Bosnia unhappy with Karadzic sentence
Burial of 775 identified victims in 2010 in Srebrenica. Source: Wikimedia
The predominantly female survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre say the 40-year prison sentence given to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic for war crimes and genocide has come too late.
“I am so disappointed,” said Bida Smajlovic, 64, who watched the verdict on television with her two sisters-in-laws in Potocari, a Srebrenica suburb. All three women saw their husbands for the last time 21 years ago. “We have been in shock ever since the first gunshot and this is yet another one,” she said.
Bosnian Serb forces, commanded by General Ratko Mladic, took over the UN-designated safe area of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995.
They separated women from men and killed about 8,000 Muslim males in the next few days in worst single European massacre since World War Two.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that Karadzic was guilty on 10 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the customs of war, including the genocide in Srebrenica. It acquitted him of charges for genocide in seven other areas of Bosnia.
Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor since 2007, finally located Karadzic disguised as a new-age healer in Belgrade. He could not hide his frustration that the failure to get a second genocide conviction was being seen as a defeat for the prosecution.
“Sometimes I find it a little bit disappointing that the word genocide is receiving a totally different importance than war crimes and crimes against humanity, where in fact for the individual person … the suffering for the family is similar, the same,” Brammertz said.
“I wish there was capital punishment,” said Vasva Smajlovic, 73. “My husband is dead for 20 years and Karadzic is still alive. At least I expected a lifetime [in] prison.”
With time already served deducted, he may spend about 19 years in jail meaning it is possible the 70-year-old former psychiatrist and aspiring poet will emerge alive from prison.
The streets were empty in the under-populated town. Karadzic was president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic and its commander-in-chief during the 1992-95 conflict.
Bida Smajlovic’s husband fled into the hills with his two brothers but their bodies were found in two mass graves in eastern Bosnia, where bones are still being dug up 20 years later.
“This came too late,” said Smajlovic. Her home overlooks 7,000 white tombstones where the victims were buried. Another 1,000 residents remain unaccounted for. We were handed down a verdict in 1995,” she said. “There is no sentence that could compensate for the horrors we went through or for the tears of only one mother, let alone thousands.”
Much of the Bosnian-Serb community continues to defend Karadzic claiming that the Serbs have been unjustly targeted by The Hague.
“The 40-year imprisonment is unfair and will contribute neither to truth nor to trust in our region,” said Mladen Bosic, leader of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) founded by Karadzic in 1990. “The Hague tribunal has once again shown that it is a political court, the politically based verdicts were handed down to all Serb leaders from Serbia, [Bosnia’s autonomous] Republika Srpska and Croatia,” he said.
“It hurts that this day is chosen to pronounce the verdict in the Hague,” Bosnian Serb president Milorad Dodik told the media. He was speaking at a ceremony in Serbia to mark the anniversary of the start of the Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999 during the Kosovo conflict.