THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A U.N. prosecution lawyer urged appeals judges Tuesday to convict former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on a second genocide count and increase his 40-year sentence for overseeing Serb atrocities during the Bosnian war to a life term.
Prosecutor Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge appellate panel at the U.N. Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals 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.”
As a two-day appeals hearing wrapped up, Karadzic’s lawyers said that not only should he not be convicted of a second genocide count, but the genocide conviction imposed by trial judges in 2016 for Karadzic’s role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre should be overturned on appeal.
Judges will likely take months to issue their appeals judgment.
Karadzic, 72, was convicted in March 2016 on 10 counts including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as the political mastermind behind Serb crimes in the 1992-95 Bosnian war. However, he was acquitted of one genocide charge relating to a 1992 campaign to drive Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed municipalities in Bosnia.
Gustafson said that crimes during the campaign – including murders, deportations and imprisoning people in inhumane conditions – were committed with genocidal intent by Karadzic and his forces who wanted to permanently remove non-Serbs.
Judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal repeatedly stopped short of convicting Serbs of genocide for their involvement in the campaign, most recently acquitting ex-Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, saying that the horrors don’t amount to genocide.
Karadzic’s lawyer, Peter Robinson, urged the appeals judges not to depart from the jurisprudence. Robinson argued that all of Karadzic’s convictions should be overturned because of legal and procedural errors by trial judges and a new trial ordered.
“What happened in Prijedor, as well as the other municipalities, was horrible,” Robinson said. “Crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed there but … it didn’t amount to genocide.”
The northern Bosnian municipality of Prijedor was the scene of some of the worst mistreatment of Muslims and Croats by Serbs in 1992. Thousands were forced from their homes and many were imprisoned in camps where torture and killings were commonplace. Several Serbs have been convicted of crimes in the region.