Prosecutors say Karadzic was 'driving force' behind Bosnian genocide

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2014 5:15 AM

By Thomas Escritt

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - War crimes prosecutors concluding their case against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Monday said he had been a "driving force" behind a genocidal campaign to rid Bosnia of its non-Serbian population in the 1990s.

Prosecutors are seeking the maximum penalty of life imprisonment against Karadzic, a leading political figure during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia that left 100,000 dead.

Concluding four years of court hearings, prosecutor Alan Tieger told judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that Karadzic had boasted at the time of his intentions to wipe out the non-Serb population.

"After hundreds of witnesses, 80,000 pages of transcripts, and 10,000 exhibits, the policy of ethnic cleansing is finally exposed. And Karadzic was its driving force," Tieger said.

Karadzic faces charges of genocide for the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica, Europe's worst massacre since World War Two, when ethnic Serb forces gunned down prisoners after trucking them to killing sites.

He is also held responsible for the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which more than 5,000 civilians died.

"He said at the time what would happen and it did. Thousands killed, hundreds of towns destroyed, masses forceably displaced," Tieger said told the courtroom.

He said Karadzic, now 69, had used violence and terror to carve an ethnic Serb breakaway state out of multi-ethnic Bosnia, starting just days before the country declared its independence from Yugoslavia.

Karadzic, wearing a crumpled gray suit under his trademark mane of silver hair, watched intently from the opposite side of the courtroom as prosecutors presented their closing arguments.

Tieger gave examples of three people for whose deaths Karadzic bore responsibility -- a father killed in the Srebrenica massacre, a mother killed in the shelling of a Sarajevo marketplace as she went to fetch milk, and a doctor shot in the notorious Omarska prison camp.

The Yugoslav tribunal is winding down after prosecuting 112 suspects since being established by the U.N. Security Council in 1993 to punish those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Karadzic is one of four suspects, including Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, still in the dock. Just seven suspects have been sentenced to life.

Late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, also stood trial at the court, but died in 2006 before his trial could be concluded.

Karadzic, who has presented his own defense, rejects the court, arguing that it is a tool of the NATO military alliance, whose air strikes brought the war to an end.

He will present closing arguments on Wednesday.

Charges were brought against him in 1995, shortly before the war's end. He was finally arrested in 2008 after years on the run in the Serbian capital Belgrade, where he had been living in disguise and working as a new-age healer.

The Bosnian war was part of a larger conflagration in which an estimated 140,000 people died as multi-ethnic Yugoslavia broke up during the 1990s into six successor states. Kosovo, formerly a Serbian province, also later declared independence.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt, Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Angus MacSwan)