- His 40-year jail term for genocide should teach other leaders a lesson
We consider it just deserts that former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, has been convicted of genocide, for his role in the killing of Bosnian Muslim males during the Bosnian war. Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for what many regard as the worst crime in Europe, since the horrors of the Second World War, spearheaded by Adolf Hitler of Germany. The former Bosnian Serb leader was found guilty of 10 charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, out of the 11 charges brought against him by the prosecutors.
Now 70 years old, the former ‘butcher of Srebrenica’, may serve the rest of his days in prison, unless he is able to upturn the sentence on appeal. At his sentencing, some of the survivors of the Srebrenica horror were there to get justice. As reported by Reuters, Hatidza Mehmedovic who lost her entire family at Srebrenica in 1995 expressed rage that the punishment wasn’t enough, saying: “He can live in a cushy prison while I have to live in Srebrenica, where his ideology is still in place”. Hatidza, further mourned that: “I have no sisters, no brothers, no husband”.
Even though the United Nations may have gotten some form of justice for the victims, 20 years after the incident, the deep scar from the Srebrenica massacre may take a generation to erase. The genocide was a blot on the integrity and potency of the United Nations, then led by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Despite glaring warnings, the world stood by, as Bosnia descended into the Hobbesian state of nature, allowing ethnic militia to carve the country along ethnic lines. Over 100,000 lives were lost, and it wasn’t until 2008 that Karadzic, who had been on the run, was arrested.
For the West, particularly the United States of America, it was a huge embarrassment that it allowed the carnage that took place, as Bosnian Serbs laid siege to Sarajevo for 44 months. Then President Bill Clinton of the United States, and the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, who had briefing on the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia, remain accused of playing down the atrocities. One senior state department official, Richard Johnson, head of the state department’s Yugoslavia desk from1990 to 1992, wrote in 1994 that “senior U.S. government officials know that Serb leaders are waging genocide in Bosnia but will not say so in plain English because this would raise the pressure for U.S. action”.
According to the three-man panel of judges, Karadzic was “at the apex of power”heading the Bosnia Serb Republic and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, when the crimes were committed. The presiding Judge O-Gon Kwok, held with respect to the 8,000 persons killed at Srebrenica, “the accused was the sole person within Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb Republic) with the power to prevent the killing of Bosnian Muslim males”. The judge went on: “far from preventing it, he ordered they be transferred elsewhere to be killed”.
While the elderly family members of the victims cringed and cleaned their eyes as the judge recalled the separation of the male youths from their families, Karadzic viewed his conviction as unjust. For him, he was merely defending his people, while he blamed the Bosnian Muslims themselves, for some of the tragedies. Reacting to his conviction, the legal adviser to Karadzic was quoted to have said, that his client was “disappointed by the verdict, astonished by the reasoning and he wants to appeal”.
While the world should never allow another Karadzic, leaders with such tendency must realise that someday, they would pay for their atrocity.