”.

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